6 Tips for Converting Your Bathtub Into a Shower

Megan DeMatteo
Written by Megan DeMatteo
Updated July 1, 2021
woman in towel walks out of newly converted stand-up shower
Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Yes, you can convert your outdated bathtub into a modern walk-in shower using DIY skills and these six steps

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Older homes built in the 1950s or earlier come with lots of charm, but they also have a few quirks. One major drawback of historic houses is that they sometimes only have bathtubs and no showers. While there’s nothing more relaxing than a warm bubble bath after a long run or on a day off, bathtubs alone aren’t very practical for everyday use.

Thankfully, it’s possible to convert your bathtub into a shower, making it faster and easier to stay clean and conserve water. If you have DIY skills, you may be able to complete the project yourself in a few days. Otherwise, hire a local bathroom remodeler to help.

If you live in or plan to buy a home that hasn’t yet been updated, don’t despair. Turning the old tub into a functional, beautiful contemporary shower unit is possible by following these six steps.

How To Convert Your Tub Into a Shower

  • Budget for your tub-to-shower conversion

  • Decide on your walk-in shower design

  • Measure shower placement

  • Remove the old bathtub

  • Install a new shower

  • Clean up with a rental dumpster

Budget for Your Tub-to-Shower Conversion

Planning the cost of a new shower requires a little bit of math and research. To avoid sticker shock, learn ahead of time how much materials and bathroom remodeling contractors in your area cost.

Then, look at shower design ideas and price out a variety of styles and options. Put together a low-price option, a middle-of-the-road option, and finally an option with all the bells and whistles. Seeing the costs in one place will prevent surprises and help you decide what add-ons are worth it to you.

Consider whether you want an acrylic base or a fiberglass base, glass doors, frameless doors or a shower curtain, and so on. Identify and price your favorite features, including shower heads that catch your eye and trendy new tiles, then compare each set of options in a spreadsheet.

While some affordable shower stall kits exist and may cost less than $500, professional shower installations can cost upwards of $5,000 depending on the quality and design choices. So don’t skip this important first step.

Decide on Your Walk-in Shower Design

Once you know the total cost of each shower option you fancy, it’s time to pick a design and order the right parts and materials. 

If you’re going the DIY route, using a shower stall kit is an easier option for replacing your tub with a shower. Shower kits are pretty simple, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as square, round corners, and alcove-shaped showers. A common material for shower stall kits is polypropylene. You can add tile to some models, while others aren’t designed for that kind of customization. 

Another important choice is whether you want a curbed shower or a curbless shower. Curbed showers are the most common walk-in shower type, and they are easier and less costly to install. However, the shower curbing may create some mobility challenges for older folks when they step in and out.

Curbless shower stalls, on the other hand, are flush with the floor, and the same tile floor is often used inside both the shower and the general bathroom area. Usually, a curtain separates a curbless shower from the bathroom, letting water drain into a hole in the floor.  Since pulling off this design requires a more creative vision and sometimes means replacing bathroom flooring in addition to shower flooring, it can be a lot more costly.

Measure Shower Placement

Converting a tub into a walk-in shower is easier when you plan on using the same drain lines and water supply. Altering, moving, or changing existing plumbing lines in any way will definitely come with added costs, so it’s best to avoid the hassle—especially if you’re DIYing it.

Therefore, it’s likely best to place the new shower in the spot where the old tub sits. You’ll need a floor space of at least 900 square inches (30 inches by 30 inches), plus at least 80 inches of height. Give yourself at least 15 to 20 inches between the side of the toilet and the shower wall so there’s enough space to contain water from the shower spray.

If you have a smaller bathroom, most building codes require that the space on each side of the toilet can’t be less than 15 inches from its center to any side wall, vanity, shower, or partition.

Finally, don’t forget about the door. While sliding doors don’t take up much space, swinging doors need a space equal to their width around the exterior of the shower.

Tiled walk-in shower stall in a bathroom
David Papazian via Getty Images

Remove the Old Bathtub

Get ready for some demo. For this stage, you’ll want to grab a utility knife, a pry bar, and an Allen wrench, along with a drywall saw, a jigsaw, and a screwdriver.

Cover your bathroom floor with plywood to prevent any damage to tile or linoleum. Then turn the main shut-off valve to cut off the flow of water to your bathroom. Unscrew all knobs, drain covers, and faucets using the Allen wrench. Using the knife, remove any necessary tile by cutting into the grout. 

Finally, carefully cut through the drywall, being mindful of studs, electrical lines, and plumbing supply lines. Remove anything attaching the bathtub to the wall, and cut through the caulk with the utility knife. Pry the tub a couple of inches from the wall using the pry bar. With the help of one or two people, maneuver the tub away from the wall and out of the bathroom. You can then toss it into a dumpster, which you can rent and store in your driveway for the duration of the bathroom renovation.

“Some tub removals are very difficult,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and a general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “We’ve had projects where we literally had to cut the tub in order to remove it from the bathroom.”

Install a New Shower

Follow the directions of your DIY shower stall kit, or hand things over to a contractor who can properly install your new walk-in shower. You’ll need to install a water supply line and valve. This can be a DIY task, but many people get a plumber as the location and depth of the valve has to be quite precise.

The trickiest part here is the flooring. Make sure your floor is properly leveled to avoid clogged drains and unsafe, slippery conditions. Adjusting the flooring in your bathroom might require a city permit.

Clean up With a Rental Dumpster

Before you can enjoy your new standing shower, you need to clean up your mess. Renting a dumpster is the easiest way to dispose of old bathtubs. Find local dumpster rentals near you and arrange for drop-off before your project gets too messy.

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