With their solid stature and virtually indestructable nature, bathtubs can last a lifetime. Sometimes age, neglect, style or abuse can make them appear fragile but solving small problems will usually repair the tubs overall image.
Easy Bathtub Fixes
When it comes to fixing up your bathtub, there are some things most homeowners can do themselves.
Replace Discolored Silicone
Silicone caulk has many uses besides just the bathroom, and it should be replaced every few years.
- Using a razor blade cut out the old silicone.
- Use a bleach solution to eradicate the mold underneath.
- Let the area dry completely before reapplying new silicon.
Clean and Replace Moldy Grout
Grout is a bit more difficult to remove but a good bleach solution applied with a toothbrush will penetrate and clean the area, but if mold persists:
- Scrape a small gouge in the existing grout with the edge of a pumice stone.
- Bleach again and allow to dry completely before applying new grout between tiles.
- Changing grout color to match new fixtures will freshen your look.
Remove Sliding Glass Doors
Sliding glass doors trap mold and mildew and make cleaning your tub a hassle. They don't add value to a home either.
- Lift up each door, pull the base toward you, and drop the door out.
- Remove screws securing sides of the metal enclosure.
- Cut silicone with razor on inside and outside of walls and tub. Use pry bar to carefully remove metal enclosure.
- Scrape walls and tub surface with razor to remove silicone residue. Fill holes in both walls with grout.
- Install spring loaded shower curtain rod to help adjust height and fit before permanent curtain rod installation.
Replace Rusty or Loose Drain and Toggle Hardware
Water deteriorates your fixture hardware so replacement is best. Kits at your favorite hardware store can help you change your old drain and toggle without detaching the tub from the wall.
- Remove screws from the toggle and pull out assembly. Disconnect drain and toggle connection behind plate.
- Unscrew drain plug using pliers. Clean all tub surfaces of putty with razor knife and let dry.
- Form plumbers putty to bottom of new drain and screw into place. Screw on new toggle cover.
Replace Worn or Corroded Faucets and Handles
Most faucets and handles are mounted in tile but are relatively easy to disassemble and replace without destroying your bathroom. The procedure usually takes less than a day to perform.
- Turn off bathroom water! Accidentally bending a pressurized pipe may cause a leak so prevention is best.
- Pop out the hot and cold labels on your handles with a screwdriver. Unscrew hardware beneath.
- Remove the handle. Use razor to cut silicone around metal wall cover and remove.
- Unscrew the faucet and remove all silicone from wall with razor.
- Secure your new metal cover to the wall with silicone and attach new handles and labels. Screw on new faucet and caulk to seal.
Hard Bathtub Fixes
When you see signs that your tub glaze is failing, the options are to reglaze or replace the tub. Signs include:
- Stubborn hard water or rust stains
- Chips and scratches in the porcelain
Reglazing the Tub
Reglazing or refinishing a bathtub yourself can be dangerous. The chemicals involved and the pre-treatment process are delicate, and most DIY reglazings end by calling a contractor anyway. Patrick Carson, owner of Resurface America and budding stand-up comedian, said most of his calls come from failed attempts of ambitious do-it-yourselfers. Patrick says, "The preparation of the tub surface is the most important step, and the easiest one to mess up, so many times the new coating refuses to adhere making a worse mess than the original." In other words, save yourself the trouble and call a professional first.
Contractors, like Patrick, who focus strictly on resurfacing have all the equipment necessary for the safe application of chemicals and are able to adhere coatings to tile, countertops, and grout sealing all surfaces without removing a screw. Usually if the tub needs refinishing then tiles and surrounding areas could probably use it as well. The entire process takes one full day to prep and finish.
Prices start at around $345 for just the tub and upwards of $690 for the entire shower area. New uninstalled tubs cost a little under $300 but add the cost of replacing sheetrock, fixtures, tiles, and drain pipes and you could end up spending close to $1000 just in materials.
If you are happy with the size, shape and style of your tub, refinishing could be the answer.
Replacing the Tub
Being the centerpiece of the room, the bathtub affects wall tiles, plumbing, and some flooring so changing the bathtub means you will have to change these items as well. Give yourself about a week and have all materials available because nothing slows motivation and progress like a run to the store.
- Turn off water to the bathroom!
- Remove faucet and handles, drain plug, toggle, and shower head. Ensure drain pipes are loose from tub underside. Plug holes with rags.
- Cut tile edge on outside of shower stall with rotary cutting tool or razor knife. This will prevent ripping of drywall when tile wall is removed.
- Use prybar to pull tile walls away from studs exposing hardware securing tub to wall. Remove tub hardware and pry tub out.
- Insert new tub. Adjust drain and toggle pipes to fit. Form plumbers putty to underside of drain and screw in place. Attach toggle and screw in place. Run a cup of water through drain to ensure seal before securing tub to wall.
- Per manufacturer direction, secure tub to walls. Cut sheetrock to fit back and side and screw those walls into place. Pressurize pipes to check for leaks before covering pipes with front wall.
- Measure and cut holes for shower head, faucet and handles in front sheetrock wall and secure with screws.
- Apply chosen wall material to sheetrock per manufacture specifications and caulk all surfaces touching tub.
- Screw on showerhead and faucet using teflon tape, caulk faucet and handle covers to wall, and attach handles with screws and covers.
Whether you choose between tile walls or a wraparound makes a huge difference on how long steps 8 and 9 will take. For tile, dry time alone will add days regardless if you or a pro does the work and you may not get a perfectly sealed end result. Wraparounds are easy to install, seal perfectly because they are one unit, and have many fashionable textures and styles making them a better option for the do-it-yourselfer.
What to Look for in a New Tub
Depending on where your tub is going you will want to consider weight. Upstairs bathrooms might require a fiberglass plastic composite, not just because of ease of installation, but also weight of the total piece with you soaking in it afterwards. One gallon of water is a little over 8 pounds and you soaking in an iron tub upstairs would put a strain on your already aged flooring.
Tub length is important because your bathroom is already set for this size. Try to keep the same length and width of your existing tub but height and interior depth of your new tub can be changed for soaking and comfort. Once again be mindful of the base flooring. More depth equals more water and weight.
When to Call a Pro
If any of these tasks seems too daunting, hire a professional. They have the tools and supplies on hand for almost any unforseen problem and they can usually have the whole bath and shower area replaced in a single day.
Companies like Re-bath, with multiple locations across the country, have large crews that knock out bathrooms quickly and efficiently, but what they give in speed, they lack in personality. The production crew is trained for a specific style and layout to maximize turnover and they give that cookie cutter feel for a reasonable price. A small contractor, on the other hand, may be able to help you design and create the custom getaway of your dreams for a much better price than those big companies would offer. As with any project, get at least three quotes before you make a choice.