Can a Bathtub Be Moved? It’s Complicated
So you want to move your bathtub? Maybe you want to rotate it to make your bathroom feel more spacious. Or, perhaps, you’re interested in moving the entire bathroom to another location in your home.
A bathtub can be moved. However, you may incur significant costs. If you move a bathtub within three feet of its current location, you may be able to connect the plumbing to the existing system. However, if you decide to move the bathtub further, you may need to install new plumbing.
Do You Really Need to Relocate the Bathtub?
If you have budget constraints, this should definitely be your first question. When trying to assess whether to move your bathtub, first know that it will always be more costly to move it than to leave it in place. So you might want to consider other ways to get the effect you’re after.
For example, if you want to rotate the bathtub to give your bathroom a more spacious feel, is there another way to accomplish the same thing. Maybe replacing the double vanity with a lighter feeling single fixture would give you the feeling you’re after without breaking the bank.
Get Clear on Your Motivation
“When remodeling a bathroom, it’s important to get in touch with your vision,” says bathroom designer Kathleen Stacy Finley, who goes on to explain how your dream remodel provides the blueprint for creating a realistic renovation that you love. See 10 Steps to a Successful Bathroom Remodel.
So it’s important to get clear on your motivation for why you want to move your tub. Then ask yourself if there’s another way to accomplish that goal without actually changing this fixture.
If budget is no issue, then don’t even bother asking the question: Go for your dream! However, if you’re like most people, budget is a consideration.
11 Key Considerations When Relocating a Bathtub
If you can’t come with a work-around for your remodel and you still feel the need to move the bathtub, here are some important things to consider. Your answers to each of these will inform the ultimate cost.
1. Distance of Tub from the Drainpipe
The job of the drainpipe is to move wastewater out of your bathroom to the sewage system.
Each of these fixtures delivers its wastewater to the drainpipe through a plumbing pipe that is laid horizontally at a small downward angle. The further you move the bathtub from the drainpipe, the more chance that you’ll need to install new horizontal plumbing pipes to make the connection to the drainpipe.
If you don’t know where the drainpipe (or downpipe) is in your bathroom, you’ll need a plumber to show you. Usually, however, the downpipe is located closer to the toilet than to other bathroom fixtures.
2. Location of Water Lines and Plumbing Vent
In addition to attaching to the drainpipe, your bathtub needs to connect to hot and cold water lines, as well as the vent line.
While it’s easy to understand what the hot and cold water lines do, many people are unfamiliar with the plumbing vent (or vent stack). This pipe works together with the drainpipe to ensure that your plumbing works smoothly. It sends air into and out of the downpipe in order to help the wastewater flow, and it ushers any wastewater gases and odors out of the home.
3. Size of Tub Relative to Doors and Halls
This might sound funny to even include, but it’s not unheard of for someone to dig up their tub with the intent of moving it down the hall, only to realize it won’t fit through the bathroom door. Moral of the story: If your bathtub needs to fit through doorways and hallways, take careful measurements before you begin any remodeling work.
By the way, this also goes for acquiring a new bathtub. Be sure to add several inches to the width of the new tub to ensure the box will fit through your front door, up the stairs or down the hall and into the bathroom.
4. Type of Bathtub Faucet
It’s important to know what kind of faucet you have and what type of faucet you want once you move your tub. Some types of faucets will require additional work from a contractor or plumber. If you need some help with this, see Bathtub Faucet Types: Which Is Best For You.
5. Keeping vs Replacing Tub
If you want to move the location of the bathtub, will you keep the existing bathtub or do you plan to replace it with a different type? (And if you’re not sure about the different types of tubs, find out what kind you have here.)
Let’s say you have an alcove or drop-in tub that you only want to reposition a few feet from the original location. Chances are a plumber might be able to extend the existing piping without too much trouble.
However, if you are replacing an alcove tub with a freestanding tub that you want to place in the center of the bathroom, this can considerably raise your budget. The reason is that your hot and cold water lines and overflow drain run into the floor and connect beneath the subfloor to your downpipe. This means digging up existing flooring and then retiling and, if you’re getting a freestanding faucet, you’d need to patch that in as well.
If you do have your heart set on a new freestanding tub to replace an existing alcove type, ask your plumber how much it would cost to install the new tub in the same place as the old bathtub. This simple question might lead to a drastic reduction in cost.
6. Weight of Full Bathtub
If you will move your existing tub to a new location—or if you’re getting a brand new bathtub—you need to be aware of whether your floor joists can support the weight of a new tub.
To calculate the weight that your floor will need to support, you’ll need to do some Bath Math. Add the weight of the empty bathtub plus the weight of the water plus the weight of the heaviest bather likely to use the tub.
Some bathtub materials are much heavier than others. For example, stone and enameled cast-iron can be extremely heavy. And even though acrylic is typically a lighter weight material, an extra-large acrylic freestanding tub can weigh a lot if it holds 70 gallons of water.
You can find out much more about the weight of a clawfoot and freestanding bathtubs in our Ultimate Buying Guides.
7. Strength of Floor
You’ll need to ask a contractor if the floor can support your tub at the new location. You may need to add additional joists to the floor for extra support. Or, if the tub is being moved from a ground floor to an upper floor, you may run into additional trouble with floor support, depending on how heavy the tub is.
8. Access Panel
So you know how you can easily see the pipes under your bathroom sink when you open the vanity cabinet? Well, an access panel works the same way for your bathtub. It’s a little door that gives you easy visibility to the pipes connecting to your tub.
If you have an access panel, consider yourself most fortunate. This reduces the chances that a plumber will need to bust into your walls or flooring in order to extend piping or check existing pipes.
If you don’t have an access panel and you do decide to move your tub to a new location, you definitely should consider asking the plumber to install one. This way, if you have a leaking bathtub or another pipe issue in the future, you’ll be able to address the problem more quickly with much less hassle.
9. Apartment vs Condo
If you live in an apartment or condo, it’s possible that your downpipes and water lines are connected to your neighbor’s. In this case it may be more complicated to move the bathtub, as you’ll need to keep the neighbor’s connection intact.
10. Concrete Slab vs Raised Foundation
If your home is built on a concrete slab as opposed to on a raised foundation, it will be much more labor-intensive to rework existing piping. This will add to your overall remodeling cost.
11. Building Permit
You’ll need to check the building code in the county where you live to see if you need a building permit to move the bathtub. It may depend on how far you plan to move the bathroom fixtures and if it’s just a slight move of the bathtub or you are planning a full bathroom remodel. Some permits have a “setback measurement,” which means you need to leave a certain circumference of empty space around each bathroom fixture.
Cost of Moving the Bathtub
Whether a bathtub can be moved will also depend upon your budget. Now that we’ve reviewed many of the considerations, you can see how complicated the question is and how many variables enter into your bathroom remodel budget.
Expect the Unexpected
There’s one more huge variable that we haven’t discussed yet and that’s the “great unknown.”
When digging up bathroom pipes, you can only expect the unexpected from leaky pipes, to rusted pipes, to pipes that were never installed correctly in the first place, to bathroom mold.
Bathroom designer Kathleen Stacy Finley says:
“Always, always add at least 10% to your estimated budget to account for surprises. That way, when they arise as they always do, you won’t need to panic.”
So How Much Will You Spend All In?
The 2017 Houzz Bathroom Study found:
“The average spend on a major remodel of a master bathroom exceeding 100 square feet is $21,000, while a major remodel of a smaller bathroom averages $12,300.”
Of the respondents in the Houzz Bathroom Study, 43% changed the layout of their bathrooms, so many of these renovators did move fixtures. Among other factors, your ultimate bathroom renovation cost will depend on:
- How far will you move the tub?
- Will you add a new tub type or faucet type?
- Will you move the sink, toilet and shower, too?
Another way to think about it is this: Conventional wisdom among contractors and designers says that moving bathroom fixtures can double or triple your bathroom remodel budget compared to leaving fixtures as is and implementing cosmetic upgrades. As already stated, this is because of less need to plow through walls and ceilings, as well as to add piping, and discovering unwelcome problems.
According to HomeAdvisor.com, in 2020 the average cost for installing a new bathtub is $3,600 USD:
“…but can range from $1,130 and $6,073, depending on the type of tub and modifications needed. The average cost of the tub itself ranges from $200 to $2,000 or more.”
If you’re moving the existing tub, however, you’ll need to at least double this cost so that the plumber can dig out the existing tub and extend or move any piping.
Cost of Moving the Bathtub
The exact cost of moving the bathtub fixture more than 3 feet depends on many variables already mentioned. Expect to pay $1,000-$3,000. If your bathroom is located on a concrete slab rather than a raised foundation, you’re looking at the higher end of this range.
If you’re moving the bathtub, someone will need to patch the space where your tub lived before. This will include patching drywall or repairing tile.
If the existing flooring needs to be torn out, you may need to retile. Overall cost will depend on the square footage and the tile material you choose. For example, ceramic tile is much more affordable than porcelain. See 10 Tips for Choosing Bathroom Tile That’s Perfect for You, which includes our free downloadable bathroom tile pricing calculator.
Cost of Adding Floor Supports
If you’ve moved your bathtub, chances are the majority of the work will be done under the subfloor. Let’s say you need to move your clawfoot tub down the hallway to a the walk-in closet you’re now converting to a bathroom. You need to add floor supports to hold the weight of the full tub. Each additional floor joist will cost you $100-$300.
Cost of Residential Building Permit
If your county requires you to get a residential building permit in order to relocate your bathtub, expect to pay $75.
Will Moving the Tub Add Value to Your Home?
Sometimes you want to rearrange bathroom fixtures because you are putting your home on the market soon. Or sometimes, you just think improving the aesthetics of your bathroom will pay for itself one day when the time comes to sell.
If you’re wondering whether renovating or adding a basement bathroom is worth it, it often is! Read our post on basement bathrooms to find out why.
And be sure to check out THIS Is What Your Bathroom Is Worth on Appraisal.
Cost vs Value
If you are preparing for resale, you may wonder whether it’s worth the extra investment to move your bathtub. The answer really depends. In 2019, according to the cost vs value tool on remodeling.hw.net.
This site compares average costs for 22 remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 136 U.S. markets.
In 2020, for example, a midrange bathroom remodel average cost in the US was $21,377, and 66% of this investment was recouped upon resale. This tool allows you to drill down and look at costs and trends in your city or region.
Tub vs Shower
But maybe if you’re preparing to put your home on the market, you’re wondering whether to rip out the bathtub and replace it with a walk-in shower. Or you’re wondering if it’s worth replacing a dated alcove tub with a freestanding contemporary soaking tub in the master bathroom. If you’ve got questions like these, then you’ll definitely want to read Will a Tub Add Value to My Home?
You Can Move Your Bathtub
When it comes to whether a bathtub can be moved, I like to say:
“Where there’s a wallet, there’s a way.”
If it’s going to really make the difference in how you feel about your bathroom, it’s definitely worth getting a few estimates from certified plumbers and asking the questions posed in this post. Then you’ll be equipped to make a sound decision regarding your bathroom remodeling dreams.
Tags: bathtub drainpipe, installation cost, Kathleen Stacy Finley, move bathtub, relocate bathtub, tub weight, vent stack, water line