Guide to converting your tub into shower

A white and beige bathroom after converting a tub into shower

Showers are growing in popularity and there is a very good reason why. Actually, there are several good reasons. Although tubs have their advantages too, we would like to emphasize what makes showers a better choice than tubs. First, a shower can increase the value of your home if you decide to sell. Also, entering a shower is much easier for persons with mobility issues than climbing over the tub ledge. In addition to being more practical, a modern shower can make your bathroom larger and more beautiful. Giving an old, dated bathroom a new look is always refreshing. Whatever your reason is, converting your tub into shower is a project that usually pays off.

If you’re not a tub person but you’ve just moved on short notice into a home that only has a tub and you want to do something about it, read on and learn how to convert your tub into a shower in a few steps.

A bathroom with a small doorless shower.
Large walk-in showers, luxury showers and doorless showers are trending right now.

Things to consider before converting your tub into shower

Think carefully and talk to professionals before you proceed with remodeling your bathroom.

  • Converting a tub into a shower may not be the best idea if it’s the only tub you have. Experts advise homeowners to leave at least one bathtub in their home to preserve marketability. This is very important if you plan on selling your home in the future.
  • Keep your family’s needs and lifestyle in mind. Your bathroom has to be functional. For example, a bathtub is more practical than a shower for families with young kids.
  • Also bear in mind that this is a complex project that involves demolition, flooring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, carpentry, etc. It takes days and you can’t do it all by yourself.
  • If your tub is under a window, do not install a shower there or at least close the window up.
  • The new shower design should not only match your taste, but also your budget. Before starting the project, calculate all the costs associated to converting your tub into shower. You’ll need to pay for the materials, tiles, fixtures, tools, and probably some professional assistance at some point. If that is your only bathroom, you may even have to move out temporarily, which is something can help you with.
A ceramic bathtub underneath a window.
Avoid converting your tub into shower if there is a window.

Prefabricated shower kits VS custom tile showers

A prefabricated (or prefab) shower kit is ideal for a DIY tub-to-shower conversion. It is a practical option that will save you a ton of time and money from your home repair budget. These shower kits are usually made of acrylic or fiberglass and are available at most home centers. They typically cost between $200 and $2,000. They include a skid-proof shower pan (the shower floor), matching integral walls, a shower door, and a drain hole, and all that is pre-made. Some kits even have built-in seats or shelves. The downside is that they bring less resale value than a custom tile shower. On the other hand, a custom tile shower is much more expensive. The price depends on factors such as size, complexity, the type of tile and shower fixtures.

Guide to DIY bathtub to shower conversion

1 Contact your local permitting agency

Converting your tub into shower is one of those home renovations that require a special permit in some areas because plumbing must be moved. Do not start the project before you check if you need a permit.

2 Take measurements

Check how much room there is to work with. The floor of a shower stall must be at least 30-inches-by-30 inches, according to most building codes. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a 36-inch-by-36-inch-wide stall. When it comes to the shower’s depth, NKBA suggests a minimum of 30 inches, but give it a few more inches if possible.

It is a good idea to choose a shower stall that is approximately the same size as your tub. Most tubs are 60 inches wide. If the shower pan and walls cover the old footprint, you can avoid a lot of repair work. Choosing a square footprint means that you will need to repair the walls and the floor, which requires more time and money. On the bright side, your bathroom will get extra floor space.

A beige shower with a glass door.
A modern shower is a desirable bathroom feature.

3 Remove the old tile and drywall

  • First, lay the plywood on the floor to prevent damage and shut off the water supply to your bathroom. 
  • Then, remove the hardware from your tub – unscrew the main and overflow drain covers and faucet knobs. 
  • Loosen any screws and remove the faucet from your bathtub.
  • Remove tile grout using a utility knife and take down the wall tiles with a metal putty knife.
  • You can use a saw to cut through drywall or plaster. Do not cut too deeply because you might hit a stud. 
  • Finally, disconnect the main and overflow drains.

4 Remove your tub

  • Take out any nails or screws that are keeping your tub attached.
  • Use a utility knife to cut through caulk on the bathroom floor.
  • Use a pry bar to move your tub away from the bathroom wall.
  • Before taking your tub out, check if it fits through the doorway. If you can’t take it out in one piece, cut the tub in half with a saw and take it to a dumpster.

5 Install and test your new shower

To complete your tub to shower conversion, follow the directions supplied by the kit manufacturer. There is usually a DVD or an online video tutorial. Once you’re done converting your tub into shower and the controls are in place, turn on the water supply to test the shower you installed for leakage from water supply lines and from the drain lines.