When we moved into our new house both the main bathroom and the master bathroom had the standard one piece tub/shower installed. We spoke to the builder about having a full size shower installed in the master bath to replace the standard tub and were informed that it would cost $3,500 to $4,000 to do this. So we decided to live with the standard tub/shower. Before long it became obvious that it had to be changed. With both of us getting older, and my wife being short (complete with short legs) it was hard to step into and out of the tub/shower. For some reason the one piece tubs have a step up built into them and it is awkward for many people to step out especially. After my wife slipped and almost fell it was time to take action. Having more time than money since retiring, I decided to tackle the project myself.
Here are a couple pictures of how it looked when I started the project. A perfectly good tub/shower that functioned as it was designed to do. Just not what we needed in that space. Now the fun begins.
First the old unit had to be removed. The base trim was removed from the walls adjacent to the tub/shower and then I had to find how it was secured into the opening. Galvanized roofing nails into the studs held it in place, and then there were all the pesky plumbing connections. The nails were removed after I got the sheetrock cut away and then I took out my trusty sawzall and got to work.
It amazed me how quick the saw cut through the fiberglass. It was a little slower going through the wood that backed up some parts of the tub, but still easier than I anticipated.
As I cut pieces out of the unit I made sure the pieces were small enough to handle. The reason it had to be cut into pieces is that these units are put into the house before the doors and walls are there because they are too big to fit in once the rooms are divided by the walls. For the time being I moved the large pieces out to the patio to be dealt with later.
This is how it looked when I got the old unit out. I didn’t even have to shut off the water yet, as long as I was careful not to hit any of the pipes in the wall when I was cutting.
It was at this point that I discovered that the new floor pan for the shower should be installed 3 1/2″ to 4″ away from the existing wall studs if I was going to get the drain to line up. The “X” shows where the wall should be to make life easy for me. After careful measuring and some calculations I figured out the minimum distance the wall had to be “moved” was 1 1/2″ unless I wanted to start breaking up the concrete floor. Shimming the wall out an inch and a half seemed preferable to breaking up concrete.
At this point I made sure to check the installation instructions for the shower walls we chose to use. There are specific places there should be studs for a good install so I just made a second wall out of 2 X 2’s and set it in place in front of the existing wall. Really a simple solution to take care of the problem. Also I decided to add some sound deadening insulation at this time.
The end walls also needed some extra studs added so there were studs where they were needed for the new wall panels and where the plumbing was to be relocated.
The new plastic Pex pipes they use these days make the plumbing work so easy compared to having to run copper pipes and solder them together. The crimp fittings work great, no leaks in any of the pipes I’ve installed with Pex fittings. And no chance of burning the place down with the open flame needed to solder copper together. These plastic pipes are so forgiving if you’re off a little bit on your measurements too.
Once the plumbing was done for the supply lines I added some sound deadening insulation to this wall too. The insulation also helps keep the bathroom warmer in the winter.
The drain was actually the hard part of the plumbing. It has to be exact to line up with the new shower floor pan. With the rough out opening in the floor having the standard plastic sand box it gave me enough room to dig and install the new drain where it had to be, since the wall was shimmed out, it all worked out. The picture on the right shows the dry fit of the pan over the drain. A job well done.
Once the dry fitting was done, shims installed to get the level and pitch needed on the pan, measurements taken, a good sized batch of mortar mix was mixed. The measurements taken let me know where the layer of mortar had to be thicker or thinner. The pan was set in place over the layer of mortar and tapped down gently and shimmed to keep the level and pitch just right while it dried. Take the rest of the day off and let the mortar set up. Tomorrow is another day.
Dry fitting the walls was interesting, even when I found out all the studs were in the right place and it all did fit after all, the installation was a chore. You have to apply the adhesive to the studs at the right place and get the panels fit into the exact place they need to be before the adhesive starts to set up. AND you have to have the blocks used to hold it all in place cut ahead of time, that’s why the dry fit process is so critical. Note the piece of cardboard cut out of one of the many boxes from the parts on this project. It keeps the newly installed floor pan from getting scratched and/or dirty while working on the rest of the project.
The adhesive does most of the job of holding the walls in place, but they are also drilled and screwed (gently!) into the studs along the top and sides.
I almost forgot! Another part of the mess of installing the walls is getting all the panels to have a water tight seal. There are large beads of lifetime silicone applied at critical places as the panels are put in place, and when the adhesive is dried, the next day preferably, when the blocks are removed, the exposed seams are also sealed with lifetime silicone sealer. Take the time to do it right and make it neat. You’ll see this for a number of years.
Finally, all the “inside the walls” work is done and new sheetrock can be installed over the lips of the shower panels and screwed into all the new studs. It’s starting to look like this project just might work after all.
I’m a big fan of the self stick fiberglass fabric sheetrock tape. It adds strength to the walls and I have never had a crack show through on a seam done with fiberglass tape.
I’m not sure how many coats of spackle it took me to get it just right, but the important thing is that one does as many coats and sands that it takes to make it smooth. Any time you merge old and new sheetrock it will take patience to make it look good when it gets painted. You can see I’m getting ready for paint, I have taped and masked off the parts I don’t want to get paint on.
The primer used is as important as the top coat of paint. “Paint and Primer in One” is not something I believe should be used. Primer is primer, paint is paint. To put it all into one product makes something that does neither job right.
The whole bathroom got a coat of primer, walls and ceiling. The technique used to install the primer is just as important as the technique used on the top coat. Again, take the time to do it right.
The ceiling got a coat of pure white semigloss, the walls a light blue satin enamel that my wife picked out (and I agreed looked good). All paint that can be washed and scrubbed if necessary to keep it clean.
We are once again thrown a curve ball on this project. When I opened the carton that the shower doors were in, I found a very bent channel. I examined the box when it arrived and it looked good on the outside, but now when I need the doors installed I have a problem. So now I had to call “the big box store/home center” customer service to get the piece replaced. What comes next is quite a story.
Their solution was to “put it all back in the box and return it to the nearest store.” Only problem is that I bought it on their web site and had it shipped to my house because I don’t have a truck. I just wanted one piece replaced, I can fit that in my car. We went back and forth, but finally they agreed to send me just the one new part, but it would have to come from Kohler, the manufacturer. It was supposedly ordered.
Not wanting to do without our shower any longer, I did the best I could to straighten the channel, and I got it close enough to use, but it sure didn’t look too good. I got the shower doors installed and we could use the shower.
Two weeks went by and I called them again. The reference number they gave me didn’t mean much and we started all over again. The part was ordered again. Two more weeks went by and then I called Kohler direct. The part was available but I couldn’t order it directly from them, the “big box store/home center” had to place the order unless I wanted to pay for the part and the shipping.
When it got to be a month since I heard from anyone, I called again. This time I was told no order was found. I told the nice guy that I was going to remove the doors and drop them off to their nearest store and could not be held responsible for the condition that they arrived at the store, they would be in pieces small enough to fit in my car, and they definitely would not be “salable” when they got there, because they were not completely salable when they arrived here.
We agreed that the new part I needed would be sent that same day from Kohler, and surprise, it actually was this time. I received the part in under a week! The door project finally got finished about two months after it was started.
It looks great, is a low step in shower base and what us old folks need in their bathroom. Besides learning that I can do this, I also learned some more on the subject of “how to deal with customer service people.”
One funny add on for this project: Our house was the only one in this development that the builder used a one piece tub/shower in both bathrooms. All the rest have a tub/shower in the main bath and a shower unit in the master bath. Go figure.
Finally, I got out to the patio with my sawzall and cut up the larger pieces of the old tub/shower unit so it all fit into a box. I’m thinking of advertising it on Craig’s List.
For Sale: Used one piece fiberglass tub/shower unit. Used less than one year. Local pick up only. Some assembly required.
Do you think anyone will buy it?