Choosing a Bathtub

Because it occupies so much real estate in a bathroom, the bathtub often becomes the room's focal point. That makes finding a unit that not only feels good, but also looks good, all the more important. Options abound, so it's easy to become overwhelmed in the selection process. Answer these questions to help narrow your choices.

How will you use it?

Are you a soaker? A bubble bath lover? An in-and- out kind of person? Start by determining whether you're looking for function or indulgence. If you're just looking to clean the kids, the dog, or yourself, you don't have to get super fancy. On the other hand, if taking a bath is your escape, start looking for more features. Here are some of your options:

  • Standard

    This built-in style is all-purpose and affordable, and it often doubles as a tub- shower combination. These are usually found in an alcove installation (see below).

  • Soaking

    These tubs generally offer extra-deep dimensions to allow a bather's body to be completely submerged. They come in both built-in and free-standing styles.

  • Whirlpool and air tubs

    Strategically placed jets force streams of water into whirlpool tubs to give a powerful massage effect, while air tubs feature smaller jets that release air to offer a spa-like bubble massage.

  • Walk-in

    Walk-in tubs offer people with mobility issues safe, accessible bathing with style. A hinged, sealable door allows users to enter the tub without having to lift his/her legs over the threshold, and a seat allows the user to sit while tub fills.

Where will the tub be located?

You need to determine how much space you have and where it the tub will be situated before you can move ahead with selecting a tub. To determine what your bathroom can accommodate, take careful measurements of your space and doorways. Also note where the drain is located to be certain it fits with the design of your tub. If you want a jetted tub, don't forget to plan for the pump, air switch, and electrical timer.

Can your house handle it?

A cast iron tub might weigh upwards of 1000 pounds when filled with water, so making sure your floors can support the weight of the tub, water, and people is a key consideration. You may need to add braces or reinforce the floors. Take your hot water heater into account, too. Tubs can vary in size from 25 to 150 gallons, so make sure your hot water heater has enough capacity to fill about two-thirds of the tub with warm water.

Know your options

Once you've taken use, space, and logistics into account, the next step is to know what types of tubs are available so you can determine what works best in your situation.

  • Three-wall alcove

    Designed to maximize space, this most common type of tub generally comes as a tub-shower combination. The unfinished ends are typically butted up against walls.

  • Drop-in

    This tub shell only fits into a separate, framed enclosure that is designed to match or complement the rest of the bathroom.

  • Corner

    Like the alcove model, this tub is designed to butt up against walls, but in this case only two are needed. The corner tub is often triangular in shape and works well for dual bathing.

  • Freestanding

    These tubs feature a sculpted bathing bowl on a solid base or cradle. They can be placed anywhere in the bathroom and aren't dependent on walls for support.

  • Clawfoot

    Essentially, these tubs are freestanding tubs that are elevated from the floor and supported by feet. Their vintage style provides for especially deep soaking.

Is it comfortable?

Before you make a final decision, make sure the tub fits your needs-literally. Don't be afraid to climb in and settle back, as if you were really soaking. After all, how else will you know for sure?