Tipping the scale at over 300 pounds, a cast iron bath tub can be one of the hardest fixtures to remove in your house. What’s more, most older homes in San Francisco have the tub set into a 3-walled nook, with only a ½ inch of separation between the tub and the walls. Good luck trying to wrestle this iron monster out of your bathroom by yourself. Would you like to know how the pros do it?
The secret to removing a cast iron tub with ease is to break it into small, manageable pieces with a sledge hammer.
Here’s what you’ll need:
-Heavy Duty Gloves
-Pipe Wrench (or a Sawzall)
Here’s how you’ll do it (in less than 30 minutes time):
1. Detach the drain from the tub. There’s no simple way to do this, but it helps to have access to the drain from below the tub. If you have said access, you can use your pipe wrench to disassemble the waste-overflow line. Unfortunately, the usual situation involves all of the pipes being rusted and/or solidified together beyond reason, and this is when you have the option to get quick-and-crazy by cutting through the line with a Sawzall.
Most times, you will not have access to the waste-overflow line, so like a pro, you will need to break apart the tub to gain admittance to its pipes. If this is the case, proceed to step 2, and come back to this step when you have broken enough tub to detach it from the waste line. Remember that the quicker you detach the tub from the line, the less chance you will have of unnecessarily damaging the reusable house pipes that are attached to the disposable tub pipes.
2. Cover the area of the tub you will be smacking with the tarp. The shrapnel that will fly off of the tub with each hammer smack is extremely sharp, so DO NOT attempt this project without proper safety gear. If placed correctly, the tarp will prevent most of the debris from flying off of the tub, and your long sleeves and safety gear will stop the rest. The tarp will probably tear, and it might even have to be thrown away, but your skin is more valuable than your tarp.
3. Swing Away! A strong person with a big sledge hammer will be able to crack the area of the tub they are hitting with two or three hits. The tub is extremely strong, but it is also brittle, and once it cracks it will begin to break apart easier. Start hammering in the middle of the cast iron bad boy, and aim for the walls of it rather than the top of it (horizontal-to-the-floor swings instead of the stereotypical vertical chops) . Lift up the tarp intermittently to see where you have made the most damage, and work your way down to the inside floor of the tub from your initial damage point. The hardest part to break will be the ledge around the tub, but even this area becomes weak when the material around it is gone. Your goal should be to break the tub into three-to-five manageable pieces. Keep making cracks where you want it to split and radiate your demolition from the initial cracks until the thing is cracked all the way through.
Dispose of the debris. Now that you have successfully turned 300 pounds of tub into little, tiny, 75-pound pieces, you can pick up the debris and remove it from your bathroom. There will also be a lot of tiny remnants of tub left over from your feat of strength to sweep up, but once you do this you are finished! Congratulations; you have just single-handedly removed a tub that probably took two or three men to install. Catch your breath, pat yourself on the back, and have a cold diet soda.
Note From Tyson:
After removing dozens of cast iron tubs, I can confidently say that the biggest downside of sledgehammering a bathtub is the damage that occurs in adjacent rooms. Assuming that your tub is nestled against the walls of your bathroom in an aforementioned “nook”, the walls will shake when you sledge the wrath of God into the side of your tub. To limit the damage of your demo, take everything off of the walls adjacent to your bathroom (imagine that a tiny earthquake is about to take place), and try as best as you can to swing away from the walls as you smash the tub. No matter how much preparation you do, you will probably see a couple of popped drywall nails in the rooms next door, but remind yourself that this easily repairable wall damage is insignificant compared to the wall damage (and more importantly, back damage) you will cause if you try to pull a fully-intact cast iron tub out of your house.