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Retrofitting A Whirlpool Tub, continuedProviding access. With a bow to Murphy's law, every whirlpool tub requires an access panel to permit work on the pump, wiring, and hoses. Removing a pump is usually a simple matter. Most pumps are secured by just two plumbing unions and four bolts. In most whirlpool models, the pump is located at the foot of the tub, opposite the waste-and-overflow, so that's usually the best place for the access panel (Figure 6). If it can't be located there — because of back-to-back bathrooms or a chimney at the foot of the tub, for example — the next best place is in the front skirt.

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Figure 6. The pump is located at the foot of most whirlpool tubs. As long as the location is not blocked by a chimney or other obstruction, it's the best place for the access panel.

If the tub comes with a removable skirt, access is no problem (Figure 7). If a site-built skirt requires an access panel, I include a square opening in the framing, cut a panel out of backerboard, and install it with screws for future easy removal. Since a visible panel in the skirt detracts from a bathroom's aesthetics, I usually tile right over the access panel and screws, using mastic instead of a thinset mortar mix.

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Figure 7. Some whirlpool baths, like the Springbath Royale (top) and the Nostalgia (bottom) from Crane Plumbing, come with a removable skirt that provides access to the pump and hoses.

I always make a sketch of the access panel location, including measurements, and give a copy to the customer and keep one for myself. If the access panel ever needs to be removed, some tiles will probably get broken, so I arrange with the customer to store some extra tiles, clearly marked, in a safe place. In any case, access panels are rarely used; I've only had to pull one pump in the last ten years.


Dennis DeLoyis a Georgia, Vt., master plumber and contractor specializing in bathroom remodels.

Whirlpool Tub Manufacturers

Aker Plastics

800/348-2211

www.akerplastics.com

American Standard

800/442-1902

www.americanstandard.com

American Whirlpool

800/327-1394

www.americanwhirlpool.com

Americh

800/453-1463

www.americh.com

Aquatic Industries, Inc.

800/555-5324

www.aquaticwhirlpools.com

Baja Products

800/845-2252

www.bajaspa.com

Bath-Tec

800/526-3301

www.bathtec.com

Best Bath Systems

800/727-9907

www.best-bath.com

Crane Plumbing U.S.

800/955-0316

www.craneplumbing.com

Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath

800/984-9217

800/288-4002

www.jacuzzi.com

Jason International

800/255-5766

www.jasonint.com

Kohler

800/456-4537

www.kohlerco.com

LASCO Bathware

800/877-2005

www.lascobathware.com

Laurel Mountain Whirlpools

800/930-0050

www.commerce.com/laurel7

Mansfield Plumbing Products

877/850-3060

www.mansfieldplumbing.com

MTI Whirlpools

800/783-8827

www.mtiwhirlpools.com

National Bathing Products

815/886-5900

www.nationalbath.com

Oasis Industries, Inc.

800/323-2748

www.oasisbath.com

Pearl Baths

800/328-2531

www.pearlbaths.com

Sanijet

877/934-0477

www.sanijet.com

Watertech Whirlpool & Bath

800/289-8827

www.watertechtn.com

Watkins Manufacturing Corp.

800/999-4688

www.hotspring.com

Westendorf Plastics, Inc.

800/747-0500

www.whirlpooltubs.com