If you've dreamed of owning a Jacuzzi or spa but space is limited, installing a whirlpool tub may be the answer to your fantasy.
Replace Your Standard Bathtub
If you're ready to remodel your bathroom, installing a whirlpool tub can transform your ordinary bathroom into a relaxing oasis. In the past, whirlpool tubs required more space than a standard tub, but today some whirlpool models are manufactured to fit into a standard tub space, giving homeowners an option to upgrade. In fact, in a report from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, roughly 25 percent of high-end bath remodels include installing a whirlpool tub.
Whirlpool Tub Prices
When it comes to whirlpool tubs, more expensive does not necessarily mean it is the best. When purchasing your tub, some of the features to consider include:
- Price (vary from $750-$5,000)
- Placement of jets
- Seating (is it comfortable?)
- How quiet is it?
- Is it a combination tub massaging with both water and air bubbles?
How to Install a Whirlpool Tub
Before you take on this project, be sure you have the skills and tools necessary to see it through to completion:
- Basic carpentry skills
- Plumbing and soldering skills
- Electrical skills
Before you start demolishing your bathroom, decide whether you want to replace your standard tub with a whirlpool of the same size, or something bigger as long as you're going through the effort. If the tub you choose is bigger, you'll have to figure out just how much of the bathroom needs to be torn out to accommodate the new tub. Be aware that if you go with the bigger tub, it will require shifting the drain.
Before you begin work, contact your local and county building departments to learn what permitting is necessary. Because of the electrical work necessary when installing a whirlpool tub, you'll most likely need to obtain an electrical permit. Don't assume anything; learn what rules apply to whirlpool tubs. For example, some inspectors require things like a separate wall access for servicing the motor and pump.
Removing the Old Tub
Before you start the demolition of your old tub, think ahead and put down a heavy drop cloth to protect the floor and remaining bathroom fixtures. And if you plan to use some of the existing bathtub tile, mark level and plumb lines to be used as guidelines before you start cutting through the drywall. Removing an existing bathtub many times requires opening up three surrounding walls, and if your bathroom is small, it will probably also require you to remove the toilet and sink so you have room enough to work. When you do cut through the wall, using a utility knife takes longer but provides less chance of cutting wires or causing a leak in your plumbing and damages fewer tiles. You'll need to work your way down to the studs, so be sure to wear eye protection.
If the tub you're removing is made of cast iron, you'll also want to line up enough help to move the 200 to 300 pounds. Fiberglass tubs and enameled steel tubs are lighter and can be cut into smaller pieces. If you try to take it out in one piece, it may require you to remove more of the drywall.
When you are ready to rough in the plumbing be sure to follow your whirlpool's instructions for how to lay out lines for:
- The drain
- The new anti-scald faucet
- Tub spout
You certainly don't want to go through all this hard work and make a costly mistake. Here are a few cautions to take under consideration as you install your new tub:
- Check the P-trap to make sure the center reaches the new drain.
- No matter what method you use to level your new whirlpool tub, the floor must support the weight of the tub, not the tub rim.
Install the Whirlpool
Test the fit of your tub to double check whether you've cut away enough drywall. When you know it fits, go ahead and install the drain, but be careful that you don't put the weight of the tub on the drain. Once you've installed the drain, set it in plumber's putty.Spread mortar under the whirlpool. It should come close to mirroring the outline of the tub base. When you seat the tub into the mortar don't climb into the tub or put any weight in it until the mortar hardens. Once it hardens:
- Hook up the waste, overflow and trap
- Solder on an extra-long copper stub and cap for the tub spout
- Temporarily attach the faucet handle
- Open shutoffs in the access panel
- Turn the water on and check for leaks
Follow your faucet instructions and run water into the tub to check for leaks. If a joint leaks, double check that the slip nuts have been tightened. If it still leaks, check the washer; it may need to be replaced if it breaks during installation. Once you know the tub isn't leaking, fill it to the overflow drain and check for leaks again.
Plug It In and Turn It On
Once you know the tub doesn't leak, it's time to plug it in and turn it on. If it doesn't work, check underneath the switch. Double check that:
- The flexible rubber tube is connected
- GFCI is set
- Circuit breaker is flipped on
Again, with the tub running, double check for any sign of leaks.
If you're not experienced or licensed to do the electrical work needed to install your whirlpool, be sure to contact a professional for the job. You'll need at least one dedicated 15-amp GFCI circuit, and if you decide to install a heater also, you'll need two.