Converting a bathtub into a walk-in shower can completely transform a bathroom. Removing the bathtub frees up space and allows for a more open and accessible shower area. A walk-in shower also provides a safer bathing option as there is no risk of slipping or falling when getting in or out.
Transitioning from a bathtub to a walk-in shower does require some planning and work. The process involves removing the existing tub, installing new plumbing and drainage, building out the shower pan and walls, adding shower fixtures, and finishing surfaces. With the right materials and some DIY skills, homeowners can tackle this project themselves. We will walk through the step-by-step process to successfully convert a bathtub into a spacious walk-in shower.
Step 1: Remove the Bathtub
The first major task is removing the existing bathtub. Start by disconnecting the drain pipe underneath the tub. Loosen the slip joints that connect the drain pipe to the tub’s drain fixture and P-trap using channellock pliers. You may need to cut through stubborn slip joints with a hacksaw.
Once disconnected, remove any caulking or adhesive around the rim of the tub with a utility knife. Take out any fasteners securing the tub to the walls. Have a helper assist to lift the bathtub up and out. If needed, a reciprocating saw can cut through nails or screws to dislodge the tub.
With the bathtub removed, inspect the floor and walls surrounding the area. Look for any leaks, damage, or problems with the subfloor that should be addressed before installing the new shower.
Step 2: Reroute and Update Plumbing Lines
With the bathtub gone, the next step is updating the plumbing. The existing drain and supply lines will need to be rerouted to accommodate the new shower layout.
Start by plugging the old drain pipe temporarily. Then map out the new drain location based on the shower size and layout. Cut into the floor with a reciprocating saw to access and remove a section of the drain pipe. Install a PVC elbow to redirect the drain line over to the new shower location.
Next, determine the location for the new shower valve and pipes. Cut into the wall to make room for new supply lines. Run 1/2″ copper pipes from the existing supplies over to the new shower valve location. Solder copper fittings as needed to connect the hot and cold supplies to the valve.
During this plumbing re-routing, replace any old or worn-out pipes. Install new shutoff valves for both hot and cold supply lines. Adding a hammer arrestor will also help prevent water hammer. Wrap all pipes with insulating foam covers.
Step 3: Install the Shower Pan and Drain
Once the plumbing is updated, it is time to build out the shower pan and drainage. The shower pan provides a waterproof base and slope for proper drainage.
First, frame out the perimeter of the shower pan using 2×4 lumber. Make sure the pan dimensions match your planned shower size. The framing should be recessed below the edge of the subfloor so the pan can sit flush.
For the shower pan itself, use a prefabricated base made of molded plastic or fiberglass. This provides an easy, seamless solution. Level and secure the pan in place on top of the framing.
Next, attach a drain assembly to the pan. Align the drain outlet with the newly positioned PVC drain pipe below. Secure with an adhesive sealer and bolts.
Apply thinset mortar around the edges of the pan to tie it into the subfloor. Slope the mortar so water runs towards the centered drain. Allow everything to fully cure before moving on.
Step 4: Install Backerboard and Waterproofing
With the pan in place, the surrounding walls will need waterproofing and an underlying backerboard installed. This provides a stable, moisture-resistant surface to adhere the shower tiles.
For the backerboard, use cement board or a water-resistant drywall. Measure and cut boards to size using a utility knife. Screw boards to the wall studs with corrosion-resistant screws. Seal all seams and corners with thinset mortar.
Apply a waterproofing membrane atop the backerboard, such as liquid silicone rubber or sheet membranes like Kerdi. Fully coat the walls and ceiling of the shower space. Extend the membrane a few inches beyond the shower walls into the rest of the bathroom.
Let the waterproofing fully cure per manufacturer instructions. Then do a flood test by applying water over the pan and walls to check for any leaks or seepage. The waterproofing ensures no moisture issues arise behind the shower tiles.
Step 5: Tile the Shower Walls and Surround
Tiling adds a custom look while also providing a water-resistant finish. Use moisture-resistant backerboard as the underlying surface.
First, map out your tile design. Mix a batch of thinset mortar and use a notched trowel to spread it onto the backerboard where the first tiles will be set.
Cut tiles as needed to fit around corners and edges using a wet saw. Apply tiles row by row, pressing firmly into the thinset. Use spacers between tiles to ensure consistent spacing. Go up each wall until reaching the ceiling.
Between rows, use sanded caulk to fill any joints. Let the thinset mortar fully cure before applying grout. Mix and apply grout using a rubber grout float. Wipe away excess. Seal grout lines afterwards with a waterproof grout sealer.
For the shower entry, install a small threshold or curb to prevent water runoff. Bullnose tiles can provide a finished edge. Slope tiles down slightly towards the drain.
Let tiles fully cure for at least 24-48 hours before using the new shower. Be sure to seal the tile surfaces and grout lines periodically.
Step 6: Install Fixtures and Final Touches
The final steps are finishing touches to complete the shower installation. First, attach shower fixtures like the showerhead, handles, and body sprays. Use silicone caulk around the bases where they meet tile.
Next, hang shower rods, hooks, and shelves as needed. Apply silicone caulk around all joints and seams. Install a fresh new shower curtain or glass doors.
Seal all remaining gaps between the bottom edge of the backerboard and shower pan with caulk. Apply silicone along the shower base and up the walls.
Lastly, make the final plumbing connections. Attach supply lines to the shower valve. Connect the showerhead and install a diverter valve if adding body sprays. Test all fixtures to ensure proper operation.
With all of the equipment installed and sealed, the bathtub to walk-in shower conversion is complete! Be sure to let caulk and grout fully cure before enjoying the new shower. Properly maintained, your new walk-in shower will provide an invigorating bathing experience for years to come.
FAQs About Converting a Bathtub to a Shower
How expensive is it to convert a bathtub into a walk-in shower?
Converting a tub to a walk-in shower costs $2,000 to $6,000 on average. The specific price depends on the size of the shower, layout complexities, material and fixture choices. Labor accounts for 50-75% of the total cost.
Can I do a tub-to-shower conversion myself?
With some plumbing and DIY skills, you can tackle a tub-to-shower conversion as a homeowner. Having an experienced helper is advisable. Hiring a contractor takes the burden off you for more complex renovations.
How long does it take to convert a bathtub into a shower?
A typical tub-to-shower conversion takes 2-5 days from start to finish. The demolition and framing can be done in 1-2 days. Installation of the shower pan, plumbing, and waterproofing requires another 1-2 days. Tiling and installing fixtures takes 1-2 more days.
What are some alternatives to fully removing a bathtub?
Options like converting to a walk-in tub or installing a tub surround retain the tub while improving accessibility and safety. You can also add grab bars and non-slip textures to reduce risk within an existing tub.
Should I choose a fiberglass or acrylic shower base?
Fiberglass bases are easier to install, while acrylic is more durable and custom-shaped. For a tub conversion, acrylic works well as the base can be perfectly fitted to the old tub space. Fiberglass limits some design flexibility.
How do I refinish bathroom surfaces after a tub-to-shower conversion?
Patch and repair walls as needed with joint compound. Prime and paint walls and ceilings. Replace flooring or apply fresh caulk along the baseboards. Thoroughly clean the entire bathroom. Install new fixtures, accessories and finishing touches.
What kind of shower door should I install?
Frameless glass doors provide an open, sleek look. Make sure to buy the proper size based on your shower dimensions. Curved rods offer flexibility. Sliding doors conserve space in tight areas. Choose based on your bathroom layout and style preferences.
Converting from a bathtub to a walk-in shower brings many benefits. By following the proper steps, you can complete this project efficiently with professional-looking results. Take time to plan the layout and design. With some perseverance, you can enjoy your brand new, spacious shower in no time!