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Bathtub-to-Shower Conversions

by Dan Derkum

Converting a bathtub to a shower is becoming ever more popular. For many people, it’s much easier to step into and out of a shower than a bathtub. A shower also provides the opportunity to have a seat while bathing. Many folks find sitting to bathe safer, more comfortable, and more convenient.

What’s involved in turning a bathtub into a shower? First, you’ll need a licensed General Contractor who knows what their doing and has lots of hands-on experience! Here are the other items to consider:
  1. This project requires plans and permits. The project will involve excavation (when converting over a concrete foundation), plumbing, framing, concrete, hot mop, insulation, drywall, cement lath and plaster, tile, electrical, and paint.
     
  2. Bathtubs and tub/shower combinations have a 1-1/2” drain. Showers require a 2” drain to handle the extra water. Therefore, the entire length of the 1-1/2” bathtub drain will need to be removed and replaced with a 2” drain. The drain will also need to be repositioned. Bathtub drains are located at the front of the tub. Shower drains are in the middle. The effort to do this primarily depends on 3 factors: (a) floor – concrete or wood framing (b) distance the 2” drain will need to travel and connect to another 2” or 3” drain (c) The number and type of plumbing fixtures already on the line you’re connecting to and the number of turns and bends to get there.
     
  3. Tile or 1 piece fiberglass shower? Always go with a full tile shower. A fiberglass unit usually has a 1 year or less warranty, leak soon thereafter (it’s typically a small leak that remains undetected for many years – until the damage becomes great and expensive . . . think mold and dry rot), and is less safe and durable. Most don’t have seats and the ones that do, are designed for someone 5 years of age or less! A tiled floor is also much safer and significantly reduces the chances of a slip and fall injury (provided you use the correct tile!)
     
  4. For ceilings 8’ in height and less, tile all the way to the ceiling. Make sure you also tile the floor outside the shower. Carpet is the worst and vinyl is a close second. These only encourage potentially harmful and destructive mold, mildew, bacteria, and rot. Use tile as the baseboard. Never use wood or MDF type baseboards outside any wet area. Make sure to include at least two 16” tall shampoo cubbies (I call this the “Costco Size”) that can be comfortably reached when sitting or standing. Don’t forget the soap dish!
     
  5. Make sure the Plumber installs the shower head at 6’ 6” minimum. Standard shower heights put the shower head in your chest! Not very helpful for washing anything above that. It’s best to install an adjustable hand shower on a pole. This allows you to raise and lower the shower head for different heights, sit and wash yourself, shave your legs much more comfortably, and clean your shower walls with ease. There are 60” and 72” hoses. Make sure you select the correct length. It should comfortably reach where the seat is located and allow for easy positioning when washing your body when seated.
     
  6. Install a dedicated GFCI protected LED light over the shower. You’ll love the direct light it provides, especially when shaving your legs and when your eyesight starts to fade.
     
  7. Install a super quiet exhaust fan that moves a minimum of 110 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air. Don’t vent it directly into the attic! You do, and you’re in for some happy termites and very expensive termite and mold damage to your home. It must vent directly outside. Use only fans with a 4” duct minimum. You should also use a Humidistat as the fan control.
     
  8. Use a tempered glass enclosure. Clear glass keeps the room looking large and allows you to enjoy your beautiful new shower. Always use a minimum of 5/16” thick tempered glass – the best and safest is 3/8” thick tempered glass. Never use 3/16” or 1/4” glass – it’s not strong enough and can easily shatter. Always pay extra and have a factory applied glass sealer installed to the shower side of the glass. Glass is very porous. That’s why you can’t ever seem to get the outside of windows clean or your old enclosure. The “porous” are microscopic craters in the glass that lime, calcium, soap, shampoo, dirt, etc. get into. Once in, you can’t get the glass clean and it gets that discolored and dingy look.


About the Author
Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD's Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor.
http://www.DADsConstruction.com
dan@dadsconstruction.com

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