What to Expect With a Tub to Shower Conversion

Bathroom Design

Are you considering a bathroom remodel?  How about replacing that old tub with a standing shower?  Tub-to-shower conversion projects are gaining in popularity and demand.  For many, it seems like a simple enough DIY conversion.  You just take out the tub, and replace it with a shower.  Simple, right?  Well, not quite that simple.

Before you start tearing out that tub, you need to really understand the financial commitment and renovation that you’re stepping into.  It’s more than just a “ditch and switch”; it takes precise planning and execution in order to do it right.  That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help guide you through the process to ensure that you’re not throwing out money with your old tub.  Here’s what you can expect:  

Before You Demo, Check First

  • Don’t touch anything in your bathroom until you’ve checked the following:
  • The condition of your existing pipes.  Do any need to be replaced?
  • The shower valve.  Do you need to upgrade anything?  Do you need a pressure-balancing valve?
  • The subfloor and framing.  Does anything need to be repaired?  Do you see sign of mold, mildew or rot?

 Make Sure You Choose the Correct Size

As simple and straight forward as this tip might seem, you would be surprised how easily and how often people mess up their shower conversion simply because they didn’t have the right measurements.  Not only can this set you back in time but also money if you’re having to buy and re-buy parts.  Before you start, you’ll need to know things like shower stall codes and their recommendations (e.g. the National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends a 36-inch-by-36-inch-wide stall), finished ceiling height, distance from side of toilet to shower wall, distance from front of toilet to shower wall, pivot of your shower door swing (so that when open it clears all obstructions), etc.  You can’t just pick a shower and hope that it fits the space.

Don’t Build Your Shower Around a Window

Having that extra light in your shower might sound nice, but a window opens up far too many opportunities for water to seep into your walls.  If not done right, water can go through window casings and cause serious damage to your house (e.g. mold!).  It’s best to play this one safe, and install your shower away from any windows.  

The Shower Floor Is Crucial

Your shower floor (aka the pan) will determine a lot about your conversion both in style and cost.  You can choose between two basic options:  one pan corrals water with a curbed bottom that you step over as you enter; the second is curbless.  Pans with curbs form complete enclosures that contain any water spray and channel it to the drain.  These are usually easier to install and will cost you far less than a curbless option.  Curbless pans are very desirable but trickier to build, as the drainage slope of the floor has to be built below the level of the surrounding floor surface.  This means that you’d either have to raise the level of the surrounding floor, likely making it higher than any other floor that it connects with, or you’d have to lower the shower pan.  Either way, you’re facing an awkward transition threshold.  

Shower Stall Kits Are Excellent Low-Cost Options

Kits are made to fit into the corners and old tub alcoves that tub removals leave you with.  They are a much more affordable option, costing anywhere from $200 to $2,000, depending on individual preferences, when compared to custom tile showers that can cost between $1,000 to $3,500.   They’re generally made from acrylic or fiberglass and include all pre-made sides, floor pans, drain holes and hinged glass doors.  Some even come with built-in seats and shelves to hold all of your bath products.  What’s more is that with kits, you usually don’t have to re-do any plumbing which can drastically increase your “simple” conversion’s price tag.  

Don’t Ditch Your Only Tub

As tempting as it may be to replace every tub in your house, we suggest holding off on at least one.  Even if you only use that tub to wash your blinds or a pet in once every so often, think about your home’s future.  If you plan to resell at any point, you’re going to find that real estate agents are insistent about having at least one working tub in a house.  You see, a bathtub preserves its marketability with the driving reason being that many homebuyers will need a tub for their children.    

Once you’ve checked and double checked your conversion space and done all of the pre-measurements, you’re ready to get started.  Just remember that if you put in the time and effort on the front end, you’ll be rewarded on the back end, not just with a nice new shower, but with a pocket full of leftover savings!  

If you’d like to learn more about tub-to-shower conversions, give us a call today at 815-515-4062.


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