Renovation & Design

Narrow doorway a challenge for new tub

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

After removing the door and jamb, the opening was notched on both sides, which allowed the new tub to fit in the bathroom.

The 40-inch-high walk-in soaker tub is nestled within the original tub cavity.

The entryway appears untouched following completion of the project.

During these unprecedented times, steps have been taken to limit contact within the renovation industry. Face-to-face interactions with suppliers have diminished, replaced by email and telephone orders. Many of the job quotes generated recently are based on photos and dimensions supplied by the homeowner. Although this seems to have worked in most scenarios, crucial aspects of a project can be overlooked — this happened to me recently during my second of two walk-in tub installations.

Having recently found out that her good friend had scheduled a walk-in tub installation, a second client decided to install the very same tub in her home. As such, the bathroom dimensions were forwarded to me via email, along with several photos of the existing tub layout. With the information provided, an estimate was generated based on the anticipated list of tasks required to complete the project. My client accepted the quote, and a job agreement was created. My second walk-in tub installation project was promptly scheduled.

Shortly before the job was set to begin, a current jobsite in proximity of this impending walk-in tub project allowed me to visit briefly. Upon entering the home, and as my client led me down the hallway to the bathroom, it quickly became apparent there indeed was one major aspect of the job that had been overlooked — the size of the bathroom entry door.

Unlike a standard tub, a walk-in tub is taller than it is wide, thereby causing an issue when negotiating a narrow doorway. A standard tub can be maneuvered through a narrow doorway by lifting it onto its side, then tilting it back to level once through the door. Although the 52-inch long walk-in tub that was purchased adequately fits within the old tub’s cavity footprint of 60-inches long by 30-inches wide, the height of the new tub surpasses 40 inches, preventing the tilt and slide through a narrow doorway. It was now time to figure out how a 30-inch-wide tub could pass through a 24-inch-wide doorway, as well as bypass the 36-inch-high, built-in vanity on the opposite side of the bathroom that would further impede the passing of a 30-inch-wide tub.

This crucial detail was missed because the quote had been achieved in absentia — my bad, and lesson learned. Despite the hurdle, a solid solution would soon reveal itself.

Once the walk-in tub was on site, it was unpackaged and examined closely to best determine how it would get through the door with as little destruction to the hallway as possible. The old cast iron tub was first removed, and the tub cavity was prepped. Throughout these initial prep steps, my I often gazed towards the doorway, pondering the best way to accomplish getting this new tub into the room. After taking careful measurements, if was the profile of the new tub itself that provided the best solution to the problem.

The fibreglass soaker tub by Carefree Bathing is constructed using a sturdy steel frame. The front face of the tub that reveals the inward opening door, is a full 30 inches to the backside of the tub-top’s edge. However, the steel frame beneath at the unfinished backside is inset by two inches. And in this instance, these two inches were huge! My plan of attack was formulated, and the process could begin.

By first removing the 24-inch bathroom door and jamb, the exposed rough opening allowed for roughly 26 inches in width. And since the built-in vanity front is in line with the rough opening, it was necessary to widen an area above the countertop. The tub could then be hoisted up, to pass through the opening. To gain another three inches, the doubled stud on the vanity side, along with the plaster on front and back of the walls, was removed to a height of 42 inches above the vanity top. Luckily, this did not affect any of the existing wiring for the bathroom light switch located in the hall, nor the exhaust fan timer in the bathroom. With this step completed, the opening was now 29-inches.

You may recall how important the two-inch inset of the steel frame beneath the back edge of the tub top would be in during this process. Rather than having to remove the entire stud of the opposite side of the rough opening, only a four-inch notch was required to allow the passage of the tub-top’s back edge through the doorway, providing the 30.5 inches required for the 30-inch tub-top. With the profile of the tub now cut into the walls, the walk-in tub was carefully lifted and slowly maneuvered into the bathroom space until the entire tub and frame passed the doorway. Once in the room, the tub was lowered askew onto the floor, to miss the front edge of the toilet. With the new tub resting safely on the floor, it was then carefully positioned into the tub cavity for plumbing tie-in, awaiting the final steps to complete to aesthetics.

As promised, assurances were made to the homeowner that despite having to cut into her walls to get the new tub in, the doorway would look the same as it always had once the job was done. Once the bathroom space was completed, the rough frame was re-established before new drywall filled all the created gaps. After a few coats of mud and a couple of coats of paint, the jamb and door were hung. The original casings were mounted and given a fresh coat of trim paint. And just like that, the entryway appears to have never been touched, despite getting a 30-inch tub through a 24-inch door.

Just like magic!


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