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How to install a built-in bathtub

Last modified: 2022-09-12 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

The luxury of having a bathtub in the home is wonderful: a bath can help you to relieve stress, restore balance and really relax. Of course, not every single home comes equipped with a bathtub. Thus, if you’re looking to install one, you may be considering the drop-in tub. As opposed to standing tubs, drop-in tubs are easy to clean and keep all plumbing elements hidden. These tubs offer a modern, classic finish to your bathroom.

So, how difficult is this installation project? Well, lucky for you we have a detailed list of the steps involved. This will come down to more than simply attaching plumbing to the tub, so it might be good to ask a friend for a helping hand or hire a pro to do the work for you.

Here’s how to install a built-in bathtub


source: unsplash

What exactly is a drop-in bathtub?

A drop-in bath is designed for an installation strategy that is inherent in the name, and it’s meant to be dropped in. This style tub has a self-rimming edge, and this edge rests on a frame or structure that surrounds the tub. The surrounding material is usually made of tile or stone, but of course, will come down to your bathroom decor. As we mentioned in our introduction, the beautiful thing about these tubs is that they conceal all of the plumbing underneath them, leaving only the rim visible. This type of tub is popular for a number of reasons, including their low cost, a variety of shapes, sizes and design flexibility.

The surrounding part of the tub should be located along a wall, in an alcove or corner or even freestanding depending on the layout and space available in your bathroom. Another appealing quality of drop-in bathtubs is that they can be easily replaced and thus are great for a homeowner whose mind is always changing!

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Permits and building codes

First things first, you need to do some research and find out which permits are required for this renovation project. This is a very important step if you intend on making any changes to your plumbing as well as taking on any major renovations to the walls or floors. Large-scale renovations almost always require a permit, and if you’re planning on moving a wall to fit your bathtub in place, then it’s likely you’ll need one.

When it comes to moving the pipes in your home or changing the plumbing in your bathroom, you will need to work with a professional. In the majority of North American cities, undergoing any plumbing work without a professional is illegal. Once you’ve applied for the correct permits in accordance with your municipality and, if necessary, you’ve hired a plumber for the job then let’s get started!

Built-in bathtub plumbing

source: unsplash

If you will be moving or rearranging any plumbing, this will need to be done before any of the other steps of this project. If this is a necessary step for you, then the specifics of it will come down to your current plumbing as well as the layout of your bathroom. The only plumbing you should have left to do once the tub is in place is to attach drain pipes, faucets as well as the shower heads.

Measure and build

Begin this project by carefully measuring the area where you’re hoping to place your new bathtub. You will need to know these measurements in order to properly craft or purchase a frame which will securely hold your tub. Once you know how large of a frame you need, you can start building. The frame will need to be the height and width of the bathtub up to the lip, which will rest on and overlap the top.

There are two types of drop-in tubs, and the dimensions of the frame will be determined by the style: those with three walls surrounding them (alcove) and those with no walls (island.) Not only this, the frame will need to be sturdy and able to support most of the weight of the tub. Once the frame is built, custom made or purchased, you can begin to install it.

Install the frame and the mortar base

The frame must be installed at a level height, so bring a level along for this part of the project. If you’re placing your drop-in tub in an alcove, then it should be attached to wall studs wherever possible. If your tub will be installed as an island, then the same rules as house framing apply in that vertical studs need to be placed at 16 inches from one another.

Although the frame acts to support most of the weight, it won’t be enough once there’s water as well as a human being inside of it. Therefore, the tub will require a mortar base before it’s installed. You’ll want to place four to six full shovels worth of the material in the spot where the tub will go. Before placing it down, put a layer of plastic sheeting on top of the subfloor and underneath the tub, as well as directly on top of the mortar. The plastic will allow you to easily remove the tub at a later date if necessary.

Place and secure bathtub

source: unsplash

In most cases, holes for plumbing fixtures will be drilled before the bathtub is secured. You can momentarily put the bathtub in place to mark holes for plumbing fixtures, and then remove it to drill holes. Once this is complete, place the bathtub into the frame. We’d recommend doing this while the mortar is still wet so that it will cure and mold around the base of your tub.

Again, once in place, check that the edges of your bathtub are level. Place screws in the holes you’ve drilled to secure it to the frame. When complete, the frame of the tub can be finished with tile or additional material to match your bathroom decor. Check the faucets and enjoy a long hot soak once everything is dry and in working order.

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