Skip to main content

Have an old bathtub that’s seen better days? Is it cracked, stained, or just worn out from years of use? No one blames you for wanting a fresh new tub – nobody wants to soak in one that looks like it belongs in a grimy unused bathroom. But replacing a tub can get pricey, so you’ll want to know what to expect cost-wise before calling in a plumber. Don’t stress, though – replacing a tub is a common job for any good plumber. You just have to figure out what and how much you are willing to pay.

Estimating Labor Costs

Labor fees from your plumber will likely make up the bulk of the project costs. This is because tub replacements, while common, still require great skill and muscle from a licensed pro. Most plumbers will charge an hourly rate for their work. Estimated rates tend to range between $75-$150 per hour depending on the plumber’s experience and reputation. But prices can vary more in expensive cities.

Time Duration For The Job

A very basic drop-in tub replacement for an existing location usually requires 2-4 hours of labor. This means the new tub just slides right into the existing cutout. If your old tub needs to be fully demolished out of the wall space first, plan on adding 1-2 hours for the removal process. Thorough clean-up after is also important. Then, 2-4 hours for the plumber to carefully measure, install, and seal the new tub unit. Making all the fittings and connections takes time to do properly. The bottom line is most plumbers expect a standard tub job to take half a day to a full workday of labor. From there, you can use their hourly rate to estimate the labor portion of the final bill.

Additional Labor Fees

On top of the standard labor estimates, there are a couple of extra tasks that could add to your plumber’s time (and your costs).

Demo And Removal

If your tub is really stubbornly stuck in there, getting it out intact could take some muscle. Plan for an extra 1-2 hours of labor time for careful demolition and debris carting. Power tools make it quicker but might damage other surfaces.

Custom Finishing

Does the new tub need nice matching wall tiles? Repairs to walls or flooring? Consider any cosmetic useful parts that involve additional skills. Installing tiles, patching, painting, etc., usually each adds around 1 hour per task. A fully custom finish job might take 4+ extra labor hours.

Complex Plumbing Upgrades

While replacing a like-for-like tub is straightforward, overhauling the drainage pipes or adding new supply lines increases effort. Expect 1+ extra hours for major drain or water supply changes beyond basic connections. It’s worth asking your plumber for their view on any necessary upgrades, too.

Factors Affecting Labor Costs

Even for a similar-looking job, every tub replacement has unique challenges that impact a plumber’s time and effort. A few factors that may increase labor costs include:

  1. Age And Condition Of The Surroundings: An old tub embedded in a 100-year-old small bathroom will take more delicate demolition compared to a newer large walk-in shower. Existing wall and floor damage adds complexity.
  2. Type Of New Tub: While basic drop-in models are simplest, soaking tubs, corner units, and extra-large jacuzzi tubs mean more custom fitting and adjustments in a space.
  3. Access And Layout: Is the tub in a basement or a tight upstairs nook? Trickier spaces mean more time spent maneuvering materials and tools ergonomically.
  4. Number Of Plumbing Connections: Additional showerheads, knobs, or body sprays to install expand the project scope from a barebones tub.
  5. Permits And Inspections: Some municipalities require plumbing permits, which factor into admin time from the plumber. Inspections can also lead to minor modifications.

Plumbers know how to smoothly work through inevitable adjustments. But be upfront about your project context so they can accurately budget time for any unique wrinkles that may arise at your home.

Material Costs

In addition to the plumber’s labor fees, you’ll also be paying for the materials needed to complete the job. The good news is tub materials themselves are relatively affordable.

  1. Basic Tub Units: Expect to spend an estimate of $100-$500 for a standard tub kit, depending on the size and material. Fiberglass tubs tend to be the most inexpensive while soaking tubs or jetted units run higher.
  2. Complete Package: Look for sales or cheaper options on big box home improvement sites. Tubs sold as bathroom “packages” with faucets are already included, providing a bundle discount, too.
  3. Additional Parts: Figure around an estimate of $50-150 each for essentials like the new tub drain and faucet assembly. Make sure to buy high-quality brands your plumber recommends for durable fittings.
  4. Supply Lines & Valves: Replacing old piping adds around $30-50 per supply line. New angle-stop valves run $15-30 each, depending on style. It’s wise to swap out anything 20+ years old.
  5. Accessories: Options like tub stops, overflow covers, rim kits, cushions, etc., range from an estimate of $10-100 each, depending on materials and any special features. Stick to simple/inexpensive upgrades.

Usually, a basic tub job only needs the tub, drain, faucet, and supply lines. But it’s good to budget an extra $100-300 just in case small extra parts are needed.

Total Cost Estimate Range

Basic Drop-In Tub Replacement

  • Labor Estimate of 2-4 hours at $75-150/hour can be 150-600
  • Basic Tub Unit Estimate can be $100-300
  • Additional Parts Estimate can be $50-150
  • Total Estimate can be $500-1000

More Involved Installations

  • Estimate labor for custom finishing or component changes for 4-8 extra hours = $300-1200
  • Estimate higher-end soaking tub or jetted unit for $300-500
  • Estimate Project total could be $1000-2500

Keep in mind that costs may run lower if you opt for simpler fixtures or take on some DIY-friendly finishing work yourself. And small bathroom remodels always carry risks of unexpected wiring or structural issues that bump up the price.

Some Handy Tips

Installing a Heat Pump for the Bathroom

When replacing an old bathtub provides an opportunity to add a dedicated heating and cooling solution for improved comfort in the bathroom. A mini-split heat pump system is well-suited for this application. The compact indoor wall unit can be installed above the new tub, requiring only a small hole for the refrigerant piping. This allows precise temperature control isolated to just the bathroom space.

Coordinating the heat pump installation during the tub replacement project delivers cost savings. With the bathroom walls already opened up, running the refrigerant lines through the cavities is minimally invasive.

This avoids future costs if the lines need to be cut into finished walls later. What’s more, coordinating the work with plumbers allows taking advantage of existing scaffolding and permits. The HVAC contractor can bundle their pricing when partnering with the plumbing work already underway.

Do Some Home Work

Do some shopping yourself – Look for deals on tub kits, faucets, and other fixtures online or at home stores. Buy high-quality brands your plumber recommends. This helps cut costs versus having them supply everything.

  1. Consider DIY For Simple Jobs: If it’s just a basic drop-in replacement, you may save on labor by handling unskilled tasks yourself, like demolition, tub installation, and finishing. Just be sure your work will pass inspection.
  2. Get Multiple Quotes: Get estimates from 3 local plumbers to compare prices. Make sure to specify the full scope of work, so estimates are apples-to-apples. Reputable plumbers will not automatically pick the lowest bidder.
  3. Use Coupon Codes And Cash Back Offers: Sites like Home Depot often have coupons for fixtures that add up. Consider cash-back rewards programs, too, for your material purchase. Every little bit helps lower expenses.
  4. Spread Payments: See if your plumber offers financing, wants a partial deposit up front, and can break larger jobs into progress payments. Manage cash flow more easily this way.
  5. Tackle Small Upgrades Yourself: Painting, caulking, and light fixture swaps are relatively easy DIY tasks. Let your plumber focus on demanding plumbing work for better value.


Replacing a worn-out bathtub is an investment that can completely transform your bathroom’s look and functionality. By understanding typical project costs upfront, you’ll feel prepared to contact local plumbers for custom quotes. With some care taken to balance quality materials with affordable pricing options, most homeowners can bring their vision for a relaxing new soaking space to life within their budget.

Leave a Reply