Are Access Panels Required for Bathtub Plumbing Access?


Running water flowing from faucet into bathtub Access panels often are located in rooms adjacent to the bathroom. Image Credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you don't have an access panel behind the tub and shower when problems arise, you'll wish you did. Without it, the only way to fix the plumbing is to cut a hole in the wall. If the wall is tiled, and you have a plumber, you'll be paying him to make a big mess in the bathroom. Despite this, the lack of an access panel is not a code violation in most circumstances.

Video of the Day

Tub and Shower Plumbing

Most modern tub and shower valves can fail, but even so, once they are properly soldered to the water pipes, the plumbing code allows you to cover them. An exception is when the valve has an extra mechanism, such as a water pressure regulator, that you can adjust. In that case, you must provide a removable access door. If you have such a device that isn't part of the tub and shower valve proper, then the door must provide access to the device. This requirement applies to auxiliary shut-off valves. They must remain accessible no matter where you install them.

Other Special Circumstances

In general, you don't have to provide access to drain plumbing, and although some older houses have access panels to access the drain pipes behind the bathtub, many newer ones don't. Drain clean-outs are the only exception to this rule; they must remain accessible, or they can't serve their purpose. One more exception exists in regard to water supply pipes. If you use a compression fitting, either to install a valve or make a repair, that fitting must remain accessible so that if it fails, you can fix it. Moreover, if your bathtub includes a motor or auxiliary heater, you need a panel to access it.

Placing the Tub/Shower Panel

Even though it isn't required, it's a good idea to have an access panel behind the tub and shower. If a wall separates the tub from the toilet or another part of the bathroom, then the outside of that wall provides an ideal location for a panel. If the bathroom doesn't feature such a wall, an alternative is to build a panel into the closet in an adjoining room. One advantage of putting the panel in a closet is that you can oversize it to give yourself plenty of room to work should repairs become necessary.


If you're building or remodeling, and need to install plumbing devices or fittings that require a panel, it's best to put them all behind a single access panel. You can use the need for the panel to help in the placement of needed storage space, because the panel is invisible if it forms the back wall of a closet. The closet could be behind the tub and shower; this way, the panel could be large enough to give you access to both the tub/shower water and drain pipes, adjustable regulators and valves, and electrical equipment for the jacuzzi.

Share this article

Recent posts

Teachers’ Top Needs for 2019

Teachers’ Top Needs for 2019Great classrooms don’t happen by accident. Teachers across the country work hard to build vibrant, energizing learning environments for their students, which often means ev

Top Tips to Transition Back to Work After Baby

Top Tips to Transition Back to Work After BabyMany new parents spend hours preparing for the arrival of a new baby – reading books, seeking professional advice and consulting friends and family. Howev

Get Away Without Going Away

Get Away Without Going Away5 family staycation ideas that won’t break your budgetFamily vacations are a great way to bond and take a step back from the hectic schedules that accompany everyday life, b

5 Common Questions for Memorializing a Loved One

5 Common Questions for Memorializing a Loved OneOne of the most difficult conversations in a person’s life typically takes place near the end of that life. Planning for a funeral can put an emotional

Boat Safe

Boat SafeEnsure your boat is ready for the water with this checklist No matter how much experience you have on the water, prepping your boat – and your passengers – before leaving the dock can make fo


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent comments