How to Convert a Tub to a Shower in the Bathroom
Home renovation experts walk you through the step-by-step process from ordering tile to when to call a contractor.
Nothing dates a bathroom like a bathtub without a shower. Luckily, with the right materials and some professional help, you can convert a tub into a shower in a matter of days. "Removing a tub requires a lot of muscle, especially if it's an old (and super heavy) cast iron tub," says Sabine H. Schoenberg, founder and chief executive officer of Smart. Healthy. Green. Living. "Depending on the space around a tub, or rather the lack thereof, it may be necessary to saw the tub into sections—a project that calls for a heavy-duty saw, which a DIYer may not have."
Along with removing the tub, you also have the plumbing, installation, and tile work to worry about, too. "In addition to disconnecting the plumbing supply and drain, installation may necessitate different leveling techniques and materials which a pro will handle seamlessly," Schoenberg explains. "A little bit of design planning should precede any work, even demolition. A shower is an installation you undertake once, and will live with for many years." Curious about what it takes to convert a tub into a shower in the bathroom? We asked Schoenberg and Paul Dashevsky, co-founder of GreatBuildz, to take us through the step-by-step process, and here's what they had to say.
Dashevsky says the first step when converting a bathtub to a shower is to disconnect the plumbing supply and drain, and then demolish all the existing items that are currently in place, including the tub. "This includes all the shower tile and the old backer board behind it," he says. "You're essentially removing the area down to the studs."
Deal with what's behind the tile.
Once you break down and remove the tub and the area surrounding it, Dashevsky says a professional will need to check for moisture intrusion and damaged studs. "Moisture damage or molded areas will need to be treated and any rotted studs replaced," he explains. "A carpenter will also add any necessary studs to create the shower area, such as the section called a shower dam."
Call a plumber.
After you've handled any structural issues, Dashevsky says it's time for a plumber to re-route the water supply pipe and drain pipe to accommodate the new shower. "New waterproof backerboard will be added to the walls to create a nice clean surface for the future tile," he explains. "Next, a waterproof surface needs to be created on the floor of the shower, which will likely be a hot-map (a tar-like substance that hardens) or concrete."
Install new tile.
While Schoenberg says that, in some cases, an experienced DIYer can take on the tile installation themselves, she warns that it can be tricky. "You have to ensure that all the surfaces are correctly sloped, so that the water always rolls towards the drain and does not puddle," she explains. "Since tile grout is porous, water can accumulate on it and eventually seep through the grout causing major problems." Additionally, Dashevsky suggests consulting your contractor to double check that you have picked an appropriate tile for your project. "You don't want slippery tile on a shower floor or rough tile on the walls that will be hard to clean," he says.
Add fixtures and finishing touches.
Once the new tile is installed and grouted, Dashevsky says you can finally get to the fun details. "Once the floor dries, it needs to be tested to ensure it holds water without leaking overnight," he says. "Then, the new shower head and fixtures can be installed, along with the shower door and caulking applied to necessary areas."