How to Install a Bathtub

Man placing bathtub into bathroom alcove.

Installing a bathtub is easy. Here’s one way to do it. Skip to the end to watch the video.

Step 1 – Cut a Drain Hole

On a level subfloor cut a hole to accommodate the bathtub drain assembly.

Step 2 – Dry Fit Drain Assembly

Measure, cut, and then dry fit the drain assembly. It’s best to use the same materials, e.g. ABS, PVC, or Brass when possible. Also try to run the overflow drain straight down as indicated by the arrow above.

Here I had to route around a floor joist. The flexible 90° elbow gave me more clearance than a plastic or brass 90°. And no store had the street tee I needed in PVC so I adapted this ABS with ABS to PVC transition cement.

Step 3 – Install Drain Assembly

3.1 – Install Overflow

Install the overflow drain according to manufacturer instructions. For this Kohler Archer acrylic tub they want silicon between the rubber gasket and the tub. Then the overflow is secured to the tub-side with a provided metal flange and screws.

3.2 – Install Tub Drain

Install the bathtub drain according to manufacturer instructions. Here again they want silicone on the rubber gasket between the drain elbow and the bottom of the tub.

They also want plumbers putty under the drain flange. Some say plumbers putty will stain an acrylic tub. Others, like me, say go with whatever the manufacturer says. They made the tub and will only warranty work done to their specifications.

Screw the drain flange into the drain elbow using needle nose pliers or a drain wrench.

At this point do not tighten all the way.

3.3 – Connect Overflow to Drain

Finish the overflow to drain connection. Join ABS with ABS cement. Join PVC with PVC primer and glue.

Give the drain flange a final tighten using a screw driver for leverage.


Step 5 – Dry Set Tub

Dry set the tub to make sure it sits level.

This particular tub was not sitting level on my level subfloor. There are a couple of fixes for this: One is to use plastic or wood shims and construction adhesive.

Another fix is to set the tub into a mortar mix, which is a mixture of sand and cement. This is a good idea even of the bathtub is level because it helps prevent creaks and gives the tub a solid feel under foot.

Step 6 – Mortar Mix

Most any mortar mix will do, e.g. s type mortar, mud bed mortar, etc. Don’t use a fast set mortar like Rapid Set.

Here I’m mixing it on fairly dry to use as a support for the tub. I want it wet enough to squish out in some places but dry enough to shim and hold the tub up in other places as it dries.

For a level tub that you just want to solidify mix it wetter to fill the spaces under the tub and not necessarily shim it off the floor.

Plan Ahead Tip

Before setting the tub drive a nail to mark where the drain will exit the ceiling below.

Step 7 – Set Tub

Some tubs call for a support stringer, which is a 2×4 set along the back wall for the tub to rest on. This tub does not. Adding one would likely crack the tub once installed and stood in.

Place something in the tub like cardboard to protect it. Step into the tub and level it by methodically squishing down the mortar.

Once level, screw the flange to the studs using galvanized or stainless steel screws. Avoid cracking the tub flange by pre-drilling the screw holes and using shims wherever the studs do not touch the flange.

Step 8 – Attach P-trap

Use the nail you drove earlier to locate the tub drain to attach a P-trap. The trap holds water to prevent sewer gas and bugs from entering the house.

A homemade swab extension can help to glue the drain pipe into tub drain. Here I cut the hole using a regular wood drill bit.

Hold pipes together for 30 seconds after glueing to prevent push out. You want to glue to the depth of the socket.

A flexible coupling and torque wrench makes attaching the final connection a breeze.

Step 9 – Shim Tub Skirt

Once the tub dried I went back and added wood shims under the tub skirt using construction adhesive.

Final Notes

When framing the space for your tub, where possible, place sideways studs at either end of the tub skirt to support any shower doors.

So this has been one way to install a bathtub. Hope this helps you out. See ya!

Check out the video below for more details.

Hey I'm Alex with ToolRev. My goal is to produce unbiased, to the point, reviews to help people find the tools they're looking for. If you have any questions or comments leave them below. Please enjoy the website.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here