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How to Remove an Old Bathtub

by Jess Buskirk

Traditional bathroom with clawfoot bathtub

Things You Need:

  • Wrench
  • Hammer
  • Allen wrench
  • Protective goggles
  • Protective gloves

Many do-it-yourself bathroom remodels may require removing an old bathtub to make way for a new tub. Depending on your bathroom's construction, this can be a weekend home improvement project that doesn't require a professional contractor. However, if removing the old bathtub will affect walls and support beams, it's best to add someone with professional building experience to your team. Properly removing your old tub will help eliminate complications when it's time to install the new one and will help keep your home improvement project on budget by reducing the number of repairs.

Removing a Bathtub:

  1. Evaluate the installation of the old bathtub. Whether the bathtub stands alone or is installed between two walls will determine where you will detach the plumbing. If the tub sits between walls, determine if the walls are weight-bearing. A professional contractor may need to inspect the walls if you are unsure whether they are part of the house's support system. If the walls are weight-bearing, it's best to hire a professional to remove the tub.

  2. Turn off the water supply to the bathroom. Some houses have an access panel that controls their water shutoff valves. These access panels are typically hidden away in the basement, a closet or placed in a hallway. The water main may need to be shut off in the absence of an access panel. Another option is making a small hole in the bathroom wall to access the plumbing, which may be the most convenient choice if the wall will eventually be demolished during the remodel.

  3. Detach the pipes. For a stand-alone bathtub, simply use a wrench to remove the nuts connecting the bathtub pipe and the overflow pipe. If the tub's plumbing is behind a wall, search for a wall panel that can be easily removed to expose the piping.

  4. Remove the spout and handles. You may need to use a wrench to loosen the spout enough for it to be unscrewed by hand. Most handles can be removed with an Allen wrench.

  5. Disconnect the drain assembly. Unscrew the drain plug and disconnect the assembly by turning the drain crosspiece counterclockwise. You may need to use the handles of a set of pliers to help you twist the crosspiece. Insert the pliers into the drain's opening so the handles are straddling the crosspiece. To turn the pliers more easily, place a screwdriver between the handles and use the screwdriver for leverage as you rotate the pliers.

  6. Clear the way. Use a hammer to break away any wall coverings, such as tile, that will hinder you from lifting out the bathtub. Wearing gloves and safety goggles during this step will help prevent injuries.

  7. Double-check. Before you remove the bathtub, make sure all of the bathtub's connections have been removed, paying special attention to the piping.

  8. Lift out the bathtub. Although the tub may be light enough for one person to lift, using multiple people to maneuver the tub out of the bathroom will help prevent injuries as well as damage to surrounding walls.

Warnings and tips:

  1. Turn on a spout in the bathroom to make sure the water has actually been shut off before removing any piping.

  2. For any hardware, such as the spout or handles, that you will be reusing, place a rag between the hardware and your wrench to avoid scratches.

  3. Do not alter any walls in your house unless you are sure they do not affect the house's structure. Always consult a professional if you're unsure.

  4. Do not attempt to lift the bathtub by yourself.

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