Many home improvement projects are far simpler than we expect. Homeowners can increase both the value of their property and their enjoyment of that property by taking on these projects. While it should be noted that there are several areas in which the expertise of a professional is essential—such as electrical rewiring, installation of furnaces or irrigation systems, and major demolition projects involving structural walls—DIY projects in areas like the bathroom can be simply accomplished. What are required are good tools, willingness to self-educate, and proper hardware that will stand the test of time.
Options for the Bath
Bathtubs generally can be grouped into two categories – Alcove or Drop-In, with an Undermount design being a variation of the Drop-in. Alcove tubs are generally considered to be the simplest and most economic models for most homeowners to install themselves, and are frequently used in renovation projects. This is because it doesn’t require the building of a tub deck, with tile work.
However, the other two types are quite attractive, and with a bit of extra effort and time, are just as rewarding. Drop-In tubs necessitate the installation of a slab deck, with tile and all the finishing touches installed before the tub itself. Undermounts involve placing the tub into a built box, then installing the slab deck, which renders them the most complex of the three styles.
Rules of Thumb
A few simple guidelines will ensure that you install your new tub with a minimum of fuss. Any expert will tell you that these fall into the realm of common sense, but if you’re new to DIY renovation, they bear repeating.
- Make it a party. Because tubs, no matter how “easy” they are to install, are unwieldy, invite an interested friend or three along for a DIY day. This will prevent injury to you and damage to the tub or tile work.
- Be sure to follow instructions. Above and beyond the worry of a voided warranty, following manufacturer instructions and your local building ordinances will prevent some costly worry down the road. If you ever wish to sell your property, a home inspection that discovers an out-of-code bathroom may jeopardize your sale.
- Measure twice. Cut once. This practical rule ensures that there are no unsightly or costly mistakes made during the measurement of your tub surround, your tile, or any other feature of home renovation. Remember it always, for every project.
The Alcove Tub
Before you begin installing this type of tub as a renovation, be absolutely certain that your water is turned off. The two best points to check this are at the butterfly valve or ball valve (valve terminology). Once that’s done, you’re free to proceed.
- Measure the tub’s height and mark it on the back wall in the tub area. Next, find your studs at that height and secure a row of 2×4 planks.
- With the tub’s apron facing you and the back of the tub towards the stud wall, make sure the drain and overflow end of the tub correspond to the existing rough plumbing. Then, gently manoeuvre the tub to rest upon the 2×4 ledge, flush with your stud wall.
- Screw in the studs after you locate the flange.
- Connect the drain to the plumbing along with the overflow. Next, screw on the overflow’s faceplate and situate the drain piece.
Now, you’ve installed your alcove tub. What remains are the faucets of your choice and the tiling that will ensure a water barrier for your floors and walls.
This type of tub requires the assistance of a professional slab-deck manufacturer. They’ll use the paper template that comes with your tub, which will also be used by you to construct the tub surround box.
- With dried, crushed mortar, fill the base of the surround box to a depth of two inches.
- Place the tub in the box and connect the rough plumbing.
- Clog the overflow and drain holes with rags and weight down the tub with water to settle into the mortar.
- Once you’ve let the water out, connect the plumbing on the tub deck.
- Now, bring in your chosen professional to install the slab deck.
Undermounts are similar to the Drop-In, but you’ll have a few extra steps to take before you can enjoy your new tub. Rather than laying the slab deck last, you’ll have a finished tile surround when you weight the tub with water. The finishing touch on this type of tub is using kitchen-grade silicone to create a tight, professional seal against leakage (video here).
DIY projects can be fun and leave you with a sense of accomplishment. But make it a group project, and always remember to be doubly certain of your dimensions before you make any permanent changes. Have fun, be safe, and beautify your home.