How to Install a Whirlpool Bathtub

by Team HomeServe
Toolbox near pipe system of bathtub with hydromassage

Installing a Whirlpool Tub at a Glance

  • Tools and materials: Lumber, screws, cement backer board, level, drill, measuring tape, mortar mix, spacers, tile, thin-set mortar, wrench, saw, putty knife, putty, grout, GFCI receptacle, screwdriver, shims, caulk, utility knife
  • Step 1: Measure and assess framework
  • Step 2: Attach backer board
  • Step 3: Update plumbing
  • Step 4: Mix and set mortar
  • Step 5: Drop tub
  • Step 6: Connect drainage
  • Step 7: Install backer board
  • Step 8: Add tile
  • Step 9: Attach hardware

A whirlpool tub is a fantastic addition to any bathroom, instantly elevating the sense of luxury. Everybody dreams of unwinding in a spacious, jetted tub at the end of a long workday, allowing the gentle pressure of the water to relax tense muscles. By installing a whirlpool tub yourself, you may save enough money on installation costs to make this dream a reality.

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Before you embark on a whirlpool tub installation, you'll need to gather the appropriate tools and familiarize yourself with the process. Here's our step-by-step guide.

a male technician preparing to level a newly installed bathtub ----------------------------------------

Is It Hard to Install a Whirlpool Tub?

Depending on your level of experience, installing a whirlpool tub is not especially difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Before you start, figure out if your desired tub has any finished sides and whether it will require framing. Taking care of any prep work in advance will reduce the amount of time it takes to install a whirlpool tub and ensure you don't run into any hiccups along the way.

Does a Whirlpool Tub Need a Dedicated Circuit?

Yes. A whirlpool tub requires its own dedicated circuit on your home service access panel. If your whirlpool bathtub requires 240 volts, it needs to be connected directly to your home's power supply. Whirlpool tubs requiring 120 volts should be plugged into GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) receptacles. Each receptacle for an electrical connection requires a dedicated circuit. In the event that your whirlpool jet tub has a heater, this will also require its own dedicated circuit.

Things You’ll Need

To install a whirlpool tub correctly, you'll need to gather the proper materials ahead of time. To get started, you'll need:

  • Lumber and screws (for framing)
  • Cement backer board (and appropriate screws)
  • Level
  • Electric drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Mortar mix
  • Spacers
  • Tub tile
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Adjustable wrench
  • PVC saw
  • Putty knife
  • Plumbing putty
  • Grout
  • GFCI receptacle
  • Screwdriver
  • Silicone caulking
  • Wood shims
  • Utility knife

How to Install a Whirlpool Tub

Before installing your whirlpool bath, you must consider the electrical situation in your home. Most of these tubs require a dedicated 15-amp circuit for the pump receptacle and a separate circuit for the heater. Not so well-versed in electrical stuff? Call an electrician for some guidance.

Follow these steps to install your tub:

Step 1: Measure and Assess the Framework

Start by assessing the framework of your existing tub in the bathroom. A whirlpool tub is significantly heavier than a standard tub, especially when it's full of water. Use your measuring tape to get the exact dimensions of the current framework and determine if you'll need to add support to the floor and adjust the framing for your new tub.

Where the tub will meet the wall (whether that's on one, two or three sides), attach a 2x4 lumber ledger.

Step 2: Cut and Attach the Backer Board

Cut your cement backer board in strips to fit on top of the tub framing, allowing for a 1/2-inch overhang. Attach the backer board with screws. Cut your spacers 1/8 inch thicker than the wall tiles that you'll install. Set them atop your backer board and put the whirlpool tub in place to see if it fits.

Step 3: Address the Plumbing

Before you can install the tub, you’ll need to look into the plumbing situation and see if changes need to be made. For this step, you’ll need the manufacturer's instructions regarding the rough waste plumbing. The waste pipe and trap must be perfectly in line with the tub drain. You may also need to replace your supply line if it’s currently a 1/2-inch line. Most whirlpool baths require a 3/4-inch supply line to fill the large-capacity tub more quickly.

If your tub doesn't come with a waste and overflow unit, you'll need to purchase a standard one and add an extension yourself. Propping the tub up on a sturdy surface, install the overflow pipe and screw the drain flange into place. Use your wrench to tighten the nuts.

4. Mix and Set Mortar

Mix water with your mortar mix in a wheelbarrow so it's wet enough to pour. Check that the waste and overflow unit fits perfectly into the drain hole. Then, remove the tub from the area where you'll install it. Protect the drain hole by securing 2x2s around it. Spread your mortar mix evenly along the ground to support the base of your whirlpool tub.

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5. Set the Whirlpool Tub in Place

Keeping spacers on the backer board, get a friend or family member to help you lift the tub into place. Ensure the waste and overflow pipe enters the drain trap in perfect alignment. Press the tub into the mortar gently so it sets. Leave it to harden for 12 to 24 hours.

6. Connect the Drainage

After the mortar has hardened and the tub is set, you'll tighten the connection where the waste and overflow pipe meets the drain trap. Put the pump motor for the tub in position and attach it with screws. Once you plug the cord into the GFCI receptacle, it's time to test the tub.

7. Install the Cement Backer Board

On the exposed side of the tub, install your cement backer board, spacing the screws roughly 6 inches apart. Apply tile mastic.

mosaic tile border made up of small square glass tiles is being adhered to a shower wall  Larger tiles are in place underneath it  The bathroom in a home The arm and head of tile worker are visible

8. Tile the Tub Surround

Using your trowel, apply mortar to the backer board and set your tiles. After the tiles are set, you'll need to add grout and seal it. (For a more detailed explanation of how to install tile, read this.) Where the lip of your whirlpool bath meets the tiling, add caulking.

9. Attach Your Hardware

Now that the whirlpool tub is set and ready to go, it's time to install your faucet and bath spout. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, which will vary by product.

Underwater view of jets in tub spa with bubbles -------------------------------------------

Leave It to the Pros

Installing a whirlpool tub is a time-consuming project that will span multiple days and require knowledge of plumbing and electrical circuits. If you don't feel equipped to handle these highly technical aspects of the job, it's best to call a professional.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.