Can I put a bathtub in my shower?
July 19, 2011 1:59 PM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I moved into an amazing apartment which has everything we wanted...except a bathtub. The shower is porn-worthy: 2 shower heads, a big window looking over the city, and even a fully-tiled cubby with a step up...and it's 6 feet by 5 feet. The cubby is about 3 feet by 2 feet.

We were going to buy something like a Japanese sitting tub for that cubby, but a friend got us paranoid when he said the floor might not be able to hold the weight, and maybe that was why the landlords never put a tub in.

We don't want to ask the landlords for a couple reasons: they're really old and worry about everything; and if they say no, then we would definitely be in the wrong. :P

Do we realistically have to worry about the weight? Is there a way to check it?
posted by bikergirl to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A cubic foot of water weighs 62 pounds. A 3x2x3 cubby would be 18 cubic feet? So that would weigh 1116 pounds? plus whatever you weigh.

Seems heavy.
posted by ian1977 at 2:03 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ultimately, that decision needs to be left to the landlords, since it's their property. If you're not willing to talk to them about it, I'm afraid you probably won't be able to put a tub in.
posted by katypickle at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

We don't want to ask the landlords …

for something like this, you'd better ask permission from the landlords. it's their property, not yours.
posted by violetk at 2:07 PM on July 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

if they say no, then we would definitely be in the wrong.

Where "being in the wrong" = "being in the apartment below you," you must get approval.
posted by Etrigan at 2:08 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Here is a similar post on a DIY forum about a 700lb aquarium. The consensus there seems to be no.
posted by ian1977 at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2011

This is a huge alteration to a property you don't own.

Don't do anything without the landlord's permission. Just don't.
posted by anastasiav at 2:17 PM on July 19, 2011

Not asking the landlords = being in the wrong. Their ages are irrelevant.

Worst case scenario: you don't tell the landlords, you put a tub in, the tub overflows, you cause a lot of damage. You violate your lease and your renter's insurance doesn't cover all (or any) of the damage. You're out a lot of dough, will need to find a new place to live...and still don't have a tub.

tl;dr: talk to your landlords.
posted by pecanpies at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2011

Er...tub overflows = tub cracks, breaks, etc. due to excess weight. You still get my drift.
posted by pecanpies at 2:20 PM on July 19, 2011

Oh man. Once upon a time, we put a bathtub in the second floor. We were REAL HAPPY that we had someone smart do it, who reinforced the floors, put beams across, the whole nine yards. The hell I want a bathtub for if it ends up on the floor below, you know?

(In short, our answer to "should you worry" is YES, VERY MUCH.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:21 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The worst case scenario is that the floor collapses. Water is very heavy. (A cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:22 PM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

We don't want to ask the landlords for a couple reasons: they're really old and worry about everything

It should not matter to you how old they are or how much they do or do not worry about things. Maybe they've had too many tenants who do crazy things without asking. ASK. And if they say no, live with it and when your lease is up, move someplace with a tub.
posted by iconomy at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Don't put a bathtub in, for all the reasons listed above, and use that money for nights or weekends away at great hotels/B&Bs/spas with luxurious baths.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:56 PM on July 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

A legit, responsible builder would check into the structural situation in the bathroom before putting in something as massive as a japanese sitting tub. Since fitting a tub will mean installing plumbing, they should have to pull permits for the work. Additionally, the completed work should be inspected to make sure it's up to code. At some point in this process, it's likely to come up that you are not the owner. All kinds of unpleasant things could happen; most of them have already been mentioned.

The reason your landlords worry about things is because of tenants who do stuff like this. Don't be one of those tenants.
posted by dubold at 3:00 PM on July 19, 2011

"We don't want to ask the landlords for a couple reasons: . . . if they say no, then we would definitely be in the wrong."

So you know you are doing something of dubious merit and are hoping for plausible deniability, but since you know you are doing something shady, you don't actually have plausible deniability. Thus, you are in the wrong unless and until you get explicit permission from the landlords.

Or, really, just put yourself in their shoes.
posted by oddman at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2011

Um, what everyone above said, plus this: maybe there's a reason there's no bathtub there? Not worth it. You're not going to live there forever.
posted by brownrd at 3:10 PM on July 19, 2011

Thanks for all the responses.

To talk to some of the points:
-we won't be moving out for probably 10+ years - it's San Francisco, we have rent control and we got in at a great price, and it really has everything we want (save a tub :)
-someone said "don't do anything without the landlord's permission" - I agree that this is a big thing, but here in SF, most people do things like minor repairs themselves. We even reinstalled a door they had removed.
-someone else mentioned "if the tub overflows" - it's IN the it will drain into the shower drain. I was asking about *weight*.
-they are not professional landlords. They used to live in our flat and now rent it to us, so no, they never had tenants do crazy things.
-regarding installing plumbing - we were just going to take one of the hoses from the shower and put a spare hose on it to the tub. Again, I'm asking about weight, not something more complicated that would mean new plumbing and such.

We actually considered just a trough that would overflow into the shower drain. Really, it's IN the shower.

I appreciate the responses that talk about weight and less appreciate the ones lecturing me on being a good tenant. If there is a reasonable worry about weight, I won't do it.
posted by bikergirl at 3:13 PM on July 19, 2011

There is a reasonable worry about weight, one that could be at least partially alleviated by talking to the landlords.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2011

Do we realistically have to worry about the weight? Is there a way to check it?

Yes to both.

Talk to a structural engineer; they'd need to look at the beams, which might involve getting into the floor. If the bathroom is tiled, it might be easier to come in from underneath to see what's going on.
posted by dubold at 3:19 PM on July 19, 2011

Why don't you just go ask the landlords if you can bring an engineer or at least a housing inspector in to check it out? There really isn't a way anybody here can tell you if your particular dwelling is going to manage this or not, and from the sounds of it your landlords are unlikely to actually know the answer themselves. I once had an interesting conversation about the feasibility of putting a birthing tub in my living room with a housing inspector; my guess is that your box bathtub idea is probably do-able, but...yeah, talk to somebody who knows WTF with regards to your particular structure.
posted by kmennie at 3:43 PM on July 19, 2011

Wait, you're talking about just setting a bathtub *in* the shower? Like a clawfoot tub? This sounds like all kinds of badness waiting to happen. The weight of the tub, let alone a tub full of water and human, will most likely crack and crush the tiles on the shower floor. If the floor isn't tile and is fiberglass insead, the tub feet would easily punch through the fiberglass, or warp a porcelain/steel showerpan. If you're planning on draining the tub just by opening the hole and letting it drain onto the shower floor into the shower's drain... do you have a good solid plan for frequent, thorough, cleaning of the floor under the tub? Mold and mildew (and hard water deposits/residue) will be serious concerns because of the moisture left behind. Don't get me wrong... I love my bathtub and advocate the Advancement of Bathtubs in America & all... but I strongly believe a good discussion with a qualified licensed building contractor is in order.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 4:02 PM on July 19, 2011

You cannot draw an equivalency of reinstalling a door and minor repairs done by others in San Francisco with installing a tub. And because you are in San Francisco this level of renovation is mighty expensive which your rent controlled amount may not make up. Take the adice above and bring in engineers at your expense (it is your idea, after all) and see if it is even feasible. If it is feasible and the owners or board are fine with it then start negotiating on who pays for this. You need to sell it as feasible and worthwhile. Also, you will need the buy in of your downstairs neighbors for an extensive remodel.
posted by jadepearl at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2011

Reading closer, yes, the weight will be a definite stress on your building dependent on age. I am familar with the issues because I went through a house remodel and the weight of the tub and water was an issue with the structural engineer and contractor. Even a small cedar tub got me some stink eye due to weight constraints.
posted by jadepearl at 5:25 PM on July 19, 2011

I think you are getting a lot of negative responses here because you specifically are using the word "bathtub" and people have different ideas about what that means. If you do talk to the landlords and don't want to freak them out, you could substitute "bathtub" for something equivalent in weight. E.g. mention thinking about putting a large aquarium, or heavy washing machine or something in the bathroom, and ask whether they'd mind you getting an engineer's report on whether the floor would hold it. Make sure you are really talking about equivalent weights, though.

But I agree if you were thinking about changing the plumbing, or building anything in place you would need the landlord's permission. It is irrelevant that you PLAN to stay 10+ years. The landlords might sell the place, or otherwise revoke your lease at some point (I assume you don't have a lease that is specifically for 10 years or longer?).
posted by lollusc at 5:29 PM on July 19, 2011

Rent controlled or not, 10-year plan or not, this is almost certainly going to require pulling permits, which requires the input of the owners, not the tenants. Talk to your landlords. If you foot the bill for all of it, from pre-installation on, they might say yes.
posted by rtha at 6:33 PM on July 19, 2011

I would think that you could

1. talk to a contractor who will look into the structural issues
2. if he says it can be done, approach the landlords for their OK
3. point out that this will keep you there long-term, and will enhance rentability in the future

I think you were looking for positive approaches. I think this is one.
posted by yclipse at 8:35 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Speaking as a former landlord, this is why.
posted by theora55 at 6:51 AM on July 20, 2011

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