How to Remove an Old Bathtub

Removing an old bathtub to make room for a replacement is not a fly-by-night operation; it takes planning and patience, especially for anyone tackling this kind of project for the first time. Removing an old bathtub is also an operation that will eat up an entire day, so cancel any activities penciled in for the same day.

In addition to basic tools like a hammer and a screwdriver, tub removal will also require a strainer wrench, crowbar, flat pry bar (for removing tile), drill, utility knife, sledgehammer and 2 1x4s to act as skids for moving the old tub out of its alcove.

Before getting started, locate access to the plumbing; it may be through a panel in an adjacent room or it may be from underneath in the basement.

Step 1: Water & Drains

Shut off the water to the tub. If there isn’t a separate shut-off valve, it will be necessary to shut water off to the whole house. Remove the overflow drain and the drain assembly. Next, remove the strainer from the floor drain, and use a strainer wrench to remove the drain flange.

Step 2: Waste & Overflow Lines

From the access point through the wall in an adjacent room or from underneath in the basement, disconnect the waste and overflow line from below the “T.” This is a good time to also remove the tub spout from the wall. Loosen the set screw and disengage or turn it counterclockwise to unscrew it.

Step 3: Tile & Wall Removal

Measure about eight inches up the wall from the edge of the tub to mark where the tile and/or drywall will be removed. If the bathtub surround is tile, use the flat pry bar or a putty knife to chip off the tile, then cut out the drywall all around the tub. Be mindful not to cut into the studs and carefully remove any nails or screws that anchor the tub to the studs.

Fiberglass surrounds may be adhered directly to the drywall. If the surround is also being replaced, plan on replacing the drywall behind it with cement board (Greenboard) for better moisture repellent.

Step 4: Out with the Old

Cut away any caulk between the tub and the floor, and find a helper. While one person lifts the front edge of the tub, the other person will slide the 1x4s under the edge of the tub. The wood will act as skids to bring the tub fully out of its alcove.

Supports between studs for the edge of the tub can then be removed and the area cleaned to prep for the new tub or shower.

Cast iron and porcelain tubs should be broken up with a sledge hammer so they can be disposed of in pieces. This work should take place in the bathroom before taking it out of the house.

PLEASE NOTE: Removing a tub from a smaller bathroom may require removing the vanity and/or the toilet.

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