Remains of the Bathe

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

... Or Part One of "How to Replace your Bathtub" : Demolition

Within a couple months of this house having been completed, the tub in our master bath developed a crack along the bottom. Since the house was still under warranty, the builder sent someone out to "fix" it.

Now, I would think, that if a tub cracks within a few months, then either 1) this tub unit has a manufacturing flaw, or B) It was installed incorrectly. But in either case, the logical fix should be to remove and replace, right? No, apparently this tub unit is so large, it can only be moved in before the walls are in place, so their "fix" involved some kind of epoxy repair kit. It lasted five or six years, and then the crack returned.
Unfortunately, this time it was well past the warranty, so I got a tub repair kit from Lowe's and fixed it myself. I've lost track of how many times now I have repaired the crack, but the time between repairs shrinks with each successive attempt. So, given that we are likely going to sell the house this summer, and the current hacked 12-year-old tub would not pass any kind of inspection, we decided it was time to replace the tub.

Our current tub is a standard size (60" x 30") fiberglass tub with integrated walls. Yes, that's right -- no seams, the walls are all one with the tub. It seems they can do this during construction, because they bring it in before they finish framing the internal walls.

So, to get this thing out, we either had to demolish walls, or we had to cut apart the tub. While I am sure that taking a sledgehammer to a wall would be fun and therapeutic, I opted for the latter.

First though, I had to remove the caulking from around the edges and baseboards near the tub and remove the faucet and fixtures. Then cut a couple inches of drywall away around the entire perimeter, and unscrew the tub from the studs. I was hoping that after removing the screws that I would at least be able to jiggle the tub around, maybe pull in out a little ways from the wall, but it was still snug. So, time to cut.

Of course, cutting through fiberglass is not a task to be taken lightly -- flying fiberglass splinters can be seriously deadly, and breathing in fiberglass "sawdust" is nearly as bad. So this meant protecting nearly every surface in the bathroom, and then donning long pants, long sleeves, a full face mask, safety goggles, and a respirator. This is my I-am-Darth-Vader-from-the-Planet-Vulcan outfit.

Everything I had read suggested using a metal-cutting blade on a reciprocating saw -- but I was worried about possibly cutting into the studs in the process, or worse, cutting through the plumbing. That would be "bad".

So I used a reciprocating saw for the portions well away from anything that could be damaged and used a dremmel with cutting bit for the sides, especially near the plumbing.

I cut the entire tub lengthwise down the middle, though it was still jammed nicely in the alcove. I could jiggle it around, but there wasn't enough room to wiggle free. So I cut the front half in half again (quartered), and was finally able to pull all the pieces out.

Success! I actually managed to remove the entire monster without damaging any framing or plumbing [insert witty foreshadowing remark here]!

If it looks like the demolition phase is done -- think again. Stay tuned for Demolition Man, The Sequel.
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