As a general rule, replacing a bathtub is NOT considered a do-it-yourself project — especially if you are changing the type and size of the tub. Changing anything means refiguring the drain lines, vents, and waterlines and that can get a bit tricky and frustrating. But if your old tub is cracked or damaged and you simply wish to replace it with the same kind, then the project becomes more manageable.
Should You Repair or Replace Your Mobile Home Bath Tub?
Most bathtubs in mobile homes are plastic. When plastic cracks or breaks, it cannot be permanently repaired like fiberglass can. If the crack isn’t too bad, the best you can do is temporarily repair it by using one of two methods.
The first method is to purchase an epoxy repair kit. The biggest advantage of the epoxy kit is that the repair isn’t as noticeable because the color somewhat matches the tub. The disadvantage is that it works best only on small cracks because any movement on big cracks can cause the crack to reappear.
The second method to repair a cracked plastic bathtub is to apply a piece of quick fix tub repair tape to seal the crack. The advantage of the tape is that it will move with the tub so the crack will not reappear (unless the crack runs). The disadvantage is that it looks somewhat gaudy but by gosh it does work!
If you’ve decided to replace your bathtub, besides the size and color you will also want to understand how and why the bottom of your tub is supported. Most plastic tubs are supported in two ways — plastic legs or styrofoam.
Pictured is a tub supported by plastic legs. If you have a sewer pipe running directly under the tub, then you will need this type of tub to make room for the pipes. The disadvantage of using a tub with legs is that the tub can creak if the subfloor under the tub isn’t flat causing the legs to sit uneven. The legs have to installed into the bottom of the tub. When doing so, push them in straight or you’ll risk breaking a tab that holds the legs in.
The next photo shows a tub that uses styrofoam for support rather than plastic legs. The styrofoam sits directly onto the floor. Overall, the styrofoam offers better support with way less creaks. Obviously, the disadvantage is that you can’t run pipes directly under the tub.
Removal of Old Tub and Surround
First shut off water to the bathtub. From underneath the tub, unscrew pipes from drain. This can be accomplished by either taking apart the p-trap (above) or unscrewing the pipe directly from the tub drain itself. If your tub has an overflow, there will be another pipe going up the back of the tub to the overflow. In this case simply take apart the p-trap and the rest will come out with the tub.
Again, be sure the water is shut off to the tub. Next unscrew the waterline connections from the back of the faucet. Remove the nuts from the hot and cold nipples and slide the faucet out. Older faucets can be much more complicated to remove as the faucets themselves may have to be disassembled along with the spout and shower head.
Once the faucet is removed, next step is to get rid of the old tub surround. If the old tub surround is held in place with plastic rivets, cut off the head with a knife or drill them out. Then with a utility knife, cut around the edge of the tub surround to loosen the caulk. Finally, grab a corner of the surround and carefully pull it off the wall.
With the tub surround removed, the lip of the tub will be exposed. Remove all the screws from this lip.
The old bathtub should now be loose and able to be lifted out and removed from the bathroom.
Installed access door showing a peak at the main shut-off behind it.
Prep for the New Bathtub
Prepare the opening for the tub. First be sure that the rim support boards are set at the proper height for the new tub. Use boards longer than what’s shown in the illustration above. Set level and secure into the studs of the wall.
Most likely your old tub had a skirt track fastened to the floor. This helps stiffen up the skirt on the tub. If the old skirt track is in good shape, leave it. Otherwise, replace it with the one that probably came with the new tub.
Nothing is more frustrating than having a water leak after the new tub is installed. The best way to head-off a leak is to install a new drain, faucet and waterline ends. Get rid of the old parts — once removed they may never seal right again so start with new. More info on obtaining and installing the correct drain assembly can be found here.