Armchair Builder

Reader Question: How to Get Access to Whirlpool Tub Motor?










Reader Question from Wayne:

I need some ideas for replacing a 27 year old Jacuzzi “Garden Tub” pump in my bathroom.  The pump is getting rusty evidence of which are the specks of rust left in the tub after draining.  I know…”rip it out and put in new. It’s 27 years old!”  Well, that’s only 4 dog years.  Anyhoo, I’m old and senile and will be selling the house in 6 months.  The tub works fine.  I don’t want to replace the tub and spend thousands of dollars I would not get the good of.  But I would like to be able to tell prospective buyers that the pump is new and works fine.  They may turn around and say “we don’t care we will be ripping it out anyway.”  But on to the story…

The main issue is that when the house was built they left no access panel to the pump or electrical connections.  In viewing the attached picture the pump is on the right hand side somewhere.  There is a ventilation panel on the left side and shining a light shows the business end being on the right.  I’m not sure if it’s on the right towards the shower or on the right towards the back wall.  There is no access panel on the right side and as you can see the shower butts up to the pump end.  I know I could rip out the tile in the shower (not a great idea but a possibility) or the tile on the right side of the tub framing but I am somewhat reluctant due to the fact that the tile color is discontinued and any replacement tile would not match unless I went to a custom tile maker who said “We can match anything for a price.”  But I guess I could sacrifice some tile on the front right (taking pains to try and save it) and put in an access panel as you have illustrated.  Do you think it’s drywall underneath or cement board?  What are your thoughts?

Armchair Builder Response:

Hi Wayne.  If you have any paperwork on the tub, it would tell you exactly where the motor is located.  If you don’t have paperwork, but a model number, you might be able to find the paperwork online.  Otherwise, you could send a picture to Jacuzzi to see if they can tell you exactly where the motor is.  So, there are several options here but I like to share what I would do…which entails the easiest, cheapest possible outcome.

Option 1:  If you find out the exact location of the motor, have a hole cut CAREFULLY into the front edge of the tub surface in the location of the motor to get in and replace it.  This would require carefully removing the grout, then carefully removing each tile from the area of the new access.  A good handyman should be able to cut through the cement board/drywall below to leave a clean, rectangular hole.  Don’t go through the shower…this will require much more work.  Then, once the motor is replaced/repaired, I would have the handyman trim out a small door to cover that hole and paint it a similar color to the tile color.  Just use a couple screws to secure the panel to the framing of the tub surround…then paint over them so they can be found but aren’t obvious.

Option 2:  Do the same thing as noted above, except remove the whole front face of the tub surround.  Again, the person doing this will need to be very careful not to damage the tile on the top surface of the tub deck. But have the person removing the tile from the front vertical surface be careful with the tiles he/she is removing to save them in case something gets damaged on top that wasn’t supposed to be damaged!!!!  Once the entire front is removed and the motor replaced/fixed, a new front panel can be trimmed out and painted to match the tile.

FYI:  These wood access panels are now required by code at the motor location so they are very common.

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