The Many Bathtub Choices

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Feb 07, 2010 | Anne Burkley

If you're planning a bathroom remodel or building new, one of the most exciting choices will be the bathtub. The bathtub has come a long way in the past decade and a half. From being hidden behind a curtain to being surrounded by tile and given the spa treatment, the bathtub has become a focal point in the bathroom, especially in the master suite.

Unless you are building new or doing a complete remodel, don't get your hopes up over replacing your plain, old tub with a new hydrotherapy tub. It may sound nice, but it probably won't work with your bathroom's current plumbing and structure. You may end up spending way more than you anticipated to replace waterlines, knock out walls, run electric and add support to floor joists to get your dream tub.


Typically, tubs are made out of PVC, fiberglass, acrylic or a mixture. These materials are durable, lightweight, waterproof, inexpensive and easy to take care of, making them perfectly suited for tubs. Mid-grade tub materials tend to be porcelain, enameled cast iron and cultured marble. They are also easy to care for and durable. You can expect to get into the thousand-dollar price range with these materials. Top-of-the-line luxury tubs can be found in many stunning materials such as copper, stainless steel, poured concrete and even glass. With a price tag of $5,000 and more, these tubs aren't for everyone, but they sure do make a statement.

Tubs at every price point are durable, so outside of budget you'll want to choose a material that matches your personal taste, works with your home's structure and its architectural style (if that is important to you).


There are four basic styles of tubs: alcove, drop-in, freestanding and corner.

Alcove tubs are the typical, long rectangle tubs that fit into their own little space. They have only one designed side (apron), as the other three sides of the tub are not exposed. If you are looking to update the look of your bathroom, don't write off this standard, especially if it fits into your bathroom's current layout. Alcove tubs are available in many materials, with and without hydrotherapy features, and they can be considerably dressed up with tile surround, modern faucets and a great door. Some models even have an apron with a curve.

Drop-in tubs are made to drop into a platform, deck or even the floor. They are a popular choice for a master bath. Since it doesn't need to be surrounded, it creates a modern, open feel.

Freestanding tubs lend a luxurious feel to the bathroom. They can be classic, like a claw-foot tub, or contemporary, as with many of the pedestal-style tubs. They also promote an open feel and may work well in small spaces.

Corner tubs, as the name suggests, are placed in the corner of a room. Most often, they have a soft triangle shape, but the tubs can be oval and even rectangle. They typically seat two.

Walk-in tubs provide a safe way for those with limited mobility to take a bath. These tubs usually start at about $4,000 and have hydrotherapy features.


Beyond the obvious, what do you want your tub to do for you? Do you want air or water jets for hydrotherapy? Maybe just some bubbles for a nice relaxing feel. How about armrests for long soaks? Grab bars for safety? Heck, you can even get tubs with chromotherapy (color) lights and aromatherapy features.


If you are planning to install a completely different tub in your home, do your homework. Is your water heater large enough to fill the tub? If you are replacing a soaking tub with a whirlpool tub, will you need to replace your waterlines? Standard lines are ½", but some tubs with jet features require ¾" pipe to work correctly. Can your floor support the weight of the tub with water and people in it? Will it fit in the room properly? Will it fit through the door? Will it need an electrical connection to run a pump, heater, lights or other feature?

Selecting a tub should be a fun process. Knowing your options as well as your home's limitations will make for a good shopping experience. Happy soaking!

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