Choosing the right bathtub means you'll need to consider several different issues. Some of them you'll have control over, like how plan to use the tub, while others are more or less controlled by your situation -- like the constraints of an existing bathroom for example.
The spectrum of choices runs not only from the purely aesthetic but to the type of bathtub you want as well. Choices include everything from the basic alcove tub to sophisticated air tubs or a sleek, modern slipper tub.
Technology also factors in to the choices you have available to you. Not only have bathtubs evolved to include whirlpool jets but now you can incorporate light and sound too.
The entrepreneurial spirit has also fostered unique creations like wooden tubs, though there are considerations to think about closely with these kinds of tubs.
The bottom line is this -- choosing a bathtub requires some up-front knowledge of your situation, how you'll use the tub and what's available. Getting this foundation will help you on the path to making a wise and hopefully, "cleansing" choice.
Bathtubs come in a variety of shapes, materials and colors. But before you even get to the pick-and-choose stage you'll most likely fall into one of two categories that will narrow down your choices:
With that, let's get on to understanding what you should know about choosing a new bathtub.
Whirlpool & Air Tubs
Whirpool tubs and air tubs offer a therapeutic bath by shooting water and air bubbles into the bathtub at strategic locations to give you the sensation of a massage. The difference between a whirlpool and an air tub is that the whirlpool injects water into the tub, stirring the water, whereas an air tub pushes air through its plumbing system into the water, creating thousands of bubbles that invigorates the water.
These kinds of tubs are more complex than other tubs because they include pumps, filters, hoses and other equipment necessary to circulate and "energize" the water.
Cast iron tubs are usually of the alcove (surrounded by 3 walls) or free-standing variety. Their finish is durable and easily cleaned although you don't want to use aggressive scouring techniques or you could scratch the surface.
Enamel that does eventually wear or chip away reveals the cast iron substrate which can rust. Finally, cast iron tubs are heavy and combined with the water weight, need good support structure.
Because acrylic is an easily-formed material, it's often used for whirlpool and air tubs which can be had in many different shapes and sizes.
Some users report slight flex and/or creaking with composite-backed tubs though experience varies and is sometimes related to installation technique.
It's also a brittle material and isn't forgiving of over-tightened faucet and spout fixtures that can crack the surface. While surface scratches can usually be buffed out, cracks are usually unrepairable.
Again, if you're simply looking to replace an existing tub with no plan for any other changes to your bathroom, you're probably going to replace it with the same type of tub. However if you're building new or changing your bathroom layout, you have the opportunity for more bathtub style choices.
An alcove or "recessed" tub is typically rectangular in shape and is installed adjacent to three walls, leaving one side of the tub accessible. The front and back of the tub and one side are bordered by bathroom walls or some other form of structure like an adjacent shower wall.
These tubs vary in depth, depending on manufacturer, and generally represent what is considered a "standard" bathtub.
Alcove tubs are designated as a "right hand or left hand" installation. This simply means that the drain is either on the right or left side as you face the tub from its accessible side. Most usually come with an integral tiling flange on 3 sides. This is a small vertical lip that fits up under the surrounding wall tile or shower enclosure.
Many whirlpool and air bath tubs use this type of installation. Deck tubs will optimally have one side with removable panels to be able to access the plumbing and other hardware associated with these fixtures.
An alternate style of drop-in tubs places the tub down into the bathroom floor with the rim flush with the floor. This type of installation makes it more difficult to maneuver in and out of the tub, particularly if the tub has any significant depth.
One thing to consider with an undermount installation is the type of deck top you use with it and whether you'll ever want (or need) to remove the tub. A stone deck top
surrounding the edge of the tub would most likely need to be broken up to remove the tub. Now it may be unlikely that you'd ever need to remove the tub but it's something to consider with these kinds of installations.
Photo Courtesy Of Duravit
You can choose from products that look like alcove tubs but have two sides that meet the wall (one end and a side) like the Duravit tub in the photo to the left.
One of the primary considerations with a corner tub is the location of the fixtures. The orientation of the tub may have a role to play in this but the key point to remember is to give yourself sufficient clearance so that you can easily get in and out of the tub, without having to climb over faucets and spouts.
You can learn more about what's available and shop for corner tubs at this page.
The basic take-away lessons from this section are that your situation will dictate the type of tub you can choose. If you're starting from scratch you can choose from a variety of styles, governed in part by how they're installed, and from a range of materials, each with their own pros and cons.
Bathtubs might seem like simple fixtures that hold water, and while that's probably true of their humbler beginnings, it's not the case anymore.
Bathtubs have evolved to a point where some of them use various technologies and add-ons to further enhance your bathing experience.
So before making your final selection, it may help to brush up on what's available so that you're sure you've exhausted all your options (you might find a style to indulge yourself with too!).
In other words, the bathtub can be simple or it can be a place of refuge and relaxation. If you haven't shopped tubs lately, now you're aware that bathtime can be a little more indulgent.
Choosing a bathtub poses different challenges than choosing other plumbing fixtures like a kitchen or bathroom sink. The plans you have for your bathroom, what you're starting with and what you want from a tub should all factor into your decision.
Given that you now know the basic differences among tub varieties, mull over the following points to decide if they affect your desires and situation. Hopefully you'll then be best prepared to make a good bathtub choice.
Very deep soaking tubs aren't practical nor are they probably safe for washing young children. If children and more utilitarian duties aren't in the picture for your future tub, then get what you'll enjoy. Otherwise a more conventional bathtub might be in order.
That doesn't mean there's no in-between either; there are tubs that blend the characteristics of an "everyday" alcove-style tub with some of the amenities of the whirlpools and air tubs.
For existing bathrooms your choices are limited by existing space and plumbing, and possibly electrical constraints (if you're thinking of whirlpool and spa tubs).
Any bathtub, whether it's a conventional one or an air bath, should be comfortable to use. Take some time to understand the ergonomics of how a tub is designed by looking at the "technical specification" on manufacturer's websites. They'll usually show the slope and other physical features in their diagrams.
You should also go as far as sitting in them in a showroom to see if it's comfortable. This is particularly true for soaker and spa tubs that you'd spend more time in than a conventional bathtub.
For example, an Ios tub from Victoria & Albert weighs 150 pounds but has a 103 gallon water capacity. At 8.3 lbs/gallon, that's another 858 pounds for a total of 1008 pounds (not considering your weight) on the floor beneath the tub.
Speak with a contractor or building engineer if necessary if you're going to be installing a big tub with a large capacity to make sure the floor structure is sufficient.
Shopping for a tub isn't as easy as buying a loaf of bread at the market. Availability even at big-box stores is limited and in some cases you still have to order it even when buying through one of these stores.
Buying online is an alternative option and one of the advantages is the large selection that's available. There are a number of internet retailers that sell tubs. I recommend checking out Build.com (and it's network store FaucetDirect.com). They have a pretty large selection and a reputation for good customer support. Two other sources include ATG Stores and Wayfair.com.
These tubs have deep soaking capability with a capacity of 50 gallons and are made with American Standard's Americast material. It combines the porcelain finish you get with a cast iron tub but only half the weight, something to think about if you have to lug the tub to your bathroom and install it. It's also reasonably priced.
Another alcove tub that has generous capacity is Kohler's Archer tub. It's made from acrylic. The tub's capacity is 58 gallons making it a great soaker tub for a conventional alcove installation. It also has a molded lumbar support and armrests. The picture links below will take you to the Build.com website where you'll find more information.
|K-1123-LA Archer LH Drain||K-1123-RA Archer RH Drain|
One other cast iron alternative is the Kohler Dynametric tub. It's 6 inches longer than the Villager (66" overall) and has a 47 gallon capacity, a happy medium between the acrylic Archer series and the cast iron Villager. It's available in both a LH drain configuration (K-515 pictured) and a RH drain (K-516). Click on the picture below to learn more.