Replace a fiberglass tub/shower unit...

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Asked By: 
Nora W.

I would like to replace my 22 year old fiberglas tub/shower units. Where do I begin?

Thanks,

Answer: 

<p>
Sounds like you've got quite a project ahead of you!
<p>
Because there are so many different types, sizes and styles of showers, it's difficult for us to generalize the steps needed to replace your fiberglass tub/shower in a single e-mail. And, because a bathtub filled with water is very heavy, a lot will depend on the local building codes in your area. You'll need to determine which will apply to you &#8213; especially, if you change out your fiberglass tub for one of a different material. The structure of your building might not support it, so take that extra precaution.
<p>
What we can do, however, is give you a few basic pointers and then point you toward some excellent resources to look at which should help you finish off this project like a pro.
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Before you start, determine what you want to replace your units with.
<ul>
<li>Do you want another similar unit?</li>
<li>Are you looking to put in just a tub?</li>
<li>Will you need to build a base for the new tub?</li>
</ul>
These are contracting questions that you must have answers for before doing anything. Obviously, because you'll want to know what your end result will be first and then work backward from there.
<p>
Once you've made this determination, the first thing you'll need to do is assess the situation.
<ul>
<li>Check out the condition of the surrounding walls.</li>
<li>Is the plumbing intact? Is it corroded and rusted over?</li>
<li>Considering you'll be doing a sizable amount of work in your bathroom, maybe now would be a good time to look into replacing old pipes, walls, fixtures, etc.</li>
</ul>
If you are at all unsure about this project, do NOT begin. This is one of those projects that once you've started, there's no turning back!
<p>
With all water turned off and the faucets removed, the hardest part about this project is that most single unit fiberglass bath &amp;shower units are installed first and then the building built around them! These units, when replaced, usually can't come out in one piece. So, the first thing you'll need to do is a little bit of demolition!
<p>
We find that the best tool for this job is something called be an "air chisel." You can usually rent these at your local hardware store. You'll want to be absolutely SURE that there is no plumbing running along side the tub or underneath the tub.
<p>
Once you've determined this, you can then start at the front. You'll want to knock a hole large enough to get the edge of your chisel into and then continue down zipping right across the entire unit. Repeat the process going perpendicular, taking the unit out in quarters. With an air chisel, it should take very little time.
<p>
To speed up this process, some suggest using a reciprocating saw or jigsaw. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. The blades inevitably will cut something you didn't want to cut, and you'll spend half your time replacing the blades in the unit. So, trust us when we say, an air chisel is definitely the way to go!
<p>
You'll then want to cut the unit away from the wall &#8211; sometimes a utility blade is enough. Once you've managed to remove the unit, you should spend the time to clean out the area as best you can. If there is any mold or mildew, be sure you clean and sanitize the area thoroughly with a mix of bleach and water.
<p>
As far as putting in your new unit goes, there are a few things you'll need to remember. These will sound more difficult than they are until you start the work and you'll see what we're talking about here.
<ul>
<li>Pipes Required: the hot and cold supply lines and a pipe leading to a shower head.</li>
<li>A mixing valve and shower head are also needed.</li>
<li>Air chambers may be required.</li>
<li>The faucet and shower head assembly require an open wall for installation.</li>
<li>Remember bathtubs and shower stalls may require support framing. Again, a bathtub filled with water is extremely heavy so be absolutely sure to check your local building codes and framing support before installing the tub.</li>
<li>The minimum floor area required for a shower stall is 1,024 square inches, and you should allow 24 inches from the stall itself to any other fixture or wall.</li>
<li>Install all piping before installing the tub itself.</li>
<li>Once you &#8216;ve completed your installation, make sure to have your plumbing inspected by restoring water pressure and checking the drain connection and supply pipes for any leaks.</li>
<li>Where needed, replace any regular drywall with moisture resistant drywall as a base for your wall covering. Standard drywall cannot hold up to the rigors of constant moisture.</li>
<li>Seal joints between the wall and your new tub with silicone caulk as protection against water seepage.</li>
</ul>
There are a few visual resources you can view with regard to installing a new unit. Home Depot actually had a great How-To software DVD called, "Home Depot Home 1-2-3." In this DVD, there are some excellent plumbing tips to keep in mind when attacking this task. It teaches you basic plumbing on an easy to understand and almost fun, level!
<p>
It's a bit dated and currently out of print, but can still be ordered for only $5.00 through this site:
<p>
http://softwareoutlet.com/static/item4147.html
<p>
There is also a print version of this book, called, "Home Improvement 1-2-3." It has an excellent section on putting in a new tub and shower unit.
<p>
Lastly, once you've determined what process you're going to use, please be sure to review the most common mistakes to avoid we've provided for you below:
<ol>
<li>Using pipes that are too small,</li>
<li>Attaching copper to galvanized without using a brass or dielectric fitting between the two, or pipe compound at threaded joints,</li>
<li>Not using Teflon tape to seal off the threads of a pipe to solidify connections and prevent leaks.</li>
<li>Violating or ignoring local code restrictions.</li>
<li>Not leveling your fixtures when installing them.</li>
<li>Not installing an air gap filling for fixtures.</li>
<li>Cutting supply stub outs too short to install the shutoff valves onto after the finished wall is in place, or</li>
<li>Not properly aligning tubing into fittings or stop valves. (Forcing the nut onto the compression ring at an angle when the tubing is at an angle will cause a leak.)</li>
<li>When turning the water back on in your home, always run the outside hose valve or flush your toilets to bleed dirt and air from the lines. This debris can cause problems in your sink faucets and other plumbing trim.</li>
</ol>
We know a lot of this information won't make a lot of sense until you're fully engulfed in the project. But, while this is definitely a project you can do yourself, you'll want to be absolutely certain to get any questions you have answered prior to starting. You'll want to see if you can get any hands on help you might need by visiting the plumbing resident at your local home improvement retailer, and know exactly what you're aiming for before begin.
<p>
We hope this helped. Good luck and send us photos once you've finished!

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5 comments

16
Sep

How do I get the shower door to close tight again. It appears to have a magnet strip. does that need to be replace or do you just adjust with the screws.
23
Sep

Looking for tips on remodeling mobile homes.
23
Sep

How do I go by extending the shower to have more room and installing tile instead of the plastice type mobile home stall. This is a double wide mobile home by the way and I am now beginning to plan how to remodel this home to look like a regular built home. Need some guide lines as to where to begin.
23
Sep

Looking for tips on remodeling mobile homes.
13
Oct

Sunday on the Lake I am an artist putting a new bathroom in a log cabin. I bought the shower base and glass surround. I will be needing a backer board or plastic or cement board to go against one side a new wall and the other side a log wall. I want to know what is out there that would be interesting to look at, inexpensive, easy to clean by squeegee and wiping down with a towel each time. Don't want soap tray or any curly queues. Is it possible to use counter top plastic if fully siliconed? Any other suggestions. I know there is something called milk board that they use in milk houses but just plain white bubbly. Could I score it, paint it, and or stain it? Any more thoughts? This may not be the way to ask a question.