Bathtubs Buying Guide

  • Getting Started

  • Refreshing, relaxing or stimulating, a bath is still a desired means of hygiene. The size, type and style of the bathtub can enhance the experience! Bathtubs are the preferred venue for cleaning children, and even pets, and sometimes for items of clothing or household goods. The tub must be large enough to serve the home’s members and their purpose.

  • What to Consider

  • Purpose: If it is a means of hygiene only, then simple tub will do. But, if the tub will be used for massage after a work-out, or relaxation after a harried day of work and commuting, then an extra deep or whirlpool should be considered.

    Location in the Home: A family bathroom, in which children or older adults will utilize the tub, would suggest a not-too-deep tub for easy access and use; or look at a walk-in tub for adults and even teenagers who may be injured in sports.  A master bathroom may suggest a larger tub, even one built for two persons, that will provide a spa-like experience.

    Size of Bathroom: The space available may eliminate some types and styles, such as stand-alone units, or whirlpools that require extra plumbing, motors and electrical access for sound or lights.

    Water Heater Size: Tubs will consume 25 gallons to 150 gallons during use. Ascertain if the Water Heater will provide the desired temperature for the bath.

    Floor Supports: Calculate the weight of the tub (cast iron is heavy) and the weight of the water in the tub, and the weight of the bather(s) to make sure the floor  will support the weight.

    Budget: A bathtub can range from $400 to $40,000 — depending upon the material from which it is constructed, the size of the unit, and the accessories. Consider carefully how frequently a whirlpool may be used and the cost when making a decision.

  • Materials

  • Acrylic is molded into a variety of tub shapes and sized. When reinforced with fiberglass, the tub price will increase. Acrylic will hold the water heat longer than some other materials. Does not chip and scratches can be polished out. Available in a variety of colors, acrylic tubs are the most popular and priced in the affordable range.

    Fiberglass reinforced plastic tubs are lightweight an often feel flexible. While the least expensive, the topcoat will scratch and fade more easily than other materials.  

    Porcelain on Steel tubs are made by stamping steel into shapes and coating them with enamel. Easy to clean, these tubs are also inexpensive, but more durable than other materials, although if the enamel is chipped, the steel will rust.

    Cultured Marble tubs are created by molding resin with limestone into the size and style desired. A gelcoat finish makes it easy to clean. Mid-range priced.

    Cast Iron tubs are heavier than other materials, but are very durable. The enamel coating over the iron is easy to clean and maintains the water temperature for a long time.  Cast Iron tubs are available in a variety of colors and shapes. Prices run in the mid to upper range, depending on the size, style and accessories.

    Solid Surface tubs are made to provide a consistent look with the sink and/or the vanity countertop. These tubs may be heavy, but they maintain the water temperature and are easy to clean. Prices are on the higher end.

    Copper tubs are extremely expensive and provide an aesthetic unparalleled by other materials. Expect to find these in stand-alone units to show off the material and color. Maintenance is not required, other than a wiping out after use, since copper is mold and stain resistant.

    Stone or Wood tubs are carved from a solid piece and are extremely expensive. The weight also can pose a problem. The stone and wood will be sealed to make it waterproof.

  • Types

  • Alcove tubs fit on three sides into an alcove that also will hold the shower. A front apron extends to the floor. Choose a left or right hand alcove tub, depending upon the drain location, which will be on the same side as the faucet and showerhead.

    Drop In tubs fit into the floor or into a platform surrounding the unit. They are easy to get into and out of for children or older adults due to the platform surrounding the tub. The tub rim extends over the floor or platform, but the tub is supported underneath.

    Undermount tubs also are installed into a platform, but the tub lip is hidden under the platform material. Support is maintained from underneath.

    Corner tubs are space-saving or designed for more than one person. Located into a two-wall corner area, they are triangular in shape.

    Freestanding tubs do not require walls for installation, but usually need more space to accommodate the tub and through the floor or through the wall plumbing. Created in myriad designs and shapes, freestanding units often are deeper for soaking. A claw foot tub is a freestanding top set onto claw-like feet. These are installed in older homes with a specific design.

    Whirlpool tubs are Drop Ins or Alcove types containing strategically located jets that force recycled water onto specific body parts to provide a massage. The tub will require extra piping for recirculating the water, electrical outlets for running a motor, and additional space for the motor location. Also, whirlpool tubs may include music outlets and lighting for chromatherapy.

    Air Massage tubs are drop ins or alcove types with small jets that forces air into the water for a soothing massage.

    Walk-In tubs are designed with openings in the apron of the tub to permit access into a deeper tub. Walk-Ins are expensive due to creating a water-tight door in the apron. These tubs require the bather to remain in the tub until the water drains below the door opening. May contain whirlpool or air massage features.

  • Size & Shape

  • Rectangular is the common size of a bathtub, but the height, width and depth can vary. Apron tubs will fit into alcoves and can be found in lengths of 48-inches, 60-inches, 66-inches and 72-inches. Widths run from 30-inches, to 32-inches, 36-inches, 42-inches and 48-inches. Depths can be as low as 14-inches and 17/18-inches to 20-inches and 25-inches.

    Corner (triangular) tubs can be as small as 48-inches by 48-inches with a depth of 19-inches; 60-inches by 60-inches and 24-inches deep, or 72-inches by 72-inches and 20-inches deep. The measure of a corner unit also must be taken across the full length, such as the base of a triangle, not just along the walls into which it will be installed.

    Freestanding  tubs will be shaped as rectangular, oval, hour glass and range from 50-inches to 60-inches, 66-inches and 72-inches in length; 24-inches, 30-inches, 30-inches, 32-inches and 36-inches wide. Depths range from 20, 24, and 26-inches to 30-inches.

    Drop Ins, including air massage and whirlpools, may be rectangular or even square, hourglass, oval and almost round and range from 48-inches to 60-inches to 72-inches in length, and 32-inches to 48-inches to 60-inches in width. Depths from 22-inches to 36-inches.

    Walk Ins run standard from 48-inches to 60-inches long; 28, 30 and 32-inches wide and 38-inches deep.

  • Cost Considerations

  • Material is a large part of the cost, with the metal, stone and wood being extremely expensive and with fiberglass and acrylic in the lower price range.

    Type and Size of the tub are the next considerations to impact upon the price. Apron/Alcove tubs are priced least expensive with whirlpool and air massage tubs increasing the tub. The more features, the larger the unit, the more it will cost. If electrical hookups are required to operate the tub, factor those into the price. Also, Freestanding tubs will require plumbing external to the unit, which will add to the cost, unless the plumbing is already installed.

    Installation by a professional plumber will increase the cost, but may be required by building codes in the municipality.