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Find out how much bath fitters cost and what is included in their services. We also included 4 free contractor quotes you can get on our website.
When walking into a bathroom for the first time, how many of us look at the bathtub before anything else? It is usually the largest item in a bathroom and probably will be the most expensive too. Not only is the bathtub the most expensive item to buy, it is also probably the most expensive item to fit as well. For that job, you will need a bath fitter, or better still a qualified and licensed plumber.
Before you decide on the type of changes you want to make in your bathroom it is a good idea to make a list so you don’t waste any time and effort and know a bit about the subject when you go to the showroom or talk to the fitter.
All jobs in the home fall into two categories, and the bathroom is no exception.
Knowing these simple facts it is worth making a list of all the jobs that need doing in your bathroom and putting them in the appropriate category. That way you can slowly tick them off in order of priority and you can decide what the bathroom fitter can do and what you can do as a DIY project. Most, if not all, plumbers and bath fitters have a minimum call out fee so if you can give the professional a list of things that need doing then you will make the best use of his time and thus save yourself money.
Before we start talking about the professional who will fit your bathtub, let’s just have a look at the types of a tub and the materials available.
We have already mentioned that the cost of labor to fit a bathtub is probably the most expensive job in a bathroom but the type of tub you buy will have an even larger effect on the price to fit. Later on, in the COST section, you will find a comparison of bathtub purchase prices, but let’s talk about the types here.
Fiberglass bathtubs. The best value for money for all the different types of a tub is the one made from fiberglass. It is probably the most easily available of all different kinds and usually the least expensive. A big problem with fiberglass, however, is that it doesn’t hold heat very well and can turn from a soothing warm bath to an uncomfortably cold one in as little as fifteen minutes.
Acrylic bathtubs. This is one of the most versatile materials from which to make bathtubs. They are easily molded into different shapes so if you have an oddly shaped requirement an acrylic tub is your best choice. They are also hard wearing and can take a lot of abuse, making it a good material if you have a lot of small children. The cost of an acrylic bathtub is about in the middle of the full range of prices.
Steel bathtubs. Using steel as a material gives a more rustic impression or sometimes an industrial feel depending on the style. Steel bathtubs can be confused with the more expensive cast iron tubs which we will talk about later. They are light and easily maneuvered into place. Although the cost of the most basic model is quite low, they do have some serious disadvantages which can put them at the bottom of the list when it comes to your best choice. Primarily, a steel bathtub will chip easily because the steel will flex as it is so thin.
Secondly, steel bathtubs are noisy. The sound of moving water falling into the tub will reverberate around the house and expect a very loud clatter if you drop the scrubbing brush in a bath-shower combo.
Cast iron bathtubs. These are probably one of the most visually attractive, commercially available tubs. They are extremely durable and able to withstand a lot of knocking about because of their solid iron framework. Cast iron tubs tend to hold the heat well and in fact are probably the best on the market for keeping the water hot. You will still have hot water at the end of your bath, unlike fiberglass, steel or acrylic tubs. All of these advantages obviously come with a price and that price is high.
Marble bathtubs. These are really the top of the pile. There are in fact two versions of a cultured marble bathtub. You can either install a marble surround for your existing tub or lash out and pay for a new cultured marble bathtub. Yes, marble bathtubs are expensive but for your money, you will have one of the most elegant tubs available. In fact, an expensive and attractive bathtub will assist your home sale if you decide to sell up and move on in the future. According to real estate agency surveys, remodeled bathrooms are top of the list when it comes to selling your home.
You have now chosen the material from which you want your bathtub to be made. The next job is to choose the style. Traditionally bathtubs were fitted into a recess just large enough to hold the tub. They were usually fitted against a long wall and in a corner so that either two or three sides of the tub were enclosed. Styles have now moved on and although the traditional configuration is still very common, a more mature outlook on bathtub positioning has begun with modern styles starting to become more popular.
Recessed bathtubs. These are the classic bathtubs that are fitted so that three sides are tight against walls and only one side is visible.
Obviously, the size of the tub is limited to the size of the recess and will continue to be so as long as traditional bathrooms are not made larger. This option is less expensive than most of the other styles and they are not as visually pleasing.
Corner bathtubs. These are similar to recessed tubs but sit in the corner with two sides visible. Although you are restricted on two sides to have them straight, the other two sides can be either straight or curved to add a little bit of interest to the style. Once again the size of the tub is limited to the size of the bathroom but there is some variation available and most corner bathtubs are five feet long.
Freestanding tubs.If you choose wisely these can really be the focus of any bathroom. They are also known as ‘clawfoot’ or ‘soakers’. Photographs of remodeled bathrooms in magazines or online usually have a clawfoot as the bathtub and you will agree that they are always the focal point. These are usually much deeper than the regular tub and although they are much more expensive than a regular bathtub they are certainly worth it. You will forget all about the extra cost as soon as you relax in a soaker.
Walk-in bathtubs. Yes, you guessed it; these are tubs that you can walk in. They have a door in the side that allows access to the tub itself. When closed, the door provides a watertight seal. Often these tubs are higher than usual and come with a built-in seat. These can be used by anyone but are especially useful for those with mobility problems.
Whirlpool bathtubs. These are definitely the top of the range when it comes to bathtubs (anything more expensive and you will seem to have a mini swimming pool in your bathroom). One of these will give you a full spa experience, something like a Jacuzzi. These are fitted with multiple water jets able to massage all along your body. If you really like a long hot soak in the bath then this style is the one for you. You will require extra plumbing and electricity may need to be fitted so you can be sure that as well as the purchase price is high, the installation price will also be more than usual.
Remember that if you are fitting a larger bath or changing the location within the bathroom then you will need additional plumbing installed. Although hot and cold plumbing is easily hidden under floorboards or behind walls, drainage pipes may not be so easy to hide. There is usually just one drain outlet in your bathroom and this will not change unless you are prepared to pay big money, often as much as $1,500.
Either relocate your new tub to accommodate the drain outlet or consider running the drain from the tub along the top of the skirting boards (baseboards) and boxing them in. when altering plumbing or drain outlets always use a professional and licensed plumber who will be able to handle the complexities of altering your pipes and make sure your bathtub complies with the building codes.
While we are talking about the costs associated with plumbing it might be worth at this time just saying a few words about plumbers and the costs associated with their work.
Although some plumbers may specialize in fitting bathrooms and so call themselves ‘bath fitters’, it doesn’t alter the fact that a bath fitter must be a qualified and licensed plumber to be able to competently install according to the building codes all the plumbing needed to fit a bath.
The physical side of plumbing isn’t very difficult; it is the knowledge that is needed to ensure the plumbing is safe that is the hard part.
When contacting prospective plumbing professionals to ask about fitting your new bath, the first thing you need to find out and check is their license. You need to see proof that the plumber holds one and most states will supply a phone number you can call to verify that a certain person has a license and whether it is currently valid. After checking the license you then need to make sure that they have adequate insurance. In the case of a plumber, the insurance required is:
Although all states require a plumber to be licensed, at the time of writing only twenty-four states require them to have a journeyman certificate. That means that they have passed exams to prove their level of knowledge. Ask your prospective plumber if he is a member of a professional association and whether he is certified or has updated training through that association.
As with all professionals, some plumbers are very experienced and some are not very experienced. The type you end up with will depend on how much you are prepared to pay. A Master Plumber will be at the higher end of the price range and you really need someone like this to make sure your installation is done correctly, especially if it involved altering pipework or drainage.
Remember too that if you are having your bathroom remodeled and a new bathtub is only part of the job, you will also need to hire other trades such as an electrician, drywall professional, and a ceramic wall tiler. You will probably also need someone to install a new floor covering as well once all the remodeling work has been completed.
When you decide to have a new bathtub fitted, you will need to consider the physical limitations your bathroom might have. It is always worthwhile asking the bathtub fitter or plumber for their advice as they may have a suggestion that you had never considered possible.
The questions you need to ask yourself and, with the aid of the plumber, solve are:
We have already talked about the different styles of bath earlier on in this article but it is now that you need to seriously think about and consider the pros and cons of each type. It is no good changing your mind halfway through the installation.
Another job that a bath fitter or plumber can do is to fit a bathtub liner. This is an alternative to installing a brand new bathtub and you may like to consider it. Over time bathtubs will start to show wear and tear, or maybe you just can’t stand the Avocado color scheme when the bath was fitted way back in the 1970s. An alternative to ripping out an otherwise perfectly good tub is to have a liner installed.
Although the $2,500 cost to purchase and install the liner is quite expensive, there are many tasks which can be done by you to help the installer and maybe considerably reduce the price. Some of the tasks that need to be done as quite within the capabilities of the average DIY person such as:
By doing these unskilled tasks you will be doing some of the work that the professional would otherwise have to do before fitting the liner.
If you are having a tub liner installed, the tub will have to be cleaned properly to prevent any mold from growing in the damp area between the liner and the tub. Although the fitter is responsible for cleaning the tub prior to installation, it is worth doing it yourself as well. You don’t want mold growth and musty smells to appear after a few months and then have the liner ripped out and replaced, do you? All you do is clean the tub with a solution of three parts water to one part bleach before the fitter arrives.
If you don’t want to install a liner you can also refinish certain tubs. This is basically a method of repainting the old bath surface with a new one. Although it doesn’t sound much, to get a really good finish requires a lot of preparation work. This is probably out of the scope of this article so we won’t go into much detail at the moment but just would like to say that this method is really useful if all that is wrong with your tub is that it is stained or has a crazed finish.
Both these symptoms get worse with age so you might find this a good way of revitalizing the antique bathtub you purchased from the salvage yard or cleaning up the original tub you found in the old house when you moved in. Although you can refinish your tub as a DIY project you will probably get a better surface if you employ a professional.
Often the walls or ceramic tiles surrounding your bathtub are not very smooth and does not have a good even surface. It is at times like this when you need to install a bathtub surround. The ‘surround’ has none of the problems associated with ceramic tiles touching the bath. Grout between tiles can become black with condensation mold and require continual cleaning, whereas by fitting a surround all it needs is a quick wipe when wiping the bath after use.
Surrounds come in a variety of styles and materials, from acrylic to marble, so it can match your bathtub. Not only styles but also color can be matched to the color scheme of your existing bathroom. Luckily tub surrounds usually come as part of a kit with full instructions for those who are less experienced so making it part of your DIY list isn’t a problem. Even if you have very little experience with DIY, the surround kit is so easy that even a novice can make a good job.
As said previously, if you are using a professional to fit your new bathtub, you should discuss all the options before he starts to remove the old one and fits new plumbing.
Comfort. This is always something that the customer forgets. Bathtubs can be notoriously uncomfortable so try one out before you choose. Sit or lie down in the tub and see how comfortable the contours are. Check that the position of the fixtures is correct and decide whether you want to combine the tub with a shower.
Water heater. If you decide on a new type of tub, you might find that your water heater cannot give you enough water. Do you need an upgrade or a second water heater? A new water heater could cost you $500 to $1500 depending on the specifications. As a rule of thumb, your water heater should be able to hold enough water to fill your tub to about 2/3 of its volume. This means that for example, if your bathtub can hold 60 gallons then the water heater tank should hold about 40 gallons. Get your plumber’s advice on this.
Reinforcing the floor. Forty gallons of water is very heavy, add that onto the weight of a cast iron or marble bath and the weight of a fully grown adult and you have a very heavy load. Does your floor need reinforcing at all? Your plumber will be able to tell you so make sure you ask. If you do then you will have to hire a carpenter as well to make the alterations.
Does it look good? If style means a lot to you then you will have to consider the material and color of not only the tub but also the fixtures, tiling and whether you are having a surround or not. Once again speak to your plumber to find out what is available and feasible.
The costs to fit your bathtub will depend on many different factors.
✓ The labor cost of your plumber.
✓ The type of tub you choose.
✓ The material from which the tub is made.
✓ Does the flooring need reinforcing?
✓ What kinds of fixtures do you want?
✓ Do you need a new water heater?
✓ Are you replacing your bathtub, lining it or refinishing it?
✓ Do you need to move the tub’s location?
✓ Do you need extra plumbing or drainage pipes?
There are many costs involved with fitting bathtubs and associated tasks. The following figures are only indicative and will give you an idea of the level of costs we are talking about. Always ask advice at a showroom or from a plumber for the up-to-date prices.
|Purchase cost of bathtubs|
|Fibreglass bathtub||Less than $500|
|Acrylic bathtub||$600 to $1,000|
|Enamelled steel||$300 to $2,000|
|Cast iron bathtub||$500 to $2,500|
|Cultured marble surround||Up to $2,000|
|Cultured marble bathtub||$1,500 to $2,500|
|Cost to install a bathtub liner|
|Range||$1,500 to $4,500|
|Cost to install or replace a new bathtub|
|Typical range||$1,000 to $5,000|
|Costs to hire a plumber|
|Typical range||$180 to $450|
|Average hourly rate||$45 to $150 per hour|
|Alternative to fitting a new tub or liner|
|Refinishing your tub||$150|
There are many companies that specialize in bath fitting and also many independent plumbers who also do the same kind of work. It doesn’t matter who they are, they will all have to be licensed plumbers although the bath fitters may be more specialized than a plumbing professional.
Many bath fitting companies are franchises. This means that the main franchise business offers training to small independent contractors as well as a license to use the name of the franchise. The original franchise company may have a top rating with the Better Business Bureau, but that doesn’t mean that the individual independents do.
The small locals may be rude and offer poor quality work when compared to the main company. Don’t always take the word of the independent that they have good ratings with the BBB, ask for customer recommendations and follow them up. This will narrow down the list of prospective contractors you have. For best results get the shortlist down to about three or four.
Compare the bath fitters. You have access to the internet or else you wouldn’t be reading this so use it in your search for a bath fitter. Do some research on the candidates in your list and see if there are any negative reviews on local DIY forums.
A company you have invited in to look at the work will offer you a free quotation. If they want to charge you then show them the door. The amount of money the work will cost you will depend on the amount of work you are asking to be done. Obviously moving the position of the bath, water pipes and drain will cost a lot more than just replacing a bathtub ‘like-for-like’. You may want more up-market fixtures on your new tub such as gold-plated taps and marble statues of Roman goddesses, you can be sure that you will end up paying a premium rate for a bathroom like this, so be reasonable and appreciate the cost of things, and the amount of labour needed for a good installation.
Depending on how long the job takes to do and the cost of materials will depend on the amount of the quotation. There will be hidden extras however that you may not have thought about; permits, traveling time, a percentage on top of the material costs to cover the plumber’s time and for the privilege of using his trade account. Some of these extras will be itemized and some will be included in the hourly rate at which your job is priced.
Depending on the amount of the quotation, you may be asked to pay a deposit and other payments at certain stages through the job or you may just be asked to pay at the end on presentation of the invoice. Both these methods of asking for payment are common practice but if the ‘stage payment’ method is used make sure that you don’t pay more than half the total amount before the job is completed unless you have an agreement to pay for the materials when they arrive on site, in which case the stage payments will be for labour only.
Be wary of any companies that offer a reduction in the invoice amount if you pay cash. You might find that these companies are also the ones who ask for the full payment ‘up-front’. It is much better to pay a bit more and have a reliable company with a good service record than one who offers cut-price deals and gives you a poor quality job. If you have a good company with a contract you shouldn’t have any problems if things go wrong and problems happen during the job.
You also need to know how long the fitter expects the job to take, and when he can start work. If this is your only bathroom in the house, you won’t want it to be out of action for weeks on end. Even if the complete job takes a few days, as long as you can use the room by the end of the day then everything will be ok.
Your bath fitter will hopefully have had many years’ experience at fitting bathtubs and will have come up against many situations that require the full ingenuity of a professional tradesman to solve, so use that knowledge while it is at your disposal.
If you can involve your fitter or plumber in all the planning decisions and choosing the bathtub then you can have the benefit of their many years’ experience.
Basically what we are saying here is to do your homework, find a reliable company who has a reputation for good quality work and don’t always go for the cheapest quotation.
There is always the question of whether it is better to hire a professional to fit a bathtub or do it as a DIY project. The answer to this one is simple. At some point in the job, you will need someone who is licensed to do plumbing work so you may as well use that person as much as you can. There are however tasks to be done that you can do yourself such as:
✓ Removing tiles.
✓ Removing the bathtub.
✓ Buying the new bathtub and fixtures.
✓ Doing the alterations to the room if necessary.
However, the worst thing you can do is remove the bath and then attempt to hire a plumber only to be told that he has no vacancies for at least three months!
Using a professional for every job, you can be sure that they do the job properly. If they don’t and something happens then they will be insured for damage done if it was an accident or if it was from their negligence. It is no good trying to claim for a home flood from your home insurance company if it was your lack of experience that caused the problem.
So the answer to this question will always be to use a contractor for every job. They are insured, licensed and skilled in their chosen profession.
The bathtub is the focal point of every bathroom and it is a shame to skimp on that if you are planning a bathroom remodel. Do your homework, get a few catalogs and see what is available and for what price. See how your choice will fit in with the other ideas you have.
Choose a reputable bath fitting company or a good plumber and discuss your ideas so you can get a professional’s viewpoint. Be prepared to give in and drop what you thought was a good idea in favor of a professional’s reasons for changing the plan.
Don’t rush things and make sure you have everything sorted before you order your required tub. Once everything is ready, give your professional full access to get the work done as quickly as possible so there is the least disruption in your domestic routine, especially if you have children or teenagers who seem to need the bathroom most of their waking lives.
Get the job finished as soon as possible and get back to living your life with a new bathtub and possibly a new bathroom too.
Thank you for reading.