When working with an alcove bath, it's important to know whether the drain should be at the left- or the right-hand side. Get it wrong and you have to tear it out and begin the installation all over again, so being able to determine the correct end for the drain is important. Note that this doesn't apply to all types of bathtubs.
Working With Alcove Baths
Step 1: Assess the Tub Area
Look at the area where the bathtub will sit to see whether it's enclosed by three of the bathroom walls; this indicates that the space is ideal for an alcove bath.
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Step 2: Determine Location of Drain
Determine the location of the drain by just standing in front of the accessible side of your existing tub, where the side unscrews to give access to faucet and drain fittings. Look at the other three sides; they should have flanges at the upper lips where the bath attaches to the wall.
Step 3: Align Drain Openings
Locate at which end of the bath the drain is situated. If on the right, it's a right-hand drain; if on the left, it's a left-hand drain. Check where the drain opening is in the bathtub area of the floor and be sure that it matches with the bathtub you're considering.
Working With Freestanding Tubs
Step 1: Measure for Fit
Measure the space in the bathroom to determine whether a freestanding tub will fit comfortably in the area.
Step 2: Align Drain Openings
Move the bathtub so that the drain in the tub sits over the drain in the floor and check how easy it would be to run the water lines to the faucets on the tub.
Step 3: Seat Tub for Easy Access
Fit the tub in the best way to reach the drain and water lines and be aware that, unlike an alcove tub, there is no set way it has to sit. Seat the tub so that it's easily accessible; freestanding tubs are often called claw-foot, even when the feet are shaped differently.
Safety or Corner Tubs
Check the area in the bathroom when selecting a safety tub; this will tell you whether you need to select a left-hand or right-hand tub (they generally come with both options). Check, too, when looking at corner tubs, as they will fit into a space in the same manner as an alcove tub and will be either left or right handed.
Platform or Spa Tubs
You can check the accessible side of the platform bath (this can also apply to whirlpool baths and spas) to determine which end has the drain. This will tell you whether it's a left-hand or right-hand drain, as with an alcove bath. You should also check where the tub will sit in the bathroom and see if it matches up.
Some jetted tubs have what is called a reversible drain, which makes it easy to switch the drain handing just by rotating the tub. Note that jetted tubs might have additional space requirements due to the need for heaters or pumps, and they can also be quite heavy so the flooring may need to be reinforced, according to Bob Vila.