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Bathtub replacement is a very costly and labor-intensive project. It is usually one left to professionals on the mere frustration factor alone. However, you may not need to replace your tub at all. If it is just dingy or peeling, you can have it resurfaced, which will allow you to prolong the life and restore a beautiful finish.

However, eventually, the bathtub will need to be replaced. How can you tell? This guide will take you through the tell-tale signs that your bathtub needs replacement. If you find that your tub does need a replacement, you should seek a professional for cost estimates and labor fees.

DIY Issue

Tub replacement is not an easy project. While it can be a DIY issue, the amount of labor and confined spaces makes it one of the most difficult projects in the home. You must remember that when the original tub was installed the house wasn’t complete.

The original installers had the luxury of not having to fight doors, frames or even walls to get the tub in place. When replacing a bathtub, you will usually have to remove other fixtures like toilets, cabinets and even sinks.

That is why it is important to understand when it is required to replace the tub instead of just cleaning and resurfacing one.

Does the Tub Do Its Main Job?

a bathtub full of water

The first factor to consider when thinking about a bathtub replacement is to note if the tub has stopped doing its primary job: holding water.

If you fill the tub and water slowly drains (or quickly), you may have a leak. Finding the leak can be difficult. The leak could be from a crack in the tub basin or even the drain pipes under the house.

Finding a leak will almost always require tub removal. In this instance, it is a good idea to replace the tub, since the old, probably out of style tub will be out of the way and needing to be reinstalled anyway.

If the tub doesn’t hold water, it isn’t doing its job. At this point, it is just a large, object that is taking up space. Bottom line: if the tub can’t hold water you need to replace it.

Is a Remodel in the Works?remodel a bathroom

As with anything else, over time styles and tastes or preferences change. If you are remodeling your bathroom, it may be time to update the bathtub as well. Bathtubs have always been bulky, heavy and not very stylish.

However, today we have a wider variety of tubs, tub and shower combos and various other ways to display and use the bathroom fixture. Tubs come in colors, various shapes, and sizes and we can install a bathtub that fits the décor and style of the remodeled bathroom.

Even if the tub still holds water, you may wish to replace it when it no longer fits the style of the bathroom. Because you will likely be replacing the other fixtures, you can more easily remove and install a tub while the toilet, sinks, and cabinets are out of the way.

Look for a Replacement Tub

purchase a new bathtub

When looking for a replacement tub, you should find one that matches your bathroom update. Colors can be chosen, widths, styles, and even length or height. Most importantly, though, you want to ensure the drain is on the same side as the old tub.

If the drain is not (or is moved due to an increase or decrease in width) on the same side, you will need to adjust the plumbing for the shoe and drain. This should be done by a professional to ensure code and permit requirements are met.

It Becomes Difficult to Keep Clean

Over time, even porcelain tubs become near impossible to keep clean. The surface of the tubs will eventually break down and hold stains, hard water deposits and other unhygienic debris. When your weekly cleaning no longer keeps the tub spotless, it may be time for a replacement.

In these instances, replacement is a call only you can make. Since there is nothing wrong with the bathtub structurally, you can opt to have the tub resurfaced instead of replaced. When a bathtub is resurfaced, the resurfacer will scrub the tub and do a chemical etching with acid. This will prepare the tub surface for the paint.

Once painted the tub will look new and function properly. Resurfacing doesn’t last as long as a new tub, but it is a lot less expensive and easier to have done.

Disabilities are a Factor

bathtub replacement for person with disabilities

Over time, like our bathtubs, we age and get older. We may find it difficult to get in and out of the tub like we used to.

Now we have the option to install handicap accessible bathtubs. These tubs are designed for those with disabilities or those that find it difficult to get in and out of a tub. Most will have a door that will open allowing easy access.

Some will also come with built-in seating, larger, easier to turn knobs, or even handrails. If you find it difficult to get into the bathtub, or you have a disability that prevents ease of entry or exit from the tub, it may be time for a bathtub replacement.

Practicality or Functionality

Practicality is just as important as functionality. If the bathtub no longer functions, as we mentioned, you need to replace it. Likewise, if it is no longer practical, it should be replaced as well.

If the tub is too small, for example, you may need to upgrade to a larger one. Or if the tub is in an awkward position in the bathroom that makes access or entry difficult, it is time to consider a bathtub replacement.

You Just Really Want To Bathtub Replacement

Let’s face it. Tastes change. Styles change. The kids wanted a pink bathroom, and now they have moved out, and you are ready for white again. Whatever the case may be, replacing a bathtub can simply come down to a desire.

There are no rules when it comes to designing a home. You can choose to replace or upgrade your bathtub any time you see fit. As long as you have the permits (if they are required in your area) and the budget to do so, you can.

Of course, you should keep in mind how difficult a bathtub replacement is and make sure that you have the room in your budget for the new tub, the removal and disposal of the old tub and the installation of the new one.


You should also budget for removal costs of toilets, sinks and possibly cabinets as well. Not to mention any unforeseen expenses associated with bathtub replacement like old, worn drain pipes, seals, green board or tiles.

While the bathtub itself may only cost a few hundred dollars the total expense can easily reach into the thousands. It all depends on the setup and difficulty of the replacement. You should get a few bids prior to choosing a contractor, and if you are in doubt, you can get estimates of work needed from a professional plumber.

Knowing how much you will need to spend will keep the surprise factor down, and you can make a well-informed choice before any project start.

In Conclusion

Replacing a tub is an expensive endeavor. Not only does it cost money, but it costs a lot of time as well. The bathroom where the tub is being replaced won’t be accessible for use for some time, and in a general sense, you should allow at least two full days to the project.

If you are replacing the bathtub yourself, you will have to gather any required permits for the plumbing if it will need to be replaced. Some areas of the country have more stringent rules than others. Also, you should consider your home owner’s association if there is one.

The HOA may have rules about remodels, and you will need to comply with them as well as any local, state, city or county laws.

Not a Common Task

Replacing a tub is not a common task, but there are situations when it becomes necessary or warranted. You may feel the need to replace your tub when you are upgrading the rest of the bathroom.

This is the ideal time as all the other fixtures will likely be out of the way, making the install much easier. You may also have developed a disability that makes getting in or out of the tub difficult. Ease of use is important for bathing, and if you can’t get in the tub, it is time to change it for the one you can.

Choose Functionality

Functionality is vital for a bathtub though. If the tub no longer performs its primary duty of holding water, it is time to replace it. You should, though, ensure the tub is at fault and not a drain pipe or sealing issue.

Replacing the tub isn’t easy, but when done properly can add value and aesthetics to your bathroom.

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