Installing Your New Spa Tub

spa tub

Among the most popular upgrades to any bathroom is the installation of a new spa or whirlpool tub. In fact, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, about 25% of bathroom remodels now include a spa or whirlpool tub. Here are some ideas on installing a spa tub in your bathroom.

It All begins With Planning

While you can get a spa tub that will fit into the same space as a standard tub (30x60-inches), you may want to consider installing a larger unit to give yourself more room to soak and relax. Undoubtedly, choosing the same size should be less work since it will fit directly onto the existing drain, but you may decide the extra effort to reposition the drain is worth the convenience of the larger tub.

Whichever size you choose, once you've made a decision, be sure to contact your local building department and figure out what permits you will need to install your new tub. You will definitely need an electrical permit, since the tub requires a dedicated circuit for the air blower, and depending on your local rules you may also need plumbing permits.

Removing the Old Tub

Open the plumbing access panel behind the tub and close the shut-offs for the hot and cold water. If your existing tub installation doesn't have this feature, you'll need to turn off the main water supply, and then install them.

Begin the actual demolition of your old bathroom by disconnecting the drain and overflow on the old tub. Cut through the surrounding drywall using a reciprocating saw or rotary cutting wheel. Pull the old wall off in sections to reveal the underlying studs. You'll need to remove tiles on the three walls around the old tub and may also need to remove the toilet or sink to give yourself room to work in the bathroom.

Now it's time to actually remove the tub. Fiberglass or enameled steel tubs aren't too heavy and can be cut into manageable sized pieces with a reciprocating saw. An old cast iron tub is much too heavy for one person to handle so you'll need help moving it.

Installing the New Tub

Once the old tub is out of the way, do your rough-in plumbing following the instructions that came with your new tub. Measure, dry fit, assemble, and solder the plumbing for the tub spout and shower head, but don't solder in the tub spout until after you've installed the tub itself.

Test fit your new tub to be sure it fits in the opening and if necessary remove more drywall or tiles so it will fit. Because of their weight, spa tubs need to be set on a bed of mortar or on a leveled subfloor. The tub rim alone isn't strong enough to support them and they are usually set in a bed of mortar. Once the tub is in place, connect the drain, overflow, and trap, solder on the copper stub for the tub faucet, and install the dedicated GFCI circuit as per the directions that came with your tub.

Check It Out

Turn on the shutoffs in the access panel and check to see if you have any, then fill the tub to overflow and again look for leaks. Switch on the GFCI and turn on the air blower to be sure it's working properly. That's it for the tub installation; however, your work isn't done yet, you still need to finish the walls and install your new tile. Once that's done, you'll finally be able to take a long relaxing soak in your new spa tub.