What Goes into Converting a Tub into a Shower?

See the costs, materials, and end benefits associated with this common bathroom project

Small white bathroom with glass separator and sink vanity after renovation

(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 universal and accessible 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.

A remodeled bathroom with step-in shower, glass door and shower niche storage

(Above) A Sweeten remodel for an accessible bathroom

Figure out if a shower will work for you

Before ordering materials and fixtures, first 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.

White and brown bathroom with floating vanity and shower curtain after renovation

(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, and the right team can help you navigate these decisions. 

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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