Making a Walk-In Bathtub

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Front openings, simple design and space savings are just a few of the advantages of a walk-in bathtub. If your basic plumbing and construction skills are up to par, you can even save enough money to add a couple of bells and whistles--like a whirlpool motor, stainless steel doors, decorative skirting and upgraded faucet. Find a great selection of these tubs on the Internet, and then follow these guidelines to make a spa that friends and relatives will envy.

Things You'll Need

  • Pre-fabricated walk-in tub shell Drywall or green board Floor underlayment Plumbing and carpentry tools Caulking Tub faucet unit Paint PVC piping (optional) Wall tiles (optional)
  • Turn off both water and power supplies leading to the bathroom. If the area has already been serving as a shower or bath, gut the area, removing prefabricated liners, metal door-frame units, glass doors, floor pan and fixtures. Disassemble pipes using a wrench. Ancient metal fittings might require WD-40 or another lubricating agent to loosen them for removal.

  • Replace old wallboard with waterproof drywall/green board if wear, tear, mold, mildew or other microorganisms have undermined the structural integrity of the wall(s). Apply a waterproof underlayment to the floor to safeguard it from floods and run-over.

  • Run electricity from the nearest power source to the tub installation area if you plan to install a tub with a whirlpool or hydrotherapy system.

  • Check exposed plumbing system pipes to determine their condition. If hard-water sediment has caused deterioration, replace them with efficient PVC piping.

  • Finish the wall by painting or tiling exposed surfaces if the tub style you chose is a stand-alone. If your walk-in tub is to be attached to the wall on one or two sides, no aesthetic touches need be applied to those sections.

  • Slide the prefabricated tub unit into place. Follow the model's unique installation instructions. It's important to align drain holes and plumbing outlets, so if you lack experience in this area, engage a plumbing contractor to help with or complete this facet of the tub's installation.

  • Make necessary adjustments to seat the tub. Install the fixtures. Before you caulk exposed areas, turn the water and power back on. Run the water long enough to get a good read on the pressure and to check for possible leaks. Test out the whirlpool motor.

  • Complete aesthetic touches to professionally finish and decorate the surrounding walls. Your walk-in tub will provide equal or less water usage at twice the soaking depth.

Tips & Warnings

  • Before ordering your tub shell, figure out whether a right- or left-hinged door is more convenient to avoid hitting other bathroom fixtures when opening and closing. Call your insurance agent to make sure your homeowners policy covers flood damage in the event that the door opens while the tub is full and water comes rushing out.
  • Because these fiberglass tubs are specially engineered to seal the door shut when the tub is filled, you must purchase the tub shell from a reputable distributor to avoid leaks that can cause serious water damage.

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