What Goes into Converting a Tub into a Shower?
See the costs, materials, and end benefits associated with this common bathroom project
(Above) Sweeten homeowners Ylia + André’s tub-to-shower conversion
Deciding whether to convert a bathtub into a shower
Bathtubs have their place, but most of us take many more showers than baths. So why were most bathrooms outfitted with a bathtub rather than a walk-in shower over the last few decades? The simplest answer is flexibility. You can take a shower in a bathtub, but not vice-versa. Also, families with children do well with a bathtub, and they’re useful for bathing dogs.
However, stepping over the tub rail every time you shower is not ideal, and is not possible for many people. If you’re ready for a change, this guide by Sweeten lays out how to convert a bathtub to a shower (luckily, it’s pretty straightforward!)
Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.
Showers are ideal for aging and multi-generational families
Converting a bathtub into a shower has become much more common as our population ages, aided by the increasing popularity of accessible and universal design. These design concepts are aligned with the Americans with Disabilities Act and include features such as entry ramps in place of stairs, rocker-style light switches, and lever-style door handles in place of knobs. The magic of this approach, even when not mandated, is obvious with multigenerational families, or when you find yourself with an injury or chronic health condition. These thoughtful home designs can accommodate your needs however they may change.
In a bathroom remodel, the shower can use a curbless entrance that doesn’t impede a wheelchair user. (Another benefit of the curbless design is its streamlined, modern look!) Another popular feature you can specify is a built-in or removable bench. Even better, there is a multitude of design and hardware options to add these elements.
(Above) A Sweeten remodel for an accessible bathroom
Figure out if a shower will work for you
Before ordering materials and fixtures, post your project on Sweeten and discuss with your contractor whether your desired shower size will fit in your space. Create an overall plan that includes the finished size of the shower, location of existing or desired windows, lighting, exhaust fan, and the condition and location of existing plumbing. If the shower drain stays in the same location, the connection is simple and fast. If the drain must be moved, you’ll see the cost rise, depending on how extensive the work is. Items like the faucet and showerhead will come in later.
Materials for converting a shower
For the shower unit itself, you can choose a good-quality pre-formed pan and walls, but high-quality tiled pans and walls have become prevalent and usually have a better “feel.”
Bathroom tiles are also one of, if not the most, powerful aesthetic statements in the room. This is where you can really get creative. Ceramic, glass, stone, and even metal tiles are available in any color, multiple textures, and finishes. You can truly have any look you love with tiles, and apart from normal cleaning and sealing, their maintenance is low.
Costs to convert a bathtub to a shower
Costs to convert a bathtub into a shower are usually quite reasonable. If you’re starting with a bathroom that’s in good condition, you can plan for $1,500 or so for a quick and basic conversion. If you upgrade to a tile pan and walls, you’ll be looking at $3,000 and up. These figures are for standard materials. However, when you make changes to the room size, or add windows that require new framing, your costs will increase.
(Above) Sweeten homeowners Megan + Zak’s walk-in shower remodel
Costs for faucets and showerheads
Faucets and showerheads are available in countless styles and finishes, and you’re probably aware of rainfall showerheads. Full-body jets are another popular and luxurious feature, but definitely are considered an extra. Good faucets will cost $100 and up and they’re worth every penny.
One item you mustn’t overlook is the shower door system. You’ll find clear glass, frosted glass, and so on, but the aesthetics are less important than the quality. Like the shower pan, the door keeps the water where it belongs and should seal completely. A tiny leak, unnoticed for five years, is a disaster in the making. Fortunately, you can prevent this scenario easily with a high-quality door system installed by your contractor. A good unit will cost you $500 and up, depending on the size you need.
A remodeling team to guide your bathroom remodel
Just like kitchens, bathroom remodels can be more complex than other rooms. This is due to their heavy, daily usage and the requirement for more fixtures in a small space. Toilet, sink, shower, and storage all have to be integrated into one of the smallest rooms in the house. That’s where interior designers and general contractors shine. Find the right general contractor to help you navigate these decisions.
A note on fixture and appliance deliveries: If you’re on a tight timeline, Appliances Connection has over 50,000 items in stock and ready to ship nationally. If you’re in the NY/NJ metro area, in-stock items typically deliver within 2-3 days.
More popular questions
A walk-in shower can cost anywhere between $2,000-$15,000, including installation, plumbing, fixtures, and kits. Keeping the drain in the same location will make connection fast and easy. Depending on how intensive the work, moving the drain will cause the price to increase.
The price will greatly vary depending on the tile chosen. Standard ceramic tile can start at just $1.50 per square foot yet marble tile is closer to $40 per square foot. Plan to add a standard overage amount of at least 10%. Being short on tile will cause delays.
First, discuss your plan with a contractor. Share your desired shower size to determine if it will fit in the space. Create a plan that includes the finished shower size, the location of new or existing windows, lighting, exhaust fan, and the condition and location of plumbing. If the shower drain is staying in the same location, the connection will be simple and fast. However, your costs will increase if the drain must be moved. Once you have a plan in place, you can order materials.