How to Remove a Bathtub
If you have ever wanted to renovate your master or full bath you may have been afraid of the amount of work involved or the cost. One of the hardest things to do is removing the existing bathtub. Older bathtubs are heavy, cast iron fixtures that can be installed between two walls or dropped into a platform. Either wall you will have to do some heavy demolition to be able to remove the bathtub. Freestanding bathtubs do not require any special instructions for removal as the piping and drain are relatively exposed and easily disconnected.
Leather Work Gloves
Flat bar or Cold chisel
1. Turn off the water to the tub and verify that the water is off. If you cannot access the shutoff valves, you will have to shut off the water to the entire house. You will need to have access to the valves to replace the bathtub faucet later.
Typical Bathroom Piping and Waste Schematic
2. If you have access to the back of the tub, where the drain and faucet is, it is easier to loosen the connections on the overflow and drain line to the waste tee. If not then follow the instructions at the end of this article for Removing the Drain Flange. Unfortunately not all bathtubs are installed the same way so you will need to use your judgment on how to disconnect the plumbing. Sometimes you will need to cut a hole in the ceiling below or the adjacent room.
Remove the piping and waste tee, bathtub spout and overflow. Remove the handles and escutcheon for the bathtub faucet. The piping should be able to be reused unless you want to change the style of your faucet.
3. Bathtubs can be mounted in several ways; set in the framing, hung from clips, or resting on a ledger strip. Drop in tubs are basically the same as ledger installed tubs.
Remove the finish wall material to expose the edge of the bathtub that is next to the studs.
If you have a tile surround and you are going to replace it, it is better to remove the tile before you remove the tub. Let all of the tile fall into the bathtub so it can be easily removed.
Vinyl or acrylic tub surrounds are usually screwed in on one side and have an adhesive on the back. You will need to scrape off the surround if it is glued in place with a putty knife or flat bar. If the existing wall material is drywall you should probably remove it all and replace it with moisture resistant drywall.
The tub flange usually sticks up about 1 inch above the edge of the tub. You will need to cut away the drywall to expose the flange.
If the tub rests on a ledger strip, there are probably roofing nails installed above the flange to hold it in place.
If there are hanger clips installed, the tub may have to be lifted slightly to free it from the clips.
4. If your tub is cast iron, the easiest way to remove it is by cutting it in half and carrying out the 2 pieces. The best way to do this is with a sledgehammer. The reason for removing the bathtub in this way is that the tub is very heavy, when it was installed, there was nothing in the home except the rough framing so it was easier to carry it in without damaging anything.
You will need to remove the toilet if it is installed next to the tub so that you won’t damage it. If you are planning on replacing the toilet, now is a good time to remove it. The same applies to any vanity or sink in the area.
With the flat bar or a scrap of 2x4, pry the tub out from the wall/ Place a heavy drop cloth over the tub at the center point, including over the outside. Begin by striking the outside of the bathtub and cloth with the sledgehammer, chips of enamel and cast iron will fly off into the tub so use caution and wear goggles and gloves. Lift the drop cloth so check when the tub is cracked through. Once the outside of the tub is broken in two, continue around the tub until you get to the side where the flange is next to the wall.
If you have the room, you can slide the tub out from the wall and break it into pieces.
Remove the remnants of the tub.
5. Remove any wet or damaged insulation from the wall and replace where needed. Remove any old ledger strips or hangers.
Removing the Drain Flange
To remove the tub's drain flange it is best to use a drain removal tool. A Drain Key or Smart Dumbell are designed specifically for this job. Since you are not salvaging the tub, you can use a pair of pliers or 2 screwdrivers to twist the drain basket free from the base of the tub.
1. Insert the Drain Key or the Smart Dumbell into the drain.
2. Following the instructions for the tool, turn counterclockwise.
3. Keep turning drain counterclockwise until the old drain is released.
With just a few turns, the old drain should come right out.