What are the different kinds of bathtubs? How do I know which one is best for my bathroom?
Alcove bathtub: An alcove tub is surrounded on three sides by walls, so you get in on the exposed side. It’s usually the most affordable and space-efficient.
Drop-in bathtub: A drop-in tub is “framed by materials like cabinetry, tile, or solid surface slabs and ‘drop-in’ to a deck,” said Kerrie Kelly, National Board Chair of the American Society of Interior Designers. Although it might be surrounded by walls like an alcove tub, its sides do not actually touch the walls directly.
Corner bathtub: A corner tub is often three-sided or heart-shaped, with two of the sides in the corner of your space. It’s best for small spaces.
Freestanding bathtub: A freestanding tub can be placed anywhere in the room and is often the focal point. It can stand directly on the floor, on a low pedestal, or on claw feet. It takes up a lot of space and tends to be heavy, so you might need to reinforce your floor, but it has the most eye-catching and elegant look of all the tub types. Both Kelly and Tricia Fraser, a merchant and bathtub expert at The Home Depot say freestanding tubs are growing in popularity and the biggest trend in bathroom design recently.
Walk-in bathtub: A walk-in tub is for people who can’t step into a regular tub. It has a watertight door and “typically has safety features, like a grab bar, slip-resistant textured flooring, and ADA-compliant seating. These tubs can also offer a therapeutic massage experience with features like jetted whirlpool or jetted air,” said Fraser.
What to consider when buying a bathtub
The main factors to consider as you decide which bathtub to buy are:
Bathroom size: Take measurements of your bathroom and doorway. Depending on the amount of space available, you may only be able to buy certain tub styles.
Plumbing location: The location of your plumbing rough-in limits where you can place your tub. The drain location needs to work with your tub’s design.
Water heater size: “Confirm that your water heater can handle the size of tub you are looking to fill. Make sure your water heater is large enough to fill about 2/3 of your tub with warm water,” said Kelly. This is especially important if you opt for a deeper soaking tub.
Material: Material affects the price, feel, and longevity of your tub. The most common bathtub materials are acrylic, fiberglass, porcelain-enameled steel, and porcelain-enameled cast iron. Acrylic is long-lasting, lightweight, affordable, and widely available in many colors and styles. Fiberglass is the most affordable but not as durable. Both enameled cast iron and steel are very durable and resistant to scratches and stains, but cast iron has even greater heat retention, keeping your bath water hot for a longer period of time.
Weight capacity of your floor: If your tub is going on the second floor, you might need to reinforce the floor based on what materials you choose. Acrylic tubs are lighter in weight, while cast iron tubs are a lot heavier.
Extra features: Features like whirlpool jets, grab bars, and seating will bring the price of your tub up but add to the overall experience of your bath.
What are the standard measurements for a bathtub?
According to Fraser, a standard tub measures 60″ x 30″. The average water depth is 16 inches. Corner, freestanding, and walk-in baths tend to be deeper. As you look at different sizes, consider the heights of anyone who will use the tub, how many people will usually be in the tub at once, and if you prefer to curl up or splay out in the water. If you’re in a physical store or showroom, it always helps to climb into the tub to test the ergonomics and feel out the size for yourself.
How much does a bathtub cost?
It all depends on the materials and features, but a bathtub usually starts at $200 and averages around $300 to $500. Corner, freestanding, and walk-in tubs tend to be more expensive and can cost thousands of dollars.
Should I install a bathtub by myself or call a professional?
We love a DIY project, but it’s best to call a professional for this one. Because bathtub installation involves plumbing and tiling expertise, “incorrect installation can result in water damage or an unleveled tub,” said Fraser.
If you do have prior plumbing experience, Fraser’s advice is “to double check the door width to make sure you can move the tub into the bathroom, be knowledgeable on basic plumbing and framing, and know your existing flooring and plumbing’s condition.”
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