Need to replace one-piece fiberglass shower/tub unit

Discussion in 'Shower & bathtub Forum & Blog' started by suceress, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    I've mentioned this before when I first came to this forum. This avocado green thing is hideous and the bottom cracked under my brother's weight.

    I'm all thumbs with measuring tapes but it seems like the outside measurements were about 59.5" or so (I couldn't get an accurate measurement because I don't know the trick to get the end to hold still (I couldn't find a thicker measuring tape so the one I had was flimsy).
    The height of the tub wall on the front comes up to about 13.5". The height of the shower walls are close to 6'. From the wall to the front was about 31.5". I'm probably doing all of the measurement listings out of order.

    This is the best shot I could get of the shower (the shower head and drain are on the right behind the curtain).
    [​IMG]

    Here is the tub faucet (yes, I know the way it is sticking out and not sealed is very bad-- the whole assembly moves inside the wall).
    [​IMG]

    Here is the shower head (the reddish brown color is from the water-- we haven't installed the water softener yet; the hot water is particularly nasty).
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Here is the spot on the tub floor that cracked and my brother attempted to fix it with Flex Seal. You can see that it splattered on the wall.
    [​IMG]

    This is currently our only working bathroom.

    The doorway to get into the bathroom is 23" wide IF we take the door off. My mother would like to get a shallow tub that is easier to step into since she has problems with her legs. She wants to get a grab bar or two installed, and I think she probably wants to be able to set a shower seat or something inside at some point since her leg problems are getting worse with age.

    Can anyone recommend a good shallow tub that is sturdy enough to hold my 350lb brother (who just broke computer chair #12), that will be easy to clean with septic tank safe products, and that can have grab bars installed? We obviously can't go with a one-piece unit so I was thinking a 3 or 5 piece. My mother absolutely HATES tile. The current wall panels are wood printed with the green stripe colors. They are rather thin (but I haven't measured the thickness). This bathroom previously had carpet in it and there is no subfloor or moisture barrier. I discovered this after we replaced the carpet with linoleum and years later the floor broke and the toilet toppled over with my brother on it. A floor joist saved him from going all the way through to the ground.

    I keep hearing mentions of Sterling as a good brand. Does Sterling make shallow tubs?

    Another thing on the wish list is a bit of shelf space. We need some ledges and such to store things. Don't ask me why there are so many bottles of shampoo. I have no idea. LOL.

    Is Aquaglass a good product or is it flimsy?

    I liked a few of the designs they had, but I wish I could mix elements from some.

    This one was nice but I would still want more shelf space.
    [​IMG]

    Do these tub surrounds have to be used with a specific tub? In another bathroom, which I need to fix the floor in, I have a cast iron tub but am not happy with the cheap stuff on the walls around it.

    I did read over some threads about shower tubs and such awhile back but I can't remember where they were again. If anyone has links to those threads it would be greatly appreciated. My ISP is being a pain.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Location:
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    Generally, you want to stay with one manufacturer when you want a surround that will mate up with a particular tub for a surround. With any tub, especially fiberglass, steel, and acrylic, you need the thing properly bedded into something solid (stuctolite, mortar, gypsum can all be used) so that there is no flex in the bottom and they are set perfectly level. If that is done, the weight of the person using it is mostly irrelevant. Otherwise, the bottom will flex, and stress cracks are likely to form with eventually the thing cracking (often at the drain). What you have is a standard 60" tub. They are measured from stud-to-stud, not between the finished walls. Now, some of them are slightly less than that, and may need shims if the space was made at 60". Sorry, I don't have enough experience with various brands to make a recommendation. You will need to read the specifications carefully to determine how and if a safety grab bar(s) can be added. Most of them that have a bar in there are NOT rated as a safety grab bar, but it is intended to be used as a rod for a washcloth, or maybe a towel. To put a safety grab bar on, you'd need to first determine where you wanted one, install some solid blocking in the walls and probably add more so it was sticking out beyond the studs to account for the fairly common bowing of the surround (most only meet the studs at the top and bottom, and bow out from there - the blocking would need to be right beneath the wall so when you screwed it on, it didn't bend the wall back to the studs). As to the toilet floor, it sounds like the toilet was leaking for a long time, which rotted the floor. When you set a toilet, if it rocks, it must be shimmed rock solid, or that rocking will mush the wax seal and leave gaps.
  3. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    Thank you!
    Yeah, the tenants had a leak in the toilet and didn't tell us about it. I'm pretty sure they did something to break the wax seal. They had, for some unknown reason, torn out a lot of the plumbing and removed all of the vents. They didn't have the septic tank drained once in 9 years so I'm pretty sure the toilet overflowed more than a few times. The floor looked damaged on the surface when we had the carpet removed, but the flooring guy didn't realize that there was no subfloor. He poured some powder over it and put water on it and then put the linoleum down when it dried. We didn't know the old toilet was continuing to leak underneath until the toilet falling incident. But, it did give us an excuse to install a new toilet and we got the Toto Drake. It's probably the nicest thing in the bathroom.

    Which brands for tubs are recommended and are there any that should be avoided? I've heard Sterling is good.
    I've seen some Aquasource but don't know much about it.
  4. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    I'm not sure if you know how involved this project is, but you should understand that it is not just a matter of replacing the tub. All of the wallboard should be removed from the tub alcove so you are starting with the bare frame of the house. The drain and supply piping will need to be reworked to fit a new tub drain and a new anti-scald tub/shower valve. Depending on what walls are inside or outside walls, there should be new insulation and vapor barrier installed. Some of the prefabricated shower surrounds are installed directly to the stud walls, while others need to have a solid surface behind them, so some of the rebuild will be determined by what products you decide to use.

    You have a lot of things to think about. Depending on what quality of a tub you can afford, they come in a half-dozen different materials. Given your situation, I would suggest a standard 60" cast iron alcove tub topped with a 3-piece surround. There are a good number of both out there to choose from, and the prices can vary widely if you shop around.
  5. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    Thanks, cacher_chick. I realize that it won't be just sticking a tub in. I'm dubious about whether or not there is even a moisture barrier. I did discover-- to my displeasure-- that the people who built the place didn't even put flooring underneath some of the walls. It's just open gaps in there that snakes and mice can get through. I was thinking of using PEX, but I'm worried the mice would chew through it. I wonder how bad it would be to set mothballs between the walls...

    I'm partially considering getting a tub and putting up cement board over whatever needs to go under it, building some shelves in the corners, and having the whole thing sprayed with some sort of white glossy coating. I can't remember what its called, but it sort of looks like a glossy porcelain finish. That might be prohibitively expensive though. I'm also considering getting a tub that has a skirt that opens or no skirt so I can put something there that opens so I can check underneath for leaks and maybe store stuff.
    I was inspired by this:
    [​IMG]
    But I don't think they sell that in the US.

    I am going to have to replace part of-- if not all of the floor in the bathroom.
    Before I thought that I could just go under the house and add supports to the part of the floor that isn't supported. I do not know why my father just patched with a board that did NOT go from joist to joist-- in his defense, he was quite ill for many years so maybe his brain just wasn't working when he did it. He wasn't very happy with the job he did and now the wood putty he used to patch the holes has come free so the floor is open in spots. It's a disaster. I will have to take out the wooden piece that the toilet paper is attached to-- it serves as support for some shelves he built. I'll have to take the toilet out too.

    Speaking of the toilet, the plastic clips in the lever broke off and I had to replace it. Fortunately I have another Toto Drake waiting to be installed when I fix my bathroom floor so I took the lever from that one. I was already planning to use a different lever for the second Drake. I used Gatco 4963 Franciscan Tank Lever that is adjustible so it adapted to the angle of the side.

    It was on some discount at Lowes or HomeDepot. I can't remember which.

    The wall panels in the room are so thin they were used for the bottoms of the drawers in the vanity. I'll have to try to measure the thickness sometime.

    It's a huge project, but I wanted to try to figure out what products to go with for the build.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 3, 2014
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,802
    Location:
    New England
    The tub you show is a drop-in version without tiling flanges and would need some additional work to second as a shower. Pretty much every tub manufacturer also makes this style in both soaker, air, jetted, or air and jetted styles. With either of the latter, you need access underneath to deal with eventual maintenance on the motor/pump/heater, and it could be done with the plain soaker tub, too. The tub is not designed to hang from the platform, but be supported from below. Some of them can be ordered with tiling flanges, but if not in the configuration you want, most also offer an add-on tiling flange that must be glued to the top edge of the tub. This is another possible source of leaks, but should be fine if done properly (as with anything).
  7. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    Thanks. I don't know if I would go with that type of tub if it is more difficult to install or more expensive. I just happened to like the fact that it had storage underneath instead of wasted space. I would be fine with just a regular tub with a skirt on the front. My mother was thinking of just having a shower instead, but I wonder how much that would affect the value of the home. Plus when the power goes out, so does the water and we often have to fill the tub with water when we know a large storm is coming so we will be able to flush the toilet with buckets of the tub water.

    Someone else that I talked to mentioned Maax products as good. I'm looking them up.
  8. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    I just re-read and noticed the comment about the no-scald valve. I'm not terribly familiar with those other than knowing that a friend of mine had to get one put in her shower when her epileptic sister had a seizure and turned the cold water off and got burned by hot water.

    Would that change the number of levers I would have to turn or would it just make it so the water could not get over a certain temperature.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    On the anti-scald..there are two different scenarios.
    1) On older buildings, when someone flushes a toilet while the shower is in use, the drop in cold water pressure can cause the temp in the shower to jump up. That is what the pressure balanced "anti-scald" valves protect against.
    2) The situation you described is different....an elderly, very young, or incapacitated person accidentally turns off the COLD water, thus causing the scald. Most modern shower valves have an adjustable mechanical temperature limit stop so that the shower cannot be turned up hotter than say 105, or whatever temp you select.


    In both cases we are talking SINGLE HANDLE shower valves. There may be some two handle arrangements, but I have not seen any recently.
  10. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    Ahh! Ok. Thank you for explaining that. Yeah, the water does get hot if someone flushes a toilet or runs other water. It will be nice not to have that. My mother already bought a 2 handle faucet thing for the tub, but she may be able to return it since it hasn't been taken out of the box.
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,802
    Location:
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    Generally, code requires updates if you replace the valve...only if you repair the old one is it legal to leave one in not meeting today's requirements. There are two knob pressure balanced valves, but they tend to be concentric. I put one in my mother's house. Personally, I like thermostatically controlled valves, but they are more expensive. Those also have two knobs - one for temp control, one for volume control. The basic pressure balanced valve does not have volume control...it's either all on or all off.
  12. suceress

    suceress New Member

    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    LA
    Thank you. I had no idea about those different types of valves. Currently with my two handled old system I turn the hot water on until it actually gets hot (which can take a few minutes) and then turn the cold water on to counter the heat to get it to the temperature I want and I can adjust how much comes out and how warm the water is that way. It's not the most efficient system, but I like being able to control the pressure and the temperature.

    I'm leaning toward a Sterling tub made of Vikrel (sp?) that I saw on Home Depot. It's not any shallower than the tub I have now, but I haven't seen any tubs that are shallower so I will have to think of something to make it easier for my mother to get in and out of the tub. She has trouble with stepping up for some reason, and really has a tough time with taller steps. I'm pondering getting something to lay across the tub edges that will allow her to sit and scoot and then have a grab bar for her to stand up, but I think she would also like to sit while in the shower. If she's sitting it isn't as hard for her to lift her legs. We tried using a suction cup grab bar but it just kept sliding and falling off and was ultimately useless.

    Here is a rough sketch of the bathroom. I suck at proportions and such so this is not to scale. The light colored outline above the toilet and along the wall represents a shelf system that is above the toilet and there is a section that comes down where the toilet paper holder is attached.
    [​IMG]
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,802
    Location:
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    When replacing the tub, I highly recommend you install two safety grab bars: one vertically near the edge she can hold onto while getting into and out of the tub, and a second one, horizontal on the long wall in case she needs to steady herself while in the tub or shower while standing. Avoid bars at an angle...older people rarely have the hand strength to grasp a wet, slanted bar tight enough to prevent them from sliding along it. I did this for my 85-year old mother recently after a hospital stay made her balance and strength become a concern. On a typical surround, the only way to make those sturdy enough is to install solid blocking behind the panels so you have something strong enough to anchor it to. To meet ADA requirements, it must be able to hold at least 300#, and you won't get that with just a plastic panel without help! If the stud-to-stud distance really is 59.5" and not 60", you may need to move the closet wall, or be very careful about what you select...they are designed for a 60" space, but often are slightly smaller to allow them to be slid into place.
  14. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    If I was in your shoes, I would forget the tub and install the 60" Sterling shower with the removable seat.

    Vickrel is a type of acrylic, and it needs to be installed in a mortar bed to make for a solid installation.
  15. suceress

    suceress New Member

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    153
    Location:
    LA
    Thanks, Jadnashua. I was thinking two grab bars would be necessary. Since my brother weighs over 300lbs, I would want one rated for more than that just in case he tries to grab on. It's going to be fun finding the right sized ones. I had anticipated needing to have some sort of extra support in the walls for the grab bars. I know that whatever they are attached to will need to be anchored very securely.
    I imagine it would not be a good idea to notch out half an inch or so of the studs where the tub/surround would go, but I don't know. The closet has a few shelves but is sort of a dark pit where linens and towels are stored. I almost want to cut a hole in the wall and have an access panel to the back of the closet from inside the bathroom so people can get to towels and such.

    cacher_chick, Thank you. It is something to consider. I know that the Vikrel is acrylic, but I wasn't aware that it would require a mortar bed. Someone from Home Depot gave me a phone number to call and said that if I purchased the materials from Home Depot they could arrange to have an installer come out and give an estimate and figure out exactly what I would need. Now, I've heard some complaints about the people Home Depot hired for other types of work, so I don't know if whoever they would bring in would be reliable or not.

    I wonder how much it would change the value of the home to have a shower instead of a bath in that room. The house came with two bathrooms with shower/tubs and one tiny bathroom with a shower (which doesn't work after whatever the tenants did to it). The toilet in that tiny bathroom is crammed between the wall to the exterior of the house and a shower with wall panel on the side. It's so small that my mother and brother can't even sit on the toilet and I can barely fit if I scrunch myself up. It's possible my mother might be able to sit on the toilet but she wouldn't be able to move her arms at all and would probably have to keep them out in front of her. That thing is begging to be gutted and redone, but the budget needs to be spent on essential things first.
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
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    FWIW, today's code requires the toilet space to be at least 30" wide, and at least 15" to either side of the toilet centerline. That can be tight, but if it's at least that side-to-side clearance, it does meet today's code.
  17. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    [​IMG]

    Sterling makes some kits for retrofit that I've installed.

    [​IMG]

    They come in four pieces, the tub and three wall sections that snap together. The only thing left is to drywall over the nailing flange when done.
  18. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple I love these ACO Shower Drains - Best in Class

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    One thing to remember here while you worry about this is that your brother most likely does not have the strength to hold his entire weight with one hand. The odds are low that the bar would ever be placed under that kind of strain.

    JW
  19. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple I love these ACO Shower Drains - Best in Class

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    Just a L-Bead or J-Channel Terry over that flange?
  20. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    I try to stay out of the dry waller's way when I can.
    If it were me doing drywall, I would mud and texture right to it. But then I'm mainly plumbing em.

    I look at it two ways, those like like to use a kit and wall around them, and those that like to set a standard tub and backerboard around and then solid surface over that. That option lets you cover more mistakes and sometimes covers so well that you can skip doing drywall and painting.
    But Sterling does make a nice kit.
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