Bathtub sizes can range from 40 to 85 inches in length, 22 to 72 inches in width and 12 to 32 inches in depth. Deeper tubs are more suitable for soaking, and some larger tubs are designed to accommodate more than one person. The size of the overall bathroom can also limit the maximum size of the tub, as can the configuration of the rest of the house. If the tub is part of a remodel, it will have to navigate hallways and doors or come through a window opening, if windows are part of the remodel.
A tub full of water must be adequately supported, so check your framing. Cast-iron tubs, whirlpools, soaking tubs, and sunken tubs often require additional support. A tub sized for more than one person will put additional demands on the home’s hot water heater too, so you may require an upgrade or a separate water heater.
Tubs come in a variety of shapes. In addition to the common rectangular shape, tubs also come in corner, oval, circular, and freestanding styles. "The space of the room is probably the biggest limiting factor," says Jonni Spaulding, a certified kitchen and bath designer with Bethel Mills Kitchen and Bath in Bethel, Vermont. Consider the space the new tub will occupy, how you enter and exit the tub, its orientation, and existing plumbing or fixtures.
Style and Configuration
Built-in and free-standing tubs are the two most common styles in most homes. Built-in tubs can be alcove, drop-in, or corner style. An alcove tub is standard in most homes and is typically five feet long and rectangular. Alcove tubs are surrounded on three sides, with an exposed front but less finished surface than a free-standing tub, so they are often less expensive. Alcove models are often tub-shower combinations with waterproof surrounding walls.
Drop-in tubs can be sunken into the floor or a tub deck. They are not recommended for those with mobility challenges. Drop-in models that are mounted into their own frame or deck will require additional carpentry or framework, which can add to the overall cost of the tub. Corner model built-ins are installed in the corner, with surrounds on two sides.
Freestanding tubs include classic claw-foot models, pedestal tubs, and other legged designs. Most manufacturers consider freestanding tubs to be soaking tubs, with a slipper or sloping back and a flat front. Freestanding tubs have exposed pipes, so they are easier to install and service than built-ins. No additional tile work, carpentry, or framework is generally necessary with freestanding tubs, unless it is to enhance the structural support. "Soaking tubs are very popular right now," adds Spaulding. "Most tub-shower combinations found in homes are too shallow for soaking—they don’t hold enough water, and the back doesn’t even get wet. A tub fit for soaking should have a depth of at least 15 to 20 inches," she says. Freestanding tubs usually require additional plumbing fixtures, which can add to the cost of the overall system.
Bathtubs are made from a number of materials. Porcelain on steel (POS) is the most common bathtub material and is resistant to corrosion, acid, and abrasion. POS is relatively light and moderately priced. One noted drawback to POS tubs is their tendency to rust if the porcelain gets chipped or cracked.
Fiberglass, also called gel-coated fiberglass, is one the least expensive tub materials. Although fiberglass can be repaired fairly easily, it is not the most durable product, and is prone to fading and scratching in as little as 10 years.
Acrylic tubs are also prone to wear and scratching over time. Scratches in an acrylic tub can typically be buffed out, and there are products on the market to bring back the acrylic gloss. Like POS, acrylic is resistant to chemicals, but manufacturers may warn against corrosive chemicals that can break down the chemical bonds in the acrylic. Acrylic is a popular choice for whirlpool baths and soaking tubs, as the lighter material compensates for the larger size and overall weight of the filled tub.
Enameled cast iron is a high-end tub material. While it is one of the most expensive, it is also very durable and should last indefinitely with proper care. Cast iron is extremely resistant to chipping and scratching. "A lot of homeowners go for the cast iron look in an older home. They find it replicates what they feel is the original look," Spaulding says.
Other material options include solid surfacing and natural stone, such as marble and granite. The natural stone tubs are also considered very high end. "A homeowner can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on a granite tub. These are essentially granite boulders that are chiseled and polished into a tub," says Spalding.
Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac