A bathtub to shower conversion is a stylish and practical update for any home. It will make your bathroom feel larger, look more modern and accommodate any mobility-related issues that make stepping into a bathtub difficult. With a helper or two, an intrepid homeowner can handle the job without a contractor. Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to build a walk in shower the DIY way.
Step 1: Determine Spacing & Placement
A bathtub to shower conversion is easiest when you situate your new open shower in the space left behind by your bathtub, since your drain lines and water supply will already be in place. Moving plumbing can add significant cost to the project, plus require bringing in a plumber.
Spacing Required for a Walk In Shower:
- At least 30 inches by 30 inches of floor space.
- At least 80 inches in height.
- At least 15 inches between the side of the toilet and the shower wall.
- Or at least 21 inches between the front of the toilet and the shower wall.
- If you plan to install a swinging door, make sure to account for the swing.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Once you’ve determined spacing for your new open shower, it’s time to get down to the dirty work. You’ll need:
- Plywood for floor protection
- Wrench and/or Allen wrench
- Putty knife and utility knife
- Drywall saw or reciprocating saw
You should also consider a roll off dumpster rental to get rid of your old tub. Most cities won’t accept a bathtub for curbside pickup or will require you to wait for a yearly bulk collection day.
Step 3: Remove Tiles & Wall Sections
Before beginning a bathtub to shower conversion, you’ll need to remove tile and drywall around your tub in order to tear it free. Follow these steps:
- Cover flooring tile with plywood to prevent damage.
- Turn off water to the bathroom at your home’s main water shut-off valve.
- Unscrew the drain cover, overflow drain cover, and faucet knobs. Pull the faucet from the tub, using an Allen wrench to loosen any screws.
- From the access panel behind your tub, or from your basement, disconnect the main and overflow drains by using a wrench to turn the locking nuts counterclockwise.
- Remove the tile around the tub to a height of about 8 inches by scoring the grout with a utility knife, then prying them off with a putty knife.
- Cut through the drywall with a drywall saw, being careful not to cut into any studs. If your wall is plaster, use a reciprocating saw for this step.
Step 4: Remove the Tub
Time for the main event! Follow these steps to remove your bathtub:
- Remove any nails or screws attaching the tub to wall studs.
- Use a utility knife to cut through any caulk between the tub and the floor.
- Use a prybar to pry the tub a few inches from the wall.
- Working with a helper, use your prybar to pry up one end of the tub and maneuver it upright. Ensure it will fit through your doors this way, first!
- Alternatively: cut through the middle of the tub with a jigsaw to separate it into two pieces. Pry each piece up and maneuver it until you can slide it out of its space.
- Toss the old tub into your dumpster, then repair the drywall you cut away.
Step 5: Decide on a Curbed or Curbless Open Shower
When you’re DIYing your bathtub to shower conversion, we recommend you use a shower stall kit. Kits are easy for a novice to install on their own, and they come in various styles, including ones you can tile however you choose. But first, you need to choose: curbed or curbless.
Curbed showers have a shower pan that forms a complete enclosure using low curbs you must step over to enter the shower. Curbed showers are the most common and the easiest to install. However, if you chose to build a walk in shower due to mobility issues, a curbed option will pose the same problems as your old bathtub.
Curbless showers have no enclosures. They are becoming increasingly popular, both because of their visual appeal and because they are easily accessible for anyone with mobility issues or who wants to age in place.
Step 6: Install Your Shower
Follow the specific instructions for your shower kit, and you’ll be in the home stretch! If you’re converting to a curbless open shower, keep in mind that you’ll first need to lower the floor of the shower area so that the shower pan will sit flush with the rest of the bathroom floor.
If your bathroom has a slab subfloor, you’ll need to hire a concrete contractor for this step. Fortunately, this is a quick job that will not be particularly costly.
If your subfloor isn’t slab, you can get a permit from your city’s building department to cut down the tops of the floor joists beneath the shower pan until it sits level.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done!
Now that you know to how to build a walk in shower, be sure to comment with any of your own tips as you complete the task!
Got another DIY project on the horizon? We just put together an exceedingly comprehensive guide to DIY home improvement that covers everything from painting to plumbing!