Tub To Shower Conversion in NYC

by | Last updated Jul 30, 2023 | Apartment Renovations, Bathroom Design, Renovations

Can You Replace a Tub with a Shower in NYC?

To convert a bathtub into a shower in NYC, you will need permits from the Department of Buildings and licensed professionals to perform all the work. At the completion of the work, you will have to pass all necessary inspections and obtain signoffs. 

One of the most popular apartment renovation trends I have noticed in NYC is people removing their bathtubs and replacing them with showers. It seems that most people don’t take baths, which makes sense. I have had many clients who removed bathtubs to convert a tub into a shower.

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in NY and owner of Fontan Architecture, an architecture firm in Manhattan. Below I will review a few things to consider for tub-to-shower conversions and some interior design tips with examples from our projects. The technical aspects of this post focus on New York City requirements.

New Shower

New Shower where there was a tub


Plumbing Requirements 

Always work with licensed and insured professionals. All plumbing work should be done by a licensed plumber, with no exceptions. You will need to have a new drain for your walk-in shower. Depending on the building’s construction, the shower floor may need to be elevated a few inches above the bathroom floor. If you have a curb shower, this is not a big deal and will not be too noticeable. Adding a Curbless Shower may be more complicated. 


Building Management Requirements 

If you are in an apartment building, you must get approval from your board or management company to perform this work. Read your Alteration Agreement and talk to your building manager about their regulations. Some buildings require replacing all branch piping and valves back to the main plumbing risers. We usually do this in bathroom renovations, especially in older buildings.


Permits for Converting a Bath to Shower

You will need a permit to convert a tub to a shower in NYC. The Department of Buildings issues permits. All work must be performed by licensed and insured qualified professionals.


Waterproofing your Shower When Converting Bath to Shower

Waterproofing is very important. Aside from having a shower pan, you must install a waterproof membrane floor-to-ceiling at the shower location. Below is a picture of a bathroom renovation where we converted a tub to a shower. The black material on the walls is a waterproof membrane.

Bathroom renovation with waterproofing at new shower

Bathroom renovation with waterproofing at new shower


Shower Design

Design is highly subjective. Below I will go over a few suggestions for your shower design. There will, of course, be many variables and options. Let’s look at a few.


Mosaic Floors for Converting a Bath to Shower

People often like to do a Mosaic floor in the shower. Mosaics are small tiles that come on sheets. A mosaic floor can be a nice modern look with a technical advantage. The mosaic floor provides traction so you do not slip in the shower. The many small grout joints make mosaics an excellent nonslip surface with a nice design. Mosaics are a good choice if a nonslip surface is important to you.

The picture below shows a new shower we designed with a mosaic floor. Please know that you do not have to use a mosaic on the shower floor, but it is a popular option.

Mosaic Tile Floor for a Shower

Mosaic Tile Floor for a Shower – Manhattan Apartment Gut Renovation


Linear Drain

I really like linear drains for their modern and clean look. The drain can be installed with tiles on top that align with the rest of the bathroom mosaic. All you see is a line around the perimeter of the drain. The bathroom below is from an apartment we renovated, where we converted one tub to a shower. In this case, we put a linear drain in a curbless shower.

Linear Shower Drain

Linear Shower Drain


Shower Niche

Storage is important. You need a place to keep soap, shampoo, and all your bathroom products. A shower niche is an excellent shower design idea. The niche is a recess in your walls that is tiled with shelves out of stone, glass, or countertop material. These are popular, modern, and convenient features for bathrooms.

The picture below shows a shower niche in a bathroom from one of our projects.

Shower Niche

Shower Niche


Adjustable Shower Slide Bar

I like to put an adjustable handheld shower bar in the bathroom. This adjustable bar allows you to set the height of the handheld shower head and move it. I love these because a tall person may want to raise the height of the shower head. If someone wants it lower, they can easily slide it up and down as needed.

Adjustable Hand Held Shower Slide Bar

Adjustable Hand Held Shower Slide Bar


Two Showerheads

If you have a large walk-in shower, you can have two shower heads with two sets of controls. If two people are showering simultaneously, they can each have the right temperature and not get in each other’s way. We often get asked for this when couples have a large shower and share the bathroom. Of course, two separate bathrooms will solve this issue as well. 


Shower Doors and Hardware

The last thing to be installed in a bathroom is a shower door, but it should not be an afterthought. You should look at lots of different door styles and hardware. The shower door is a critical piece in bathroom interior design.

Barn Door Style Shower Doors

Barn Door Style Shower Doors


Bathroom ADA Requirements (Convert Tub To Shower)

NYC multifamily buildings are subject to accessibility requirements. These rules are referred to as ADA for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please consult with an architect like me before you begin any renovations in NYC. The Department of Buildings has very specific requirements. You want to ensure all work you do conforms with the code and will pass inspection.


Bath-to-Shower Conversion

In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts regarding Tub to Shower Conversions. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provides a general overview of the topic.


Thank You for Reading our Blog Post on Bath to Shower Conversions.

I hope this was helpful. Contact us at Fontan Architecture directly if you want to speak with an architect about a potential project.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.