If you're remodeling your bathroom, you may need to update your bathtub. Before you can install a new one, cut the fiberglass so you can more easily fit it into the available space. Here are some instructions for cutting a fiberglass bathtub safely.
Dress for Success
If you are working with fiberglass, you need to be aware of the dangers of working with this substance. Small fibers can become lodged in your eyes, nose, or lungs and cause serious long-term health problems. Therefore, before you cut fiberglass you should dress properly.
Always use eye protection. This means good safety goggles. Avoid safety glasses, which will not block small, floating particles.
Use a high quality respirator. Do not be satisfied with paper face masks that do not adequately protect the mouth and nose.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, since the fibreglass fibers cause itching in many people and rashes on those with sensitive skin.
Cutting Fiberglass to Trim
If you are trimming a fiberglass tub so that it will fit into the space allotted, then there are a few different tools that will do the job.
1. Laminate Trimmer - Laminate behaves in a similar way to fiberglass, so these trimmers make a good cut on fiberglass tubs. Whatever tool you choose, however, you should use great care to be sure you don’t damage the enamel gel coat on the surface of the fiberglass. You will need to make several light cuts before the trimmer goes all the way through. You may be able to snap off the last bit of fiberglass once you have it scored at the proper place.
2. Reciprocating or Jigsaw - You can also use a reciprocating saw with a blade that is cut short, or you can use a fine-toothed jigsaw blade to trim a fiberglass tub.
Cutting a Fiberglass Tub for Removal
If you need to completely remove a fiberglass tub for a remodel, the process is more tedious, but less meticulous.
You will likely need to cut a fiberglass tub into pieces to remove it from the bathroom, particularly if it is a one-piece tub and surround system. Cut the tub into as large a piece as you can safely take through the bathroom door.
Prepare the Area
Remove all old fixtures from the tub and block the tub drain with a rag or old plastic bag. Remove or cover to protect any other items in the bathroom that you want to preserve (ie: toilet, vanity, light fixtures, etc.)
Block the door with a sheet. Do not turn on the bathroom fan unless you verify that it vents to the outside, not into the attic. Be aware that the sawn edges of fiberglass are very sharp.
Use or Rent a Sawzall
The tool of choice for many who must cut a fiberglass tub is a sawzall tool. Set the tool so it will cut only 1/8 to 3/8-inch, since fiberglass is a thin substance. A smooth blade with 14 to 18 teeth is ideal, but you may want to experiment.
Watch for any electrical or plumbing lines and be sure you avoid nicking them.
Sawing fiberglass takes preparation and planning, but is something you can handle yourself during a remodel.