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Adding a new bathtub or replacing an existing one can help you create a luxurious spa environment for your entire bathroom. However, installing a bathtub can also be a time-consuming and labor-intensive project. Unless you’re a skilled carpenter and plumber, it’s probably in your best interest to hire a professional to do the job.
The average cost to install a bathtub is $2,838, but can range from $1,000 to $4,500, depending on the type of tub and modifications needed. The average cost of the tub itself ranges from $200 to $2,000 or more.
When choosing a bathtub for your bathroom, it’s essential that you consider physical issues such as:
How much room you have
How big you want it to be
Where it will be located
Whether you will be including a shower
The manner in which you want to surround your tub
You will also need to consider the general style of your tub. Do you want a standard tub that is designed for a quick bath? Or, do you want a luxurious bathtub designed for sitting and soaking? Is your dream a whirlpool or a jacuzzi? All of these things must be taken into account before you begin your project.
There is a variety of bathtubs available, the material and finish of which determine their costs. The right material for your fixture will depend on your style preferences, as well as how frequently you will be using your bathtub. Some different materials and their associated benefits and costs are detailed below. Costs are estimates based on a standard 60-inch, all-purpose tub.
A bathtub surround provides a smooth, even surface for the walls around your tub or tub/shower. This surface has none of the cleaning and maintenance problems associated with tile and grout; there are no cracks to scour, and no tiles to crack. Tub surrounds are available made from many different materials, from acrylic to granite. Each material will be available in several colors, so you're sure to find something that will fit your bathroom.
Installing a tub surround is generally an easy to moderately easy process. Often, they come in kits designed especially for those with little installation experience. Since the materials used to make tub surrounds is non-porous (unlike grout) even a novice can do a great job of protecting the underlying walls from moisture damage simply by following the directions. The continuous surface of a bathtub surround gives a modern feel to your bathroom. Installing one is a quick and efficient way to update your bath and shower. The ease of maintenance and contemporary look of a tub surround has made it a very popular upgrade item in homes and hotels across the nation.
Acrylic is a commonly used bathtub material because it is available in a wide variety of shapes and styles. It is generally resistant to abrasion and fading, which makes it an attractive option for bathtubs heavily used by an entire family. Because of its non-porous finish, acrylic is easy to clean and is warm to the touch. While acrylic can scratch, light buffing with a mild liquid, non-abrasive cleaner will usually remove the marks. The average cost for a standard 60-inch acrylic tub ranges from $500 to $900, not including installation.
While cultured marble requires considerable maintenance, its many beautiful colors and patterns make your bathtub a spectacular focal point. Marble provides a sleek and stylish look, but it can also be brittle and can scratch easily. Marble is also considerably heavier than acrylic, which can be problematic if your floor cannot handle the additional weight. The average cost for a standard, 60-inch cultured marble tub ranges from $1,500 to $2,200, not including installation.
Enameled cast iron is both durable and solid. This material has long been a favorite of bathers who enjoy a good soak, as it retains heat well. But, it is also quite heavy; its use may require additional structural reinforcement of your flooring. The average cost for a 60-inch standard cast iron tub ranges from $500 to $2,000, not including installation.
Enameled steel is less expensive than cast iron, and it typically weighs less as well. The downside to enameled steel tubs is that they chip easily and may create a lot of noise when the tub is being filled. The average cost for a 60-inch enameled steel tub ranges from $300 to $2,000 not including installation.
Fiberglass is an economical choice for bathtubs. It comes in a range of colors and is also lightweight. However, because fiberglass does not retain heat well, it’s better used for quick baths than long soaks. The average cost of a 60-inch fiberglass tub ranges from $200 to $500, not including installation.
General purpose: This is the bathtub of your youth. Generally placed in an alcove setting, this is the standard, no-frills bathtub.
Soaking tub: This tub is deeper than the standard tub, allowing you to immerse your entire body. Typical examples of this type of tub are freestanding, clawfoot and vintage, though ofuros (Japanese soaking tubs) are increasing in popularity as well in homes.
Walk-in tubs: As you might expect, a walk-in tub has a door that eliminates the need for its user to crawl over the side of the tub. This type is particularly well suited to the elderly or people with mobility issues.
Whirlpool and air tubs: These types create a spa experience, gently massaging tired muscles as you soak. Whirlpool tubs shoot jets of water in strategic places to achieve this effect, while air tubs shoot air into the water to create gently massaging bubbles.
Alcove: This is the standard method of installation. Placed against three walls and allowing access to only one side of the tub, it is the preferred method for those wishing to have a tub-shower combination.
Platform: This type of installation allows your tub to sit within a built-up deck structure with its rim at the same level as the top of the deck. This is method is most widely used to install whirlpool and air-jet tubs, and it can create a dramatic style statement in your bathroom.
Undermount installation: This type of installation differs from platform installation in that the rim of the tub is covered by a surrounding deck top made of stone, tile, or similar material. The tub itself is supported by the floor structure. A drawback to this type of installation is that it is difficult to remove should any problems occur.
Free-standing: With this type of installation, your tub sits by itself on the bathroom floor with no surrounding structure. Popular with cast iron or porcelain, this type of installation can create a dramatic look of old world elegance. More modern shapes and styles can create a sleek, minimalist look with free-standing installation.
Corner: As its name implies, a corner installation is positioned in the corner of your bathroom. This type of installation can be a hybrid of the types mentioned above. For this type of installation, you must carefully consider the placement of your fixtures, as you will want to avoid crawling over your fixtures when entering and exiting the tub.
There are several factors that may complicate the replacement of an existing bathtub. Disparities in the dimensions of a new and old tub, for example, may make it impossible to simply slide the new tub into its place. If the new tub is larger than the old one, it may extend to the studs behind the walls, making it necessary to accommodate the difference. If it’s smaller, you will need to fill the resulting gap. In either case, you will be dealing with changing the surrounding walls.
Oftentimes, when an older bathtub is removed, deterioration from leaks that have weakened the surrounding structure become apparent. This increases the chances that your installation will involve at least a moderate amount of reframing to eliminate any issues pertaining to mold, mildew, or structural damage.
Additionally, you’ll likely need to remove base molding, floor covering and underlayment. If your bathroom walls or floor are tiled, you’ll also need to replace any tiles damaged during the removal of your old tub.
Platform Tubs Installations
If you’re installing a bathtub with an existing surround, your installation will likely be more costly than a standard tub installation. Tub dimensions must exactly match, or you will have to tear down the existing surround and rebuild it. The material you choose for your surround will also greatly affect final costs.
If you are replacing your old tub, you may encounter plumbing issues that will raise the cost of your installation by a considerable margin. If you’re upgrading to a larger tub, for example, your pipes may be too small. And, if you’re replacing your existing piping, you must factor demolition costs into your budget. Overall, the cost of piping will depend on the size of your home and the materials you choose.
Two materials are generally used for home piping: copper and PEX. PEX is a flexible plastic. It’s a good option if you are replacing current piping because it can be snaked into walls, eliminating the need to cut additional holes for new plumbing. The flexibility of the material also helps to prevent bursts. Additional benefits of PEX include its resistance to corrosion and its ability to contain heat, which helps conserve energy. Disadvantages are that it cannot be recycled and may allow for a certain amount of water contamination from the plastic, although actual health issues have not been specifically identified.
Copper piping is both recyclable and resistant to bacteria, making it a more environmentally friendly option. But the downside to copper piping is that it can burst and corrode. Copper pipe installation costs are also usually higher than PEX costs. This is because the installation professional will most likely have to cut holes into existing walls and floors to accommodate new copper pipes.
Other Plumbing Issues
If you’re contemplating relocating your tub, you’ll also need to consider the cost of moving your plumbing lines and drains. Changing the footprint of your bathroom requires the installation new plumbing, which is costly. Further, improper location of your drain lines and overflow can create complications for the plumbing system of your entire home. It’s probably best to hire a professional plumber for this job. He/she will install your piping correctly while also ensuring compliance with local building codes and standards. The average price to a hire a plumber is $170 to $430 depending on the complexity of the job.
Depending on your reason for installation, you may not want to spend the time and money a total tub replacement requires. If the finish on your tub is outdated or damaged, for instance, refinishing or relining it might be a more cost-effective option.
There’s no replacement of original plumbing or removal of original tile in a tub refinishing or relining project. And you won’t have to worry about size discrepancies or issues with your tub surround. Also, because there is no additional plumbing or structural repair involved in refinishing or relining, you won’t need to obtain special licensing to do the job.
A tub liner company can create an exact mold of your existing tub and make a custom acrylic liner in the color of your choice.
Your liner installer will remove your old drain and overflow, clean your old tub, and then install your new liner. With a little trimming, your liner will fit snugly. Once the liner is in place, the installer will position a new drain and overflow and caulk all the seams. This process takes about one day, and you can enjoy your first bath immediately. This is an especially good option if your existing tub is cracked, rusted or damaged in some way. The average cost for liners is $800 to $1,000, including installation.
Another option is refinishing. This job is best done by a professional refinisher because there are hazardous chemicals involved in the process. A professional refinisher will remove the caulk, vent your bathroom to release toxic fumes and apply a number of chemicals to the surface.
Using hydrofluoric acid, the refinisher will remove the current glaze and etch its surface so that the new glaze will more easily adhere. Then, the refinisher will apply the new glaze in a multi-step process. Once the job is complete, the refinisher will polish your tub. You will be able to use your tub in approximately 24 to 48 hours. The average cost for refinishing is $200 to $500, depending on the color and size of your tub.
Other Things to Consider When Installing a Bathtub
If possible, try tubs on for size before purchasing one. Sit or lie down to see if it is a match comfort-wise. Consider the placement of the fixtures, the availability or desirability of a shower, and the overall compatibility for your body frame.
Water Heater Requirements
A new tub could tax your water heater, requiring a water heater upgrade or installation of a second water heater. In such cases, you could pay $670 to $1,100for a new water heater. As a general rule, your water tank should be about 2/3 the size of your bathtub. For instance, if your tub has a 60-gallon capacity, your water heater should have at least a 40-gallon capacity. If your water heater cannot match the needs of your tub, it’s likely you’ll be taking some cold baths.
If you choose a whirlpool or air-jet tub, your electricity must meet its manufacturer-listed electrical requirements. It’s also wise to check your local building code requirements for whirlpool or air-jet tubs, as they vary depending upon geographical area. For optimal results, you must position your tub correctly in relation to the electrical panel of your home. Since some whirlpool tubs require their own dedicated circuits, you may need to upgrade your entire electrical panel. If this is the case, installation costs may skyrocket quickly -- anywhere between $670 and $1,700.
Depending on the size of your tub and its material composition, it may be necessary to reinforce your flooring. When making this determination, be sure to account not only for the weight of the tub, but also for the weight of any added water and body weight.
Style, color and surround will largely determine your tub material choice. If you intend to use a platform installation, for example, you’ll want to choose a complementary platform and tile or stone. You may also choose to embed decorative tile accents to create visual interest and express your unique style.
Your fixtures are also important. Choose fixtures that match the décor in other areas of your bathroom, paying attention not only to their finish, but to their general style as well.
Installing a bathtub requires careful thought, a good deal of time and energy, and a strong sense of what you really want to achieve. Choosing the right materials and styles; addressing all plumbing, structural and aesthetic issues; and complying with all local building codes will ensure the success of your installation project. Done correctly, installing a bathtub can greatly add to the beauty and functionality of your bathroom for years to come.