If you want to install a new bathtub, the easy route is to call in a plumber to get the job done—but that can be quite pricey. In fact, the high cost of a plumber may have you thinking, “Well, how hard is it to install a bathtub?”
It’s hard to install a bathtub yourself. If you have intermediate plumbing skills, you can do it but it can still be complex. To install a bathtub yourself, you will need carpentry tools, two full days and a general love of DIY tasks. You also may need occasional assistance from someone else.
If you’re toying with the idea of installing the bathtub, read on to discover everything you need to know to get the job done.
Can I Install a Bathtub Myself?
You totally can…if you have the skill set to do so. And that’s a major “if”.
Installing a bathtub is, unfortunately, not a task for a rookie. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude are not enough to achieve the desired result with this project. If the most you have ever done in plumbing is plunge a clogged toilet, then sit this one out and hire a professional instead.
However, if you have a basic understanding of plumbing, have fixed a few leaky faucets, replaced drain pipes or installed any other bathroom fixtures, then you might be able to install your own bathtub. Ask yourself if you’re in the mood for the challenge. Then watch some how-to videos (like the one below) and see if you’re still excited.
When You’ll Need Assistance
It will be much harder to install your own bathtub if you don’t have a buddy to help with certain parts of the job. For example, even though acrylic bathtubs are light and it is possible for you to carry one by yourself, it will still be cumbersome.
For this reason, it’s easier to have a friend who can help you guide the bathtub into your home, down hallways, and into the bathroom without causing any damage to the tub or walls.
Having a helper is also convenient when lowering the bathtub into position and ensuring it aligns with all the plumbing.
Acrylic bathtubs are also not the only option, of course. If you end up splurging on a cast iron tub, you might need to call out all of your friends for assistance. One of these can easily weigh 200-400 pounds!
Ordering a New Tub for Easier Installation
Out with the old and in with the new. Once you remove the old unit, it’s time to install a new luxurious bathtub.
Before you do anything, a good tip is to measure the space available so that the new tub you purchase fits perfectly and you aren’t left with a chunk out of your bathroom wall to accommodate it.
I recently measured an old alcove tub in my second-floor bathroom, only to find it was 57” long, which isn’t a standard size. In the end, and considering the existing tub is cast iron, I decided to give it a scrub and live with it rather than forking over the money for a custom bathtub.
After measuring, make sure your new unit will line up with the pre-existing plumbing or you’ll be in for a far more difficult job. If you’ve currently got a left-hand drain, you’ll have an easier time with the installation if you order a new tub with a left-hand drain as well.
Read these posts for help with the complex job of choosing a new bathtub and new bathtub faucets. You also may need a drain, if you intend to replace the one you have. (The drain includes the drain chute, strainer, strainer cover, trip lever, stopper, linkage, and overflow drain cover)
6 Steps to Remove a Bathtub
Of course, you’ll probably need to remove your old bathtub before you’re ready to install the new one. And this can be the hardest part of the process! There’s plenty to unscrew, unhitch, detach and cut out. You may even need to apply considerable force, so be prepared for a workout.
1. Remove any tile or tub surround (on a Built-In Tub)
Unfortunately, taking out an old tub often requires you to destroy at least some of the tile or part of your tub surround. If your heart is set on a new tub, now is the time.
2. Turn Off Water Valves
Most importantly, you will want to find the shutoff valves and turn them off before you do anything else. Otherwise, you’ll land up installing a fountain in your bathroom, not a tub. Also, make sure you lay down a drop cloth to protect your floor and anything else in the vicinity of your tub that you don’t want to be damaged.
3. Remove Hardware
Next, you need to remove the faucet hardware, which includes the taps, spout, and showerhead. You can use a tub drain remover to more easily remove the drain and a screwdriver to remove the overflow drain cover.
4. Cut Bathtub Out
Remove the stud that’s running perpendicular to the edge of the tub that’s not a support beam. Also remove any nails or screws holding the tub to the wall. Then cut through the drywall that surrounds your tub. It would help if you cut about an inch past the edge of the tub to make it easier to remove the tub.
Once you have cut out the drywall, disconnect the tub drain and the waste and overflow unit.
6. Lift (or Cut) the Tub Out
It’s often very difficult to remove an old tub in one piece, so sadly, you may need to cut your tub in half to get it out. So say a big thank you to it for all the luxurious baths it provided you over the years and then say goodbye. You can make use of a crowbar to pry the tub out of its position.
An Installation Interlude
You may be wiped out from your work removing the old tub, and you might be chomping at the bit to get the new tub in place.
But trust me here, it’s worth taking an hour or so to hunt for bathroom mold or mildew. These are insidious bacteria that can pose a huge and costly problem for your health and your home.
And the best time to hunt it down is when your bathtub is out and before you install a new one in its place. For help with this read Bathroom Mold: A Battle Plan to Destroy It.
Before you install a new bathtub, you’ll also need to check your building codes and plumbing codes for the area in which you live. You’ll need to get a permit from your town or state and then get an inspection when the job is done. Here is information about how to find the plumbing code for your area.
How to Install a Built-In Bathtub
A built-in bathtub is built into a deck or nestled between two or three walls. Below are the general directions that Handyman Dan recommends for installing a tub. But watch the video for details:
- Check that the drain cutout is in the right place and the right size.
- Level the floor to allow proper drainage.
- Test fit the bathtub and check with level.
- Build the drain, cutting pipes to make them fit, and securing with ABS glue.
- Install a temporary piece of wood. Place the tub. And mark the drain opening on the wood.
- Apply silicone sealant to the drain and gasket.
- Install overflow drain cover
- Predrill holes in the tub flange and use screws to secure the tub to the studs.
- Let sealant set one day and then test tub for leaks.
- Seal the tub to the floor.
How to Retile the Tub Surround
With a gorgeous new bathtub, you won’t want to be staring at an ugly surround. If you’ve got a built-in tub, you may need to re-tile the surround that you may have damaged when removing the old tub.
Read my post how to replace tile around a bathtub (12 steps) for a detailed description of exactly how to achieve this.
Once you’ve given everything the appropriate amount of time to dry, you’ll have a brand new tub. Now it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved soak!
What Are the Costs to Consider When Installing a Bathtub?
Well, the most obvious cost is the new tub and it depends on your personal preference. The cost can vary greatly from one material to the next, but most tubs cost between $300 and $2,000.
Here’s some help if you’re on the lookout for a particular tub type:
But don’t fall victim to assuming you have sorted the main cost with the tub; faucets can be a sneaky cost and some high-end faucets can cost more than a bathtub!
Plus, don’t forget you’ll also be purchasing all the plumbing parts, like the drain assembly and anything else that may have been damaged when removing the old tub.
You’ll then need to consider the costs of all the supplies you’ll need such as the 2x4s, mortar mix, caulk, plumbers putty and cement backer board. These small costs can add up quickly. If you need to purchase any tools you don’t have, you’ll see costs increase quite drastically.
How to Install a Bathtub on a Concrete Floor
Do you have a concrete floor in your bathroom, either as the main floor or under your tiles? If so, and you are removing an old tub and replacing it with a new one in the same position, you shouldn’t have any problems. You can follow the same removal and installation process already described.
However, if you’re laying a new concrete floor, it’s best to install the drain before pouring the concrete. If you don’t, you’ll have to break up the floor, which will cause an awful mess.
You will then need to patch the floor again after installing the P-trap and waste line. This can waste time that you could have saved if only you’d installed this plumbing before beginning the pouring process.
Just because you have a concrete floor that’s super strong, don’t assume you can just place your tub and be done. Unless you have purchased a freestanding tub, you’ll still need to follow the same directions to secure and support your tub. Also, make sure your concrete floor is level before placing your bathtub.
How Long Does It Take to Install a Bathtub?
If you are starting the process by removing an old tub, be prepared to spend at least 3-4 hours first achieving this task. Your skill level will determine exactly how long you spend trying to get that tub outta there.
To hunt down mold, spend at least an hour. If you find some, though, the time you’ll need to remedy it will depend on the extent of the problem. Let’s say you discover a significant problem. Yes, this can slow down your project by days, but it can also save you a significant headache in the long-run.
Expect to spend 6-9 hours installing your new tub. Again, your skill level will determine how long this process will take for you but be prepared that it won’t be a quick job. You’ll also need to add on the additional time to re-tile.
You are likely to spend 1-2 full days making these upgrades (apart from finding mold). After that, you’ll need to wait 24 hours for everything to dry properly. In total, you’ll need at least 3 days to complete the process, but by day 4, that new tub will be beckoning you to hop on in.
Alternatives to Replacing a Bathtub
Is the idea of installing a new bathtub bringing up a big “nope” for you? If so, consider other options for upgrading your bathtub:
Install a Bathtub Liner Instead of a Bathtub
Bathtub liners are acrylic or PVC plastic molds, which come in the shape of a bathtub. These are placed over the tub and secured with tape or glue to make the tub look good as new. The cost of a bathtub liner can be comparable to the cost of a new bathtub. However, the price of installing the liner is less than the price of paying a contractor to install a new tub. Find out much more about bathtub liners and if this could be the solution for you.
Refinish the Tub Surface
Essentially you can refurbish your bathtub—and change the color if you wish—with a DIY refinishing kit. These are widely available but look for brands that don’t make use of toxic chemicals. It’s a fairly easy process.
You can refinish and repaint your bath to look as good as new, although the improvements have a limited shelf-life. If you’re considering this technique, check out my post on refinishing kits for your tub.
So How Hard Is It to Install a Bathtub Yourself?
It’s certainly not an easy task to install your own bathtub and it isn’t a project for the faint at heart. Not only do you need a fair amount of plumbing experience to tackle this, but you’ll also need some good strength to get that old tub out.
There are plenty of tools you’ll need too, so make sure you have access to what you need. Or else, you could end up paying far more than you’d pay a plumber to do the job.
If you don’t have a full weekend to dedicate to this endeavor, as well as the energy to put in the 12+ hours of manual labor, then it’s probably best to fork over the cash to a professional.
So how hard is it to install a bathtub? Pretty gosh darn impossible if you don’t know what you are doing, but for those who have the experience, it’s still a tough, but rewarding venture.