Bathtub choice is an integral part of the bathroom design process. Homeowners’ wishes should be considered, but if their bathtub choice is based on looks alone, it could mean disaster. It’s important to know why certain tubs are specified for one type of bathroom and not another. Many other factors can affect bathtub choice.
Bathtubs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, types, styles and materials, which can include but are not limited to cast iron, acrylic, fiberglass, porcelain on steel, cultured marble and composite.
The size of a bathroom and its configuration are the two main factors that determine the basic type of tub to use. There are five basic bathtub types, which include built-in/recessed, platform, corner, free-standing and specialty/premier tubs.
Most popular: Built-ins
The most common bathtub is the built-in/recessed style. They are built-in wall-to-wall and come in many sizes. The front can be coordinated to match the tile or stone of the room, or it can come with an apron front to match the same style and color of the tub. The most popular is the 5-ft. model in situations where space is an issue. It is specified for the classic 5-ft. by 7-ft. bathroom that is most popular, especially in urban dwellings such as in New York City. Typical sizes are 30 to 34 in. wide, 14 to 20 in. deep and 60 to 72 in. long. The two most popular colors are white and bisque. The built-in typically is used as a bath and/or shower where a sliding glass door is installed on the outside rim of the tub or a shower curtain rod is installed.
Platform bathtubs have no front apron and are dropped into a platform. They are generally deeper, and for this reason are used more often when there is a separate enclosure for it. Many times the bathtub is built next to the shower and a custom, frameless glass enclosure separates them in high-end bathrooms (see photo above). The front of the platform can be tiled, and for a better installation the top of the platform can use stone slab material as a complementary color to the tile in the bathtub. This same stone can be used on a shower window sill and for saddles. A dramatic tub filler faucet can be used as a focal point, or a handheld spray can also be specified.
Corner tubs are made to fit in the corner of a room and have angled or curved fronts. These work best in large square or rectangle rooms. Some corner tubs are so large they are made for two people; however, they take a good amount of space, which is approximately 60 in. on the back wall. These tubs are good for the very high-end market. Variations include one-piece corner shower/tub applications with built-in seat, steam and body sprays with curved or angled doors.
Free-standing bathtubs stand in the middle of a room and are not built in. They are used as tubs only and not for showering. Free-standing tubs come in a traditional claw-foot style for an antique look, and they also come in an ultra-contemporary style, some of which look like art sculptures. I have seen some free-standing bathtubs with an interesting egg shape that are made from solid Corian imported from Italy. Free-standing Japanese-style soaking tubs also are available.
Specialty/Premier bathtubs are deep, soaking tubs for a relaxing spa experience. For an exceptional massage, an air-jet system or water-jet system can be chosen. Air-jet bathtubs force air out of the jets whereas water jets push out water. The air-jet tubs provide a more bubbly experience whereas water-jet models offer a more intense, targeted massage. Typical air-jet systems have between 30 to 70 jets that propel air into the water. Pressure from the jets is equally distributed throughout the bath, creating an all-encompassing sensation. Some jet tubs come with heated back/head rests, which aid relaxation of the neck and back. You can customize the massage experience by combining effects of hydro-thermo massage, aroma therapy, sound therapy and chromatherapy.
Selecting a tub
It is important when designing a bathroom and selecting a bathtub to think of the personal needs of the client. For instance, if the bathtub is for a child’s bathroom or is for bathing a toddler, you will not want a tub that’s too deep. The same applies to the elderly; an extremely deep tub can be nice for soaking but can make it difficult for older bathers to get in and out of. Remember grab bars if necessary.
Tub/shower combinations with doors that seal out the water can come with the option of a seat inside. These types of bathtubs can be used for the physically challenged. Keep in mind that the client needs to fit comfortably in the tub. I’ve asked clients to actually step into a tub in the showroom to make sure they are comfortable. A 5-ft. tub for a 6-ft. man would not be a wise choice.
Also there are tubs specially designed for two people. The overfill drains are flat to not poke bathers in the back. Be aware of where you position the tub filler so it’s not in anyone’s way. Maintain a sense of proportion when selecting a bathtub so it doesn’t appear out of place. I also know of a situation when clients wanted to remove a tub and replace it with a shower. The one-and-a-half-bath home would have become a shower-only residence, which realtors don’t recommend.