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This Should Work: Buy a used tub and don’t get soaked

I’ve got something that makes women want to undress. I’m taking about my old-fashioned cast iron bathtub
This Should Work with Bruce MacNab

You might remember that I converted one of my upstairs bedrooms into a three-piece bathroom. The sloped ceilings made it tough to layout a bathroom. A conventional tub with walls at each end would have blocked most of the light from the window. Instead I decided to use a freestanding tub with a hooped shower curtain.

The modern freestanding tubs were too pricey, plus they recommend you don’t drill tap holes through the acrylic. This means you have to buy expensive taps that rise from the floor like a goose neck.

Between a brand new tub and taps I was looking at over $2,000. I just couldn’t swing this cost so I tracked down a used cast iron tub for $200. This century-old ball foot tub came with the original taps and drain/overflow assembly.

PHOTO TSW 37 Ballfoot TubThis vintage tub is fitted with a Canadian-made shower kit and an Inuk dog named Smitty. Photo by Bruce MacNab.

My used tub had good enamel inside but the feet and black iron on the outside were starting to rust. I spent an hour prepping the iron with a wire brush and sandpaper then brushed on two coats of paint. It turned out beautifully. The paint was nothing special, just a $15 litre of oil-based rust paint from a hardware store.

I bought a kit to convert the old tub to a shower for $150. It included the taps, the shower riser pipe, shower head, and the hoop for the shower curtain.

The kit had two supports for the hooped shower rod but I needed four. I called the company’s toll-free number hoping to buy two more supports. Talk about great customer service—they sent me two extras free of charge.

Once the tub, taps, shower and drain were hooked up I turned on the water and let it run, checking for leaks. Everything worked perfectly.

Just one problem: I can’t stand the shower. Even magnets won’t keep the curtain from billowing inwards. It feels like I’m being attacked by a garbage bag. It’s unacceptable so I’m installing a separate shower stall by stealing space from an adjacent bedroom closet.

Once the new shower stall is installed I’ll take down the tub’s shower kit. But the tub is staying, making it a 4-piece bathroom.

The hardest part of this project was getting the 300 pound tub upstairs. Otherwise it was easier to install than a conventional tub. It looks awesome and is a perfect fit for an old farmhouse. And that’s the naked truth.

Bruce MacNab, a Red Seal carpenter, has taught carpentry courses for NSCC and the Guysborough County Adult Learning Association. Visit him online at