How to Install a Walk In Bathtub and Shower

Walk-in bathtubs and showers are much more beneficial to the elderly and people with disabilities than the traditional bathtub. Whether you’re a professional or a beginner to the remodeling world, you can learn how to install a walk in shower and bathtub with the help of experts who’ve done it themselves.

A walk-in bathtub installation is similar to a traditional bathtub installation, but walk-in tubs are usually larger and may not fit traditional bathtub spaces. This guide will walk you through the steps of installing a walk-in tub, from the measurements to testing the tub, to serve as a general piece of reference for future installations.

1. Disconnect the Water

The first step in learning how to install a walk in shower and tub is knowing every place you need to disconnect the water from. Get acquainted with the home’s plumbing system by looking at blueprints, if available, or speaking with an experienced plumber.

You’ll need to disconnect the water supply to the old tub and shower, or to the bathroom if they don’t have a separate line. If it makes you feel more comfortable to do so, you can shut off the main water supply to the home.

Open the lowest water valve in the home, usually located in the basement or crawl space, to allow the water to exit the lines and remove air pressure from the pipes.

Test the faucets and showerhead to ensure that all water is out of the pipes by leaving them open for a few minutes.

2. Remove and Dispose of the Existing Tub

How to Install a Walk In Bathtub and Shower - remove existing tub and shower

Photo by Tomwsulcer licensed under CC0 1.0

Before you learn how to install a walk in tub and shower, you’ll need to remove the old one. You’ll then be able to see what lies behind and underneath your existing bathtub to understand what you need to measure for the new one.

Remove all the drains and hardware first, including the overflow cover, bathtub faucet, and the water handles.

You can usually remove the overflow cover with a screwdriver, but spouts can vary. You can try twisting it counter-clockwise to see if it screws off, or you can look for a screw on the underside of the spout to remove it.

To disconnect the tub drain, you’ll need to look behind the wall or underneath the flooring. Disconnect the drain where it meets the overflow valve by unscrewing the connecting nut.

To remove the tub, cut a few inches of drywall from above the sides of the tub and then remove all screws from around the tub flange. Use a scraper to remove any caulking from around the tub floor and sides.

Enlist a person to help you remove the tub and dispose of it using your preferred method.

The good news is that all your shower components can remain in place when you replace your tub.

3. Measure the Space

Measuring your bathtub space is the key to finding the right walk-in bathtub that will fit your existing area. Since walk-in tubs can be higher and bulkier than other tubs, you’ll want to make sure that your flooring can handle the weight and that you have the right height, width, and depth dimensions to find the best tub.

First, measure the width of your bathtub space from end to end, enlisting the help of another person to check your measurements. Then do the same with the depth, the area from the wall to where the front of your bathtub lies.

You should also measure where the existing drain line and spout exist if you don’t want to move these pieces when you install the new tub.

If you have a new tub in mind, measure its height. Remove more drywall, if necessary, so that your new tub will have enough clearance.

4. Prepare to Move the New Tub In

Now is when you’ll take some last-minute measurements to ensure that you have the proper fit for your tub.

Keep your new tub protected while you temporarily place it in the bathtub alcove. You should keep as much packaging on as possible without adding extra bulk to the top to prevent it from getting scratched or cracked while you size it.

If necessary, cut some of the box from the sides so that you can slide the tub into the space but still keep it protected from accidental drops or scratches.

5. Mark the Flange Height

The flange is the rim of the tub that rests against the shower walls to prevent water from seeping between the wall and the tub. The bathtub tiles fall over the flange to create a flow of water from the wall into the tub.

You’ll need to mark the flange height of the new tub so that you can install the stringer in the next step. The stringer is an extra stud that supports some of the weight of your bathtub, instead of having all the weight resting on the floor.

With the tub resting in place, use a level to make sure the tub will sit level on the floor. Use a pencil to mark on the studs where the top of the flange reaches.

6. Install the Stringer

Remove the new bathtub from the space with the help of another person.

Measure a stud to fit the width of the tub and cut it to that length. The top of this stud should sit at the height you just marked for the flange.

Use screws to attach this stud to the other studs.

7. Attach the Drains

Before you move the tub back in, you’ll need to attach the drain line according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s crucial that you read the instructions thoroughly to ensure that you’re setting your drain lines up correctly.

Carefully put the bathtub onto its side and screw the drain flange into the underside of the tub with putty placed around its internal diameter. Remove any excess putty after you screw the flange tightly to the tub.

Refer to the manufacturer’s manual for step-by-step instructions for attaching the overflow valve and pipe correctly.

8. Set the Tub in Position

With the help of another person, remove all packaging from your walk in tub and slide it into position with the flange resting on the stringer. Again, check to make sure the tub is level.

If it’s not, you can use shims placed on the floor underneath the base of the tub until your level shows that both sides are even.

Attach the tub flange to the wall studs with the nails or screws provided by the manufacturer.

Reconnect the pipes that you disconnected before removing the tub. Follow the instructions that came with your tub to learn how to connect the faucet, overflow cover, and water handle.

9. Finish the Drywall and Baseboards

Repair the drywall you had to cut to remove the old bathtub and fit your new one and repaint it.

You’ll then need to reinstall any baseboards you removed to fit the tub and replace the molding around the bottom of the tub. You’ll learn how to caulk the molding in the next step.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing the finishing work, it might be a good idea to hire a friend or professional who has experience in this area to get the look you desire.

10. Caulk the Tub

How to Install a Walk In Bathtub and Shower - correct caulking

Photo by Emily May licensed under CC BY 2.0

Caulking the tub where it meets the floor and around the edges where it meets the tile can prevent rotting in the wood from constant water exposure.

Find a 100% silicone caulk that’s designed for bathroom use, which means that it can handle damp conditions well.

Line the bathtub with masking or painter’s tape, starting it where you want the top of the caulk to stop to ensure a clean edge all the way around.

Repeat this process for where you’d like the bottom edge of the caulk to stop to create a guideline for your caulking.

Use a caulking gun to apply the caulk, which provides even pressure to give a clean line. Point the tip of the gun in the seam you created and slowly move it around the tub until you’ve created a thin line of caulk.

Repeat this process on the molding around the bottom of the tub.

Wait at least 24 hours, or as long as suggested by the caulk’s manufacturer, before using your tub.

Conclusion: How to Install a Walk In Tub and Shower

A walk-in tub and shower is a necessity for many elderly people or those with disabilities to have a safe and easy way to get in and out of the tub. The process to install one is similar to other bathtubs but the measurements you take before deciding on a tub will be the key to success.

We hope this guide taught you the basics of how to install a walk in shower and tub so that you can use it as a reference now and in the future. Remember to have someone help you take measurements, maneuver the tubs, and level the new tub for the best results.