September 9, 2019
1960's bathroom with pink square tile walls and cast iron tub

Kendall "aka Renos"

Founder, Lead Instructor of Bathroom Update Guide &  Renos 4 Pros and Joes


I’m about to start another bathroom renovation project. The bathroom demolition process is relatively similar for most bathrooms. The age of the bathroom is usually a major determining factor in how difficult the bathroom demolition will be. The older the bathroom, the more labor you should expect. 

 

As an experienced contractor, The age of the bathroom will also determine “how to demo a bathroom tub?”

 

Demolish a bathtub by using a reciprocating saw to cut through an unwanted newer style tub that is made of fiberglass, acrylic or lightweight steel. Start at the front wall of the tuck by cutting widthwise. Continue by using the reciprocating saw to cut the tub into smaller pieces. If you are working in a home that has a cast iron tub, you will need to break up the tub into smaller pieces by striking it with a sledgehammer. 

 

If the tub has a tile on the walls around it (a tub surround) then in most instances it is a good idea to remove the wall tile first before demolishing the tub. The top edge of the tub is not visible because it is behind the tile. Removing the wall tile first will fully expose the perimeter of the tub and allow you to remove any nails or screws that may be holding the tub against the wood framing studs. 

 

Start your bathroom renovation off right

Get prepared for your renovation by learning the process, planning and foresight needed to bring your bathroom project to life. 

Use a full-sized sledgehammer and take deliberate but controlled swings. You want to break the tub into large pieces while at the same time trying not to scatter an excessive amount of chipped porcelain. 

 

But before you start demolishing the bathtub make sure that destroying it is the best option. Steel, fiberglass and acrylic tubs are all relatively lightweight. So if you have a relatively clear path to the exit, if may not be necessary to demolish the tub at all. If you have a very narrow doorway or hallways, or you need to make the tub more compact to haul away, then demolishing it may still make sense. 

 

Cast Iron tubs, on the other hand, are ridiculously heavy, even for two strong people. The weight of the tub is the main reason that it makes sense most of the time to demolish it. But before you do, you make sure that it’s not of value to someone else. Cast Iron tubs are still used today. Cast iron tubs actually have greater insulation properties than nearly all other types of tubs. This means that the water stays warmer longer in the cast iron tub. 

 

If you are removing a claw foot tub, you can basically guarantee that someone will want the tub in one piece. And they may even be willing to pay you for it. Now even if you have a regular cast iron tub designed to fit in a 3 sided alcove, then someone may still want it. And if they do, let them come and get it. This, of course, assumes that there is little risk that they will damage any walls and doorways in the process. 

 

Once you’ve thought things through and still determined that demolition is the right choice for you, make sure that you have the proper protective gear. Safety glasses are a must when working with saws and hammers. Little pieces of tub can easily get into your eye whether you are sawing or hammering. A dust mask or a lightweight respirator is also a good idea to minimize the amount of dust you inhale through your nose and mouth. Gloves are also recommended when you are working around sharp pieces of shattered cast iron or saw-cut pieces of metal. Foot protection is also a good idea. Closed-toe shoes are a must. No flip flops. And while steel-toe boots are not required, they certainly aren’t a bad idea if you already have a pair.

 

Be aware that if you are demolishing a cast iron tub, there will be a small mess to clean up. The big pieces will be easy to handle. it’s easiest to carry out the large pieces by hand instead of trying to bag them.

 

Contractor Trash Bags

Most of the large broken pieces of cast iron will most likely cut through a contractor trash bag. But the smaller pieces may not come through the bag if carefully bagged.  The contractor bag can also be used to dispose of any fine dust that you sweep up as part of the cleanup process

Shop Vacuum

A shop vacuum can be an invaluable tool for most bathroom remodeling projects. The vacuum allows you to pick up and collect small particles that may be harder to collect with a broom and dustpan. The shop vacuum has different types of attachments that allow it to reach into smaller areas as well. One of the features of a shop vacuum that makes it most versatile is its ability to extract water as well as dry dust. Most shop vacs have a water filter accessory that is typically sold separately that can be used instead of the standard dust filter. This can be a major benefit when remodeling spaces like bathrooms because unexpected leaks can occur. If and when they do, this feature will help you quickly get it under control.

 

Wheelbarrow

Depending on how extensive a renovation project you were doing, a wheelbarrow is also an option to get the pieces out of the house. A wheelbarrow is typically on a good option if you have plenty of space inside to move around and that you have good coverage on your floors.

 

Refinishing a Tub vs Demo

If you’re considering refinishing the bathtub instead of demolishing it there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. first you need to be aware that you’re going to have to take special precautions to keep from damaging the tub while you are demolishing the wall and floor tile. you also need to be aware that refinishing the bathtub will result in a shiny new finish that looks great but ultimately will not last nearly as long as the tub’s original finish. The reason is simple. the original porcelain finish on the tub is baked on. This process makes the finish much harder and more durable. bathtub refinishing typically involves spraying a new finish on to the tub. If you do a really good job, you may be able to get 5 to 10 years, maybe. 

 

Recycling a Bathtub

If you decide that you want to recycle the tub or offer it up to goodwill, you may have to take some extra steps. You want to call first to make sure that they accept cast iron tubs. Depending on your timeline, you may want to drop the tub off just to get it out of your way. Even if the donations organization will send someone to pick up the tub, you may still want to play it safe by moving the tub out of the house and to the exterior of the property. The rationale is that if they slip or misstep while moving the tub, at least they won’t damage your floors or walls, etc. 

 

Bath Tub Weight

There are pretty large differences in the weight of bathtubs. The weight largely depends on the size of the tub and the material its made from. 

 

Cast Iron Tub Weight 

A quick search online shows that many cast iron tubs weigh between 250 and 500lbs. I have actually installed several brand new cast iron tubs in recent years. I went back and checked the specifications on the tubs that I installed and they were around 350 pounds each. To some people, this may not sound like much weight. However, once you factor in the awkwardness of the shape of the tub, the lack of places to hold it, and the extremely uneven weight distribution, they are not fun to deal with. This is not a fixture that comes in a box. Cast iron tubs come strapped to a wood pallet. And they store and supply house staff do not move these fixtures by hand, they always use a forklift. 

 

Steel Tub Weight

There is variation in what steel tubs weigh, but a run of the mill entry-level steel tub weighs between 50 and 75 pounds. This is drastically less than cast iron.

Acrylic Tub Weight 

Acrylic bathtubs weight will be very similar to those of a comparably sized steel tub. 50-100 lbs is a good rule of thumb. 

How much do new bathtubs cost?

New standard sized 5” bathtubs range in price from $150 on up to $700-800 dollars. An entry-level uninsulated steel tub can cost as little as $150 dollars from a big-box retailer. This is an excellent value if the price is your main determining factor. However, you should be aware that a base level steel tub will not keep the water warm as long as a tub that is insulated. The steel tub is also pretty noisy when things bump against it. Acrylic and fiberglass tubs are both upgrades compared to an uninsulated steel tub. There are also insulated steel tubs, lightweight cast iron tubs, and traditional cast iron tubs. These different types of tubs can range from $250 up to closer to $800 for cast iron and higher-end acrylic tubs. 

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