Your bathtub is looking pretty worse for the wear, or you’re planning a major remodel of your bathroom. That leaves you wondering how to remove a cast iron tub.
We’ll be honest with you up front: even once you figure out how to remove a bathtub, it’s not going to be the most straightforward project you’ve ever undertaken.
If you have any diagnosable fears of DIY projects or don’t want to get up close and personal with a sledgehammer, the best way to remove a cast iron tub might be to call in a professional to take care of it.
For the rest of you brave souls out there, here’s how to remove a cast iron tub.
What to Know Before You Remove a Cast Iron Tub
Before you jump into bathtub removal, there are a few things you should know.
- Cast iron tubs are super heavy. Although the exact weight varies based on the size of the tub, some clock in at 500 pounds, empty, according to Hunker.
- Tub removal isn’t a one-person job. See the above weight of a cast iron tub. You’re going to need to recruit a few strong friends to help out.
- How you remove the tub depends on the style. Some cast iron tubs are free-standing, like those old-fashioned claw-foot tubs, while others are attached to the wall. Free-standing tubs tend to be a bit easier to remove, so consider yourself lucky if you have one.
- Don’t toss your tub! Depending on the style, you could get hundreds of dollars for it at a salvage market, according to Bob Vila. Did someone say cha-ching?
Cast Iron Tub vs. Other Tub Materials
What sets a cast iron tub apart from other types of tubs and how does the material used in the tub affect how you remove it?
One of the benefits of a cast iron tub is that it helps to retain the heat of water for longer, which means you can enjoy more comfortable baths if that’s your thing.
Cast iron tubs also tend to be less likely to chip compared to tubs made of enameled steel. Unlike acrylic or plastic tubs, you’d have to try pretty hard to scratch a cast iron tub.
Cast iron is also one of the most substantial tub materials around. That not only presents challenges for homeowners who want to install a new tub but also for people who want to rip out an existing tub.
When you’re figuring out how to remove a cast iron tub, weight is a huge issue, as is the size of the tub.
Few people can pick up and carry 300 to 500 pounds on their own, let alone with a group of friends. That’s why so many people learn how to remove a cast iron tub by using a sledgehammer.
Breaking Up the Tub vs. Leaving it Intact
One of the most common ways to remove a bathtub made from cast iron is to break it apart into smaller pieces.
Those smaller pieces are still going to be pretty hefty when it comes to weight, but they are going to be slightly easier to remove from your bathroom and home.
Of course, the big drawback of busting up a bathtub is that it becomes unusable.
That might be all well and good if the tub was past its prime and no one wanted it anyway. But if you’ve got a claw-foot tub that’s still in good shape, you might want to leave it intact.
An intact claw-foot cast iron tub has value. Someone else might be all too happy to buy it and put it in their home.
When deciding whether the best way to remove a cast iron tub is to break it up or leave it in one piece, you want to consider the value of the tub and whether someone else can give it a good home.
Since breaking up the tub is going to be the option that’s most efficient and easiest for most people, that’s the method of bathtub removal we’re going to focus on here.
How to Remove a Cast Iron Tub: Things You Need
Once you’ve decided that your old tub has got to go and that you’re going to take care of yourself, you’re likely going to have to purchase a few tools and supplies. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need for the project:
- Safety goggles
- Tarp or blanket that you can destroy
- Saw (keyhole or reciprocating, use a drywall or metal blade)
- Adjustable wrench
- Utility knife
- Ball pein hammer
- Ear protection (optional, but helpful if you hate loud banging noises)
How to Remove a Cast Iron Tub: The Process
OK, you’ve got your tools and supplies ready. You’ve recruited three or four of your strongest friends.
It’s time to get started removing the tub.
- Turn off the water.
Depending on how your home is set up, you might be able to switch off the water to the tub itself, or you might have to turn off the water for the entire house.
Turn the faucet on in the tub to drain away any water lingering in the pipes. Also turn on a faucet in another room, such as the kitchen, to remove any pressure from the water lines.
- Remove the drain, overflow, and stopper.
Your tub most likely has an overflow outlet and a drain stopper. These have got to go.
How you remove the drain stopper and overflow outlet can vary based on the tub’s style, but you’re likely to need a screwdriver at this point.
You’ll also need to remove the drain flange at this point. You can invest in a special drain flange removal tool for this step.
But you can also just pry the flange up and off with a pair of pliers. It’s your choice.
- Remove the drain pipe.
This step can be tricky, based on how your tub is set up. If you’ve got a free-standing model, you can most likely reach the drain pipe from right under the tub.
If your tub is built into the wall, you might have to climb into the crawlspace behind the tub (usually located in a closet or underneath the floor) to get to the drain.
How the drain pipe is attached to the determines how you remove it. If it’s been glued together, you’ll want to use the saw to cut it free.
If nuts are connecting it, you can use a wrench to wrest the pipe free.
- Pull the tub away from the wall.
Skip this step if you’ve got a free-standing tub!
Saw into the wall about 6 inches above the tub, on all three sides. Remove that section, so that you can easily access the tub beneath.
Use your utility knife to scrape away any caulk or putty around the top edge of the tub.
Now, give the tub a good pull to get it away from the wall. Unless you’re the Hulk, you’re going to need your friends’ help at this point.
Pulling the tub away from the wall leaves the drain pipe open, allowing gases into your bathroom. So that you don’t stink up the room with noxious fumes, stuff a rag into the pipe after you pull the tub out.
- Break up the tub.
Now for the fun part: busting up the tub.
Drape the tarp or blanket over the entire tub. Covering the tub will keep shards and pieces from flying all over.
Choose your strongest friend (or choose yourself) and have that person take a few whacks at the tub with the sledgehammer. After a few solid hits, the tub should break up into manageable pieces.
- Dispose of the tub.
Gather up the tub pieces and cart them out of the room. You can bring them to the junk yard for a few dollars.
- Install a new tub or seal off the area.
If you’re going to install a new tub, now’s the time to do it. If you’re getting rid of the tub entirely, you’ll want to cap the drainpipes and terminate the water supply.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully figured out how to remove a cast iron tub!
Final Thoughts on How to Remove a Cast Iron Tub
Getting rid of an old bathtub isn’t a project for the faint of heart or the weekend warrior DIYer. It’s going to take some strength, some effort, and a bit of patience.
That said, if you have the time and the sledgehammer to spare, figuring out how to remove a cast iron tub can be a pretty fulfilling project. Just remember to have a plan before, during and after the project so you don’t end up with a headache.