Converting a Tub to a Shower: WHY?

There are lots of reasons to convert a bathtub/shower combo into a walk-in shower. In contrast, there’s really only one reason not to.

Every home really wants to have one tub, since it’s really inconvenient to bathe an infant or small kiddo in a shower. Anyone with kids (or anyone thinking about having kids) isn’t going to be very enthused about buying or renting a home that doesn’t have a bathtub. But why have more than one? Any home with multiple bathrooms is going to have one dedicated kid’s bath and then the rest will be for the adults. So, multiple bathtubs in a home are pretty superfluous unless you’re wanting an Architectural Digest adults-only spare spa bath room.

True fact: Installing a new bathtub is expensive. Want to “save” money on a bathroom remodel by replacing an old grungy, chipped, or rusty tub and shower surround with a new one instead of converting to a walk-in shower? Keep in mind that even a medium-quality new acrylic tub will cost $400 or so before the additional $500 or more cost of a proper installation (including carpentry and plumbing the new drain fixtures).

High quality long-lasting porcelain-coated cast iron tubs start at $1,000 just for the tub, and cost more to install than an acrylic bathtub does. And that’s before you get to the cost of replacing the tiled tub surround. And, you can’t replace a bathtub with a tiled tub surround without also completely redoing all of the tile.

Installing even a very basic new acrylic bathtub along with a new tiled tub surround is therefore usually almost as expensive as simply converting to a custom walk-in tile shower.

So, there’s really only one practical reason for keeping a bathtub. If you’ve only got one in the house, keep it. Otherwise, if you’re remodeling a bathroom that has a bathtub needing to be replaced, then think seriously about converting to a walk-in shower.

Why make a bathtub into a shower?

There are many good practical reasons for doing this. Four of the main ones are changes in lifestyle, convenience, durability, and cost.

LIFETYLE: Sometimes you outgrow the need for multiple bathtubs. For example, your kids are now teenagers. Or, you’re getting older yourself. Bathtubs are annoying to step into and out of every time you just want to take a shower. And for geriatric folks in particular, bathtubs can be a real danger.

Whether it’s for a tween outgrowing their tub bathing years or age proofing a bathroom for yourself or your parents, a tub to shower conversion makes sense to make your home grow with you.

CONVENIENCE: Sometimes having multiple bathtubs is just a needless drag. For example, how many times a week do you take time out for a soaking bath versus just taking a quick shower? Sitting in a bathtub full of water is just simply an annoying way to get clean for most adult folks.

The same goes for dogs, by the way. I have a pugmix stepdog who hates being washed in a tub. Getting lifted into and being trapped inside a bathtub is just really unpleasant for her. That’s why, when renovating my own Windsor Park home, I included an auxiliary handheld spray wand with the new shower design.

A dedicated handheld sprayer might seem redundant for a shower, but it has made all the difference for doggo bathtime. Now she actually enjoys happy spa scrubbing, with both of us simply sitting on the tile floor playing in suds instead of me looming over her crouching on the edge of a tub that she feels trapped in (and scratches the hell out of).

Now she walks right into the new shower, sits down, and gets impatient if it takes too long for her spa time to start.

Then it’s suds and massage scrubs and lots of happy relaxy rinsing. Sometimes she likes to sing in the shower too.

When you add things like a handheld sprayer, walk-in showers become even more convenient for accommodating all sorts of flexible bathing options beyond just easy dogwashing. Aging in place, for example.

Putting a chair in a bathtub to help an elderly loved one take a quick shower? Not easy. Doing the same in a 3×5 or larger walk-in shower with a handheld sprayer? Much easier.

DURABILITY & COST: A well done shower will also last much longer than an acrylic or steel enamel bathtub and therefore save money in the long run. With proper waterproofing right below the surface tile and proper grout, a custom tile shower can be guaranteed to last for at least 30 years and likely much longer. In contrast, relatively inexpensive acrylic plastic or steel bathtubs that get a lot of use generally last only 10 to 15 years before becoming too scratched or discolored (for acrylic) or chipped and corroded (for steel) to easily repair.

Porcelain coated cast iron bathtubs are more durable and long lasting (and easier to completely refinish to as-new condition) than acrylic or steel tubs, but are also much more costly and difficult to install.

Converting a beat-up tub/shower combo to a walk-in custom shower is no more expensive than installing a new bathtub and tile surround. And, a custom tile shower with excellent presealed grout will last 2-3 times as long as a new acrylic or steel tub and tiled tub surround. Overall, tub to shower conversions save money in the long run.

Bottom Line: Showers are great!

A well designed and properly installed custom walk-in shower versus an acrylic or steel tub and tile surround is like metal roofing versus asphalt shingles. It might be marginally more expensive at the outset, but it’ll last for far longer and probably match your evolving lifestyle much better over time.

So, if you have more than one bathroom and multiple bathtubs in your home, consider a tub to shower conversion for your remodel. Worked out real well for this happy shower spa doggo!