Messing up the Bathroom

January 28, 2007 at 12:01 am (Family Life)

We had a problem with our bathtub. It’s probably as old as the house (about 18 years), and a crack appeared in the bottom. It is not too noticeable from the tub side, but definitely noticeable from underneath (read ‘dripping water through the downstairs ceiling’). So, the tub had to be replaced. Which includes the surround as well.

We tried to find a contractor to do it, really we did – it just didn’t work out that way. The first one came by, and was ‘going to get back with an estimate’ – which is contractor speak for ‘Leave me alone, you bother me’. Several weeks later, we had another contractor come out, who did actually get back with an estimate. If I supplied the materials including the tub, it would cost $2300 to replace the tub and surround. Now I don’t have a problem paying a premium for skilled labor, but $2300???? I estimate that they would have had a two person crew, and completed the job in 8 hours. That works out to almost $150/hour. I think I’m in the wrong business.

Needless to say, I decided that I would do it myself. I’m relatively handy, and more importantly, I know my limitations (someone else will do the soldering). I tried to find DIY instructions online, but nothing was helpful – most were just offering advice on how to select a contractor for it. So, I’m putting my project online.

I removed the drain, faucet handles, showerhead, drywall, surround and tub. Here’s some pictures and tips:

removing the drain

When removing the drain, use a sturdy pair of pliers to grip the bar running across it – the bar is too far down to grip normally, so you will be unscrewing the drain using the sides of the pliers jaws.

removing the spout

The spout unscrews also, but it’s hard to get a grip on. I used the pliers handle to twist it until it was loose enough to remove by hand.

faucet showing screws

The faucet handle has a hidden screw. Pry the hot/cold label cap off to get at the screw. When the handle is off, remove the other two screws that hold the trim plate on.

The tub and surround extend about 1 inch under the drywall on all sides. It will be easier to remove the entire piece above the surround – all the way to the ceiling. On the sides, I’m only taking about 3 inches out.

Here are some pictures of the removed drywall.

The front wall.

The rear and side walls.

The right side of the surround.

The surround and tub are nailed to the wall. Once the drywall is gone, you can find and pull the nails, or pry them up, or break the fiberglass so that you can remove them later.

Once the nails are removed, the surround disassembles fairly easily. The pieces lift up and then come out.

The first piece of the surround is out.

After the surround is out, the tub comes out easily (made easy because I didn’t care if it cracked, which it did).

I had a plumber friend come by, and he told me about the compression copper fittings – which I have used before but not for this kind of application. He’s willing to come by to help if I need it, but I’m going to try the shut-off valves myself first.

Total time and money so far…

$0.00 and about 3 hours of real work. The total elapsed time was much greater, because I was very careful (and took lots of breaks).


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