How to Build a Removable Panel for a Whirlpool Bathtub

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Whirlpool bathtubs are installed in a surrounding deck, which hides the unfinished sides of the tub as well as the plumbing hookups, the motor and heater. You can build a removable access panel so you can reach the plumbing and electrical components without having to tear out the decking. The access panel is easiest to make during the installation of the whirlpool tub.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • 3/4-inch plywood
  • Circular saw
  • Cement board
  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Wood adhesive
  • Thin set mortar
  • Tile
  • Tub and tile caulk
  • Determine where the plumbing hookups and motor will be located. When framing the deck with 2-by-4s, leave a minimum space of 12-by-12 inches between the supports at the point where the hookups are. The access panel will be located in that space. The access panel can be bigger, but it must be at least 12-by-12.

  • Measure the distance from the top of the tub deck to the floor at the access panel point. If it is 18 inches and the access panel hole is 12 inches in width, you need a cover panel that is 18-by-12 inches. Cut the cover panel out of a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood with a circular saw.

  • Install the whirlpool tub in the deck surround, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place fiberglass insulation in between the deck’s frame supports; however, do not place any in the access panel hole. Cover the tub deck in cement board, except for the access panel hole.

  • Mix up a batch of thin set mortar per the manufacturer's directions. Tile the cement board on the tub deck. Spread the mortar onto the plywood cover for the access panel then tile it. Allow the tile and mortar to fully cure and set overnight.

  • Place the access panel cover over the access hole. Caulk the seams between the rest of the tub deck tile and the bathroom floor but not the seam between the tile on the access panel and the floor. To access the whirlpool bathtub’s connections, just pull the access panel away from the rest of the tub deck.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you need to place the pump for the whirlpool tub more than 2 feet from the access panel opening, the panel should be at least 18-by-18 inches in size so you can reach in comfortably to access the pump.
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