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Community and Q&A

(MA-specific) How to get clawfoot tub installed in NEW construction

KJGInMA | Posted in Building Code Questions on

We are about to pour slab-on-grade here in Massachusetts. Under-slab plumbing is done. Our hope is to reuse an old antique clawfoot tub in our new construction. *Reusing* old, instead of buying new, seems very ‘green’ to us, hence this inquiry at GBA.

MA has an ‘approved plumbing list’ for all fixtures. If it not on the list, then it is not permitted for installation. So far as I can tell, I don’t think the AHJ can override it, but perhaps there is some slack.Until I am more sure of my options I do not want to have a discussion with the plumbing inspector office.

The problems are that (a) it is obvious that a random antique clawfoot tub will not be on that approval list, (b) also having trouble finding antique tub filler that would be approved.

So how does one do the ‘green’ thing with respect to this situation? I’d not enjoy having to purchase an expensive-but-MA-approved modern standalone tub to complete this build.

I suspect the wisdom here will be to give up on “antique” tub since there is no success fighting city hall here in MA, but I am hopeful that some of our local MA brainiacs on GBA might know some way through this particular labyrinth.

Thank you.


PS – two pieces of info I did gather during this process regarding building code. 1) The window next to the tub must be tempered glass (instead of the three pane insulated glass used elsewhere), 2) such a standalone tub must be anchored to the slab.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    I'm hoping that a Massachusetts builder will respond to your question.

    Q. "I'm also having trouble finding an antique tub filler that would be approved."

    A. I'm guessing that your problem is approval rather than finding a source of the hardware. But in case you haven't found a supplier, I'll provide a few links to online retailers:

  2. GBA Editor
    Patrick Mccombe | | #2

    Here's another source for freestanding tubs and their fillers, overflows and shower curtain rods.

  3. gusfhb | | #3

    Is this a recent thing?

    I never heard of it.

    Since one can create a custom shower enclosure, I am certain that they really don't mean this the way it sounds, but maybe they do. Our plumbing inspector is pretty particular, but never asked any such thing.

    I had custom curbless showers built in two different houses but that was all 10-15 years ago.

    Have you spoken to your plumbing inspector?

    A call to them with your specific question [without your specific information] would be a start.

    Mostly the actual plumbing, valves shower head etc would logically seem to be the area of concern.

    1. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #8

      You realize that this thread is more than 2 years old, right?

      MA has maintained a pre-approved fixtures list for decades, but variances are usually granted by local inspectors for things like tubs and tub-fillers, but often NOT granted for items that run counter to water or energy conservation measures such as antique toilets or showerheads.

      I was granted a variance for a not (at the time) approved drainwater heat recovery heat exchanger. But since I was moving a drain used by a 1920s vintage toilet they demanded that I get a low-volume flusher for the project as a whole be approved. YMMV

      1. gusfhb | | #9

        Wow, why did it pop up in the recent threads?

        Honest I don't go looking for old threads to bump.....

  4. gusfhb | | #4

    [rant] google has become increasingly useless, plenty of sponsored content[/rant]

    I imagine this started with people going to NH to buy 5 gallon flush toilets and 78 percent furnaces, but I cannot tell......

    one thing i did find was the notes from the plumbing board, there is an appeal process if you had nothing else to do with your life.

  5. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #5

    It probably comes to the definition of a "fixture." Since shower surrounds are manufactured in place, of course they can't be on the list. But a tub, being a manufactured "fixture" can and must be on the list in the People's Republic of MA. I have had (in NJ) some local building inspectors balk at old/recycled tubs because they don't have the "NSF" label on them, as required by our local codes. In these cases, I have occasionally had some success arguing that the real intent of the code is that you have low-flow faucets, backflow preventers, and anti-scald devices. If these are provided externally to the tub, they will sometimes allow it. YMMV.

  6. hughw | | #6

    As architects, we specified several new claw foot type tubs in a large MA house several years ago. Never heard a peep from the contractor that there were any issues. All the faucets and drains also specified from various high end manufacturers. Generally, the faucets were mounted on adjacent side walls about midway of the tub's length for easy control of someone sitting in the tub.

  7. Expert Member

    I ran into the same thing here a few years ago- and the same issues may be in play. The problem is usually either that the old tub (or other unapproved fixture) has no overflow, or that the overflow is usually located high enough that the tub level can reach the tap set, and can then create a back flow situation where waste water enters the potable water supply.

    The solution is either to locate the taps on on adjacent walls as Hugh suggested, or provide back flow preventers on the two supply lines - which are large and ugly.

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