Have you been dreaming about a large, luxurious shower? Are you tired of that old bathtub/shower combo unit? You might often look it over and think about how wonderful it would be to have an open and airy, modern shower in its place – one you can turn into your own personal spa. The good news is that a tub to shower conversion is not as difficult as it might seem at first (especially with the right contractor on board). It might be even cheaper than you imagined. Here’s what you need to know about making that tub to shower conversion a reality.
Is a Tub to Shower Conversion Right for You?
If you want to plan a bathtub to shower conversion, it’s best to do so when you have more than one tub in the house. Why? Because having only showers in the home can cut significantly into your pool of potential buyers if you ever choose to sell your home. Most buyers in 2022 look for a home with at least one bathtub, so they have the space to bathe small children or pets, and use the tub for a variety of needs. However, if you have two bathtubs existing in the house, then it is a good idea to consider a tub to shower conversion, so you can get that modern shower enclosure in your home.
Adding a freestanding shower also gives you the opportunity to customize it to your needs. For instance, you can add a built-in bench for comfort or grab bars for added safety.
Planning Your Tub to Shower Conversion
As you plan your bathtub conversion project, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Below we will go over the importance of hiring a professional contractor, how long you can expect the project to take, and getting your bathroom up to code.
Hiring a Contractor
Though it is possible to embark on a tub to shower conversion as a do-it-yourself job, it is definitely not recommended unless you have extensive experience as a contractor. This is because a bathtub to shower conversion touches on every aspect of a bathroom remodel. In fact, it’s safe to say it’s a small-scale bathroom remodel project, confined to only one part of the bathroom. You’ll deal with:
- Demolishing the existing bathtub and surrounding area
- Moving plumbing if necessary
- Installing a new drain and fixtures
- Setting the shower pan or shower floor
- Finishing the walls
- Installing the glass doors (assuming your shower has them)
Along the way, any part of this can go wrong, even if you choose to use a prefabricated shower unit as a do-it-yourself option. Thus, hiring the right contractor is essential.
How Long Does a Tub to Shower Conversion Take?
The contractor might take anywhere from a few days to a week to complete a tub to shower conversion, depending on the size and scope of the job. The project can also take longer depending upon what kind of situation the contractor might discover when they remove the old bathtub.
For instance, during the demolition process, the contractor might discover unforeseen issues, such as mold behind the walls of the bathtub from an old leak, and that could mean further work to clean up the mold and remedy the leak and other water damage.
Whether you choose to hire a contractor or handle it all yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind about the size and other elements of your new shower.
- Most building codes require the shower floor to be at least 30 inches x 30 inches. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends a minimum of 36 inches x 36 inches.
- The distance from the side of the toilet to the shower wall should be no less than 15 inches, though 18 inches is recommended – measure this from the center of the toilet to the wall.
- The distance from the front of the toilet to the shower wall should be at least 21 inches, but 30 inches is recommended – measure this from the front of the bowl to the wall.
- Make sure the shower door can swing clear of all obstructions in the room. If that’s not possible, you’ll need to go with a sliding glass door.
- The finished ceiling height must be at least 80 inches.
How Much Does a Tub to Shower Conversion Cost?
In many cases, converting your tub to a shower means that the rest of your bathroom remains exactly the same. This cuts down on the high costs of a larger bathroom remodel, as there are many elements that you will not need to renovate at all.
Tub to Shower Conversion
Average Installation Cost $1,800 - $4,430
- $870 - $2,310 Labor
- $930 - $2,120 Materials
If you are sticking to only a tub to shower conversion, expect an average cost range of between $1,800 and $4,430, roughly, for both materials and labor. This cost includes:
- Bathtub demolition: $50 to $500
- Disposal of debris: around $100
- Freestanding shower enclosure installation: $675 to $1,240
- Glass door installation: $325 to $600
- Adding new fixtures: $50 to $500
- Plumbing adjustments: $600 to $1,500
If you choose custom shower elements, such as tiles, a shower backsplash, or a built-in bench or shelving area, the cost will go up.
This price also does not include any problems that might arise during the process. As with any other project, it is important to budget a bit more to make sure you have the cash to cover any unexpected issues. As any contractor will tell you, the unexpected is actually quite common for large household remodeling projects, especially for older homes.
How to Cut Project Costs
Given that warning, however, there are some ways you can cut down on your project costs.
- Be choosy with materials. Remember that the materials you use will greatly impact the cost of your shower. For instance, acrylic walls are going to be much cheaper than natural stone.
- Pay attention to shower door prices. Some shower doors are very expensive, while others aren’t so much. A lot of this depends on the frame you choose – such as a frameless door vs. a framed door – and the quality of the hardware.
- Consider the hardware. When it comes to hardware, you can keep things more affordable by going with a basic construction-grade model. However, keep in mind that the hardware of your shower, such as the door handle, will get a lot of use and needs to be sturdy enough to handle that.
- Faucets can get pricey. Faucets can be basic for a few hundred dollars, or you can go high-end and quickly reach into the thousands.
- Getting permits. In some areas, any work like this will require a permit. Though these are often rather affordable, some areas might have higher fees.
- Disposal fees. Make sure these are included in the contractor’s quote. If you have certain items to dispose of, such as a heavy clawfoot tub, you might see higher rates.
- Plumbing costs. If you must have some of the water lines and drains rerouted, that’s going to add to your bottom line. Ask your contractor whether or not plumbing work is required before getting started.
- Cleaning mold, rot, and more. If you have some water damage behind the tub, you’ll have to fix that before you can move forward with the project. This can add to the project cost.
Popular Shower Types
There are several types of showers you can choose to for your bathtub to shower conversion. What you choose will depend upon your budget, the space you have, and what appeals most to you on an aesthetic level.
- Frameless showers, one of the most popular, modern types of showers today, do not require metal framework to support the edges. These have a clean, minimalist look that allows for showing off the materials inside. These are most commonly seen in luxurious master bathrooms.
- Framed showers offer a more traditional look. These have a metal framework with clean lines to provide support. It is recommended to have matching hardware to keep this look as uniform as possible.
- Semi-frameless showers have sturdy metal supports, but the door itself is frameless. It costs less than the frameless shower and offers the option of sliding glass or swinging doors.
- Roll-in showers, also known as curbless or accessible showers, have drainage slopes downward toward the wall. These showers are designed for home accessibility purposes. Depending upon how deep and long the shower is, you might not need to use doors at all. The threshold is smooth and flat, so you can roll a wheelchair right inside it.
- Double showers can have any sort of doors, but the most common are glass shower doors. The key is that they have two showerheads, usually one on each side of a wide shower space, to accommodate two people bathing at once. These are commonly found in master bathrooms.
- Corner showers are just what they sound like – showers tucked into a corner. They are great for smaller bathrooms with less available space for a freestanding shower.
Popular Materials and Features
When it comes to choosing materials, consider the way you want the shower to look and feel. Think about functionality, of course, but also keep your budget and preference in style in mind. You will want something that is easy to clean but looks great.
You can use the same material for the floor as you do for the walls, or you can choose to switch them up. For example, you might have your heart set on a tile shower, but you can get away with an acrylic floor, because that’s much cheaper. Let’s look at the variety of options.
- Acrylic. This is a very popular shower material because it’s sturdy and affordable. It’s easy to maintain and long-lasting, but it can be tough to fix if it gets damaged. It’s not as attractive for walls as some of the other options, such as tile.
- Tile. Shower tile offers unique choices for aesthetics, with an almost endless variety of colors and shapes. You can create a beautiful tile mosaic as an accent wall, or you can choose to tile the shower with a uniform look. Maintenance is relatively easy as long as you keep up with cleaning the grout on a regular basis.
- Natural stone. This comes in tiles that can look great on walls and floors. The options are wide and varied, from more affordable options like travertine to the more high-end marble. Both come in gorgeous shades that can be quite versatile in design.
- Fiberglass. These showers are very basic and therefore, very cheap. But they are quite serviceable, long-lasting, and very easy to clean. To spice things up a bit, you could include a tile mosaic or accent section to counter the clean (usually white) surface of the fiberglass.
When choosing hardware and fixtures, the options are virtually endless, with everything from basic stainless steel to elaborate brass options that are design pieces in and of themselves. Other features to choose from include a built-in bench, integrated storage, unique lighting and more. Though these features will certainly add to your bottom line, they can help make the shower unique and tailored just for your needs.
A Contractor’s Role
Though you can use a “shower kit” to create a shower in your home, a tub to shower conversion can quickly take you into much more difficult territory. Shower kits are designed for the enterprising DIY homeowner with some experience in working around the house, and often come with step-by-step instructions. But as we all know, following the instructions works well until something goes wrong!
On the surface, shower kits seem to save money, and they certainly might if you are starting from scratch – for instance, if you are installing a new shower in a half bath. But when you are pulling out a bathtub first, things can get complicated. You wind up spending much more than just the cost of a shower kit.
Hiring a knowledgeable contractor is an essential part of ensuring that your bathtub to shower conversion goes smoothly. When you’re ready to find that ideal bathroom contractor, Modernize is here to help. We can connect you with contractors in your area who can give you solid estimates and an idea of what to expect from the work. Get started right now to have the tub to shower conversion of your dreams tomorrow.