One of the most common requests we get for Washington DC bathroom remodeling projects are converting a tub to a walk-in shower. Homeowners considering this renovation typically have two questions:
1. Is it possible to convert my bathtub into a walk-in shower?
2. In so doing, will the resale value of my home decrease?
The answer to question number one is easy: sure. The answer to question number two differs depending upon whom you ask. Conventional wisdom says that it is wise to keep a tub in at least one bathroom in any home for purposes of resale. There are also those who make the point that you should remodel for “you”; not an unknown person or family who might move into the house at a later date. But we’ll leave the sales questions to the realtors and talk about what we know: remodeling.
When converting a tub to a walk-in shower, the first question to ask is if the space is big enough. In most cases the answer will be yes, since the standard bathtub is 60 inches long by 30 or 32 inches wide, which is plenty of space for a comfortable walk-in shower. Once you have determined that your bathroom has the adequate width and length for the new shower, there are four practical issues that will need to be addressed during the remodel:
Plumbing: The existing water feeds will need to be reworked to support a new diverter and trim. Additionally, a feed will need to be run behind the wallboard for the shower head. The other plumbing concern involves the drain. Tub drains are oriented at the end of the tub where the trim and tub spout is located. Often, a symmetrical look in a bathroom is desired which will call for the drain to be moved to the center of the shower. Building code calls for shower drains to be 2 inches in diameter where as tub drains need only be 1 ½ inches. If the smaller diameter pipe was used for the tub drain, this must be replaced (all the way to the connection at the main waste stack) with the wider pipe in order to pass the close-in inspection.
Shower Pan: The shower pan is without a question the most important part of the new walk-in shower. Typically, a custom, mud-set pan is poured, and care must be taken to achieve adequate slope to the drain. But waterproofing the shower pan will be the biggest concern. Because grout joints between the tiles on the shower floor are not waterproof, water will eventually seep through, into the shower pan and down into the room below. Therefore, a seamless waterproof membrane (that ties into the shower drain) must be installed either on top of, or beneath the mud-set shower pan.
Wallboard: In many bathrooms, the three walls surrounding a tub are often not tiled, but rather painted drywall. To allow tiling, this drywall must be removed and replaced with a cement-based tile backer board, such as Durock or HardiBacker. Although many contractors will use mold-resistant drywall as the substrate behind the tile, it is not a good idea, as over time, seeping water will cause the wallboard to deteriorate. In contrast, cement-based tile backer board is impervious to water.
Tile: Lastly, tile must be installed at the three shower walls and on the shower pan. While large or small format tile can be used at the shower walls, a mosaic (or small format) tile should be used at the shower floor so as to conform to the contour of the pan. The joints between all tiles will need to be grouted, and then sealed. It is wise to install tile (on all three shower walls) at least to the height of the shower head.
Obviously, there will be other steps involved in the remodel, but these are the major considerations when converting a bathtub to a walk-in shower. It is a relatively easy renovation that can completely transform the look and function of any bathroom.
To learn more about the bathroom build process, click here.
To see all of our bathroom remodels, visit our portfolio.