Bathtub Buying & Information Guide

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A Guide to Understanding Tubs

Much like the bathroom shower, the tub is a point of luxury. In it, you will rest, relax and enjoy some time alone, away from your typical worries. For this reason, you should examine your options closely to determine what level of indulgence will best fit your needs.

Types of Tubs

  • Recessed tubs: Recessed tubs are the most common tubs, due in large part to their structure. Typically resting in an alcove-style location, only one side of the tub -- called an "apron" -- needs to be finished. Many are molded from steel, but more expensive models are cast iron. However, cast iron is heavier, so you would need to determine whether your bathroom floor can support the weight.
  • Corner tubs: Rather than in an alcove, corner tubs rest in a corner and typically have two exposed sides. However, some are shaped as a triangle for a stylish effect.
  • Drop-in tubs: Usually installed into a platform, drop-in tubs have a rim that sits level with the floor or has no rim at all. Because it is inset, none of the sides need to be finished. For heavy-duty enamel that won't scratch or dull as much as fiberglass, you may have to invest in cast iron, but again, check your floor's strength first.
  • Freestanding tubs: Freestanding tubs have four legs -- in any style, including claw, ball and pedestal -- and sit directly on the bathroom floor. They are the most expensive style of tub, but antique reproductions use lighter materials to decrease weight and price. Again, however, you will need to verify your floor's support.

Important Tub Features

  • Whirlpool features, which add massage jets, are available for all four tub models. If whirlpool is what you want, you'll have to consider the additional cost and requirements. In addition to having a higher base cost, some models need additional framing and a dedicated water heater and electrical circuit to operate properly with whirlpool. Also, consider the noise level. Jet pumps can get pretty loud, so find out whether you can place the pump in a location away from the tub to avoid distraction.
  • Seating is available in many modern-day bathroom tubs. With options ranging from full seats to leaning sides to even pillows, tubs with seating allow you to really lean back and enjoy life. This feature does, of course, add to the cost, but it can be a safety feature (for children or the elderly) in addition to a luxury, so consider it while shopping. For special senior accommodations, find tubs that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as they often feature better seating as well as grab bars for convenience.
  • Materials are what make or break your tub's durability. With options available in acrylic, cast polymer, cultured marble, enameled cast iron, enameled steel, fiberglass and solid service, the decision can be difficult, but look to the heavy metals. Cast iron and solid surface tend to be the most durable and resist wear and tear the best, but cultured marble and cast polymer offer a wider variety of styles. In the end, the decision is yours, but durability is probably a safer bet when investing in a bathtub.

Tub Design

While customizing your bathtub is always an option, it may not be necessary. Manufacturers have begun making previously rare features commonplace in warehouse models. This makes redesigning and remodeling a lot more fun for the average homeowner.

Tub shapes have grown increasingly innovative over the last few decades. Modern designers have played with lines, creating asymmetrical concoctions for your relaxation pleasure. As a result, tubs can fit into a variety of nooks and crevices in your bathroom and add a spruce to an easily boring room. As a refreshing alternative to an alcove tub, consider using the closed-in space as a countertop for your toiletries or decorations, placing next to it a round whirlpool tub. By distancing yourself from the standard bathroom layout, you'll feel that much more rejuvenated after a relaxing bath.

The one thing that manufacturers still do not offer is unique lining for the tubs. But if you're looking for a beautiful and different finish and don't mind spending a little more money, then you should enlist a qualified contractor who can use mosaic or ceramic tiles for the inside of the tub. The multitude of tone, texture and color options will make this shopping experience the highlight of your year.

Tub To-Do List

  • Ask yourself a few questions: How often will you use your tub, and what will you use it for? The last thing you want is to pay extra for whirlpool jets, only to never use them. Think practically before investing in easily corroded materials, as well.
  • Examine the physical issues, such as how much room you have, how big you want your tub to be and where the drain is or will be located. While freestanding tubs have more freedom, all others require a set amount of space. Study the availability in your bathroom and the requirements on the box before laying out the big bucks.
  • If you want to have a shower, then make sure the tub you purchase is compatible. Contrary to popular belief, not all tubs are, so check with the manufacturer before assuming anything.
Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for

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