One-piece tub-and-shower units challenging for remodelers

Consider covering walls with tile, Corian or marble instead

Q: We have three bathrooms, which are in need of remodeling. The tub/shower unit seems to be made of acrylic, has no lines and looks like it is only one piece. I would like to replace it with a newer version with higher walls. Is this possible and if so how? –Kazuko O.

A: You’re correct in assuming that the acrylic tub/shower combination is all one piece. They’re actually installed — or at least brought into the room — during the rough framing stage as the home is first being built, while the walls are still open and there’s lots of access for moving the large units into place. Replacing one can be a challenge during any remodeling project. Here are your options:

If your remodeling project involves opening up framing, then you may have enough room to bring in a new one-piece tub/shower unit. There are a variety of them on the market in different heights and configurations, so you’d want to first shop for the exact unit you’d like, get the dimensions, then see if you’ll be able to figure out a way to get it into the room.

If a one-piece unit won’t work, you can use a two- or three-piece combo, which is designed specifically for these kinds of remodeling situations. It consists of a separate tub along with a shower backsplash unit that’s installed in one or two pieces and joined to the tub. The multiple pieces make these units easier to get into the room. However, you’re left with several joints where the pieces connect, and even through they’re sealed, they always present potential leak sources. As such, they’re not my favorite solution.

If you can’t use a one-piece tub/shower, then I think the best solution (and also more attractive than a two-piece unit) is to use a separate tub and then do the walls in a different material. This could be ceramic tile, a solid surface material such as Corian, cultured marble, or other waterproof materials. These can be installed to any height you want, even all the way to the ceiling.

Q: My metal 4-inch dryer vent pipe goes up to the attic and out the south wall. It lies above the attic insulation. The problem I have is that on a cold day in the winter the water freezes the louvers on the vent exhaust and prevents the wet air from going out. Would placing insulation around the vent pipe help to prevent this from happening? –Bill D.

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A: As you know, when your dryer’s in operation, it’s pushing warm, moist air out through the duct pipe as the clothes dry. If that pipe passes through unconditioned space, as yours does, then that moisture can certainly condense inside the pipe and turn first to liquid water, and then, if it’s cold enough, to ice. Wrapping the vent pipe with insulation is a very good idea to keep the pipe warmer and help prevent that condensation process from occurring. You can use a duct insulation wrap sold at any home improvement store, and hold it in place with foil tape (not duct tape).

You also mentioned that water is freezing on the louvers of the vent exhaust. If you have a metal vent, that will be much more prone to freezing, so I’d recommend replacing it with a plastic-louvered dryer vent made specifically for that purpose.

Q: I finally got around to flushing my three water heaters. Everything went fine. I have two electric and one gas heater. The only issue is that I ended up with a lot of air in the tanks, which kept the tank from filling fully. I can release the pressure by opening the closest hot water faucet, which I had opened during the process itself. Is this a normal occurrence or should I have done something different?

One nearby toilet still makes real funny noises when flushed although the air seems to be out of the faucet supply line. –Steven M.

A: The air in the tanks and in the lines is perfectly normal. When the tank is drained, the water is replaced with air, and as it refills with water the air is displaced again. You did exactly the right thing by opening up a faucet near the water heater and allowing the air to escape. It’s also not uncommon for a small amount of air to remain trapped in the lines, but that will quickly go away as water is run through the pipes during your normal daily activities.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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