Cast-iron tub to shower; convert or replace?
May 30, 2019 7:09 AM   Subscribe

A beloved aging parent can no longer safely step over the edge of the tub for a shower. I've found conversion options here and here that cut out a section of the tub to create a walk-in shower. Is this really reliable in a mid-century cast-iron (not claw-foot) tub? Is it better to have it taken out and replaced with a walk-in shower?
posted by conscious matter to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No experience with such conversions, but some experience working with cast iron. If someone asked me whether they should attempt to DIY that kind of installation, I'd tell them that if they have to ask, they shouldn't try it. Which means maaaaybeee it could be a solution if done by a pro. But it would be an inelegant and short-term solution that would necessitate eventual replacement of the tub anyhow.

If I could afford to just put in a shower, that's definitely what I'd do.
posted by jon1270 at 7:30 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Making a couple of assumptions here...

- parent is probably not going to improve/regain the ability to step into tub...?
- house will be sold or significantly remodeled when the time comes...

I would recommend removing the tub and either perform a bathroom make-over or, if you just want to address the tub issue, replace it with one of the multi-piece shower kits. Be sure the shower installed either has a built-in seat or enough room to use a shower seat. Also pay attention to your shower "equipment"; a shower wand is a wonderful thing, just make sure the hose is long enough for ease of use.

Also consider installing grab bars around the bathroom, not just in the shower. Whoever installs the shower kit can make sure to put suffice wall bracing behind it so grab bars can be installed. When doing this, it helps to step through the bathing process, actually putting your hands where a bar will be helpful; and you'll probably like more bars than less...

Sorry for the length of the reply but have done this with family members in the past few years.

Good luck! :)

posted by sandpine at 7:36 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't try DIY cutting through cast iron. You'll end up breaching the enamel coating, which will invite rust. And, there's the worry that it might leak, no matter how much you expect it not to.

Also, seconding the above suggestion that you look at bathroom use as a holistic activity, and provide support every step of the way. Seats (not too low), assist bars, etc. Also think of the future. What other assistance will become necessary?

I don't think that you necessarily have to remodel the whole bathroom; I'd have to see it to be sure. But, replacing the tub looks like your safest option, on multiple levels.
posted by Citrus at 7:45 AM on May 30, 2019

I have cared for someone who could no longer step into a tub and agree with those who say that you should replace it with a walk in shower with a grab bar and a sturdy shower stool, plus a hand shower. It will make a huge difference in their quality of life in the longer term. If this is not immediately practical, you can find bench tops intended to go over tubs that make it easier to get in and out as one can just sit on them and swivel around. Look at websites in your country that specialise in mobility aids and elder care.
posted by tavegyl at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do this as DIY, now would I trust any business who said it could be done. Cutting cast iron would generate a lot of heat and vibration and the porcelain coating would be a mess.

Large shower with room for a shower bench, and a couple of grab bars. Every senior living place I've visited has a hand held sprayer in the shower, in case the resident will need to be bathed by someone else. I like this feature and plan to implement it in my bathroom.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nthing that this isn't something I'd do DIY. Even if it wasn't cast iron, if you make a mistake doing the cutout, then not only do you need to pay to replace the tub, you've paid for a conversion kit that you can't use anymore.
posted by Aleyn at 1:30 PM on May 30, 2019

Thanks Mefites, every answer was the best one.

DIY was never an option and a hand shower is a given. I'll consult with family more immediately involved and strongly suggest we pay a pro to yank the old tub and install a shower with handholds everywhere.
posted by conscious matter at 1:44 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I read the question, really but then assumed that DIY was under consideration, when it's Not In The Question. Sorry about that.
posted by theora55 at 5:20 PM on May 30, 2019

Just to chime in, when I was 53 I managed to fall in our cast iron tub (two weeks before we were having it removed in favor of a walk-in shower). Turns out ribs are not nearly as durable as cast iron. The thing I learned several years later when my wife had a bad broken leg was that the two-or-three-inch lip we put was really an obstacle. So you might want to have a completely flat transition into the shower to support eventual use of some kind of assistive device. Not sure if that will ever apply in their case or not, but wanted to mention it.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:31 PM on May 30, 2019

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