Choosing the right bathtub for both new and renovated bathrooms can be one of the most difficult decisions a homeowner will make. The placement of the tub will be the primary factor in choosing the right piece, but there are other considerations as well; materials, fit, overall quality, and optional special features.
Location, Location, Location…
And Measuring Matters
Where the new tub will live determines both the size of the tub and its shape. Will this be a replacement for a traditional shower-over-tub or is this a higher end drop-in with a tile surround? Does the new tub fit nicely in a corner or will it be free standing and the showpiece of the bathroom?
No matter which installation option makes the cut, the importance of measuring cannot be overstated. Generally speaking, you'll need to measure side-to-side and back-to-front; length and width for an alcove soaking tub and from corner-to-corner as well as from the 90-degree point of the triangle out to each corner for a corner unit.
Most alcove and corner bathtubs include a lip around the edge where you'll have either a tile our pre-fabricated surround meet the surface of the tub. You don't generally need to worry about the thickness of the necessary cement board, mortar and tile when you're measuring the space for your tub. But, it is worth noting that the heartier your tile, the less elbow room you'll have above the top surface of your tub, which can be important with a shower-over-tub configuration.
If your new tub is a freestanding piece, measurements typically consist of how long and wide your space is overall plus any additional room you might need for your faucet. Floor-mounted faucets need at least four inches from the nearest wall so you can clean around them and reach the shut-off valves.
Additionally, you also need to consider the various door frames, hallways and stairways the new tub will traverse on its way to its new space. If you can’t get the bathtub into the house, it won’t matter whether or not it fits in the bathroom.
Aesthetics and performance are the names of the game when it comes to choosing the right material for a new bathtub. Certainly how the new bathtub looks is important, but so is its longevity, how easy it is to clean and what it takes to maintain its good looks. Acrylic bathtubs are popular because the material doesn’t weigh nearly what a cast iron tub weighs - roughly 100 pounds to the more traditional 400 pounds. Solid surface bathtubs are getting more popular because they look like stone without weighing a ton and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Even better? They’re also easy to clean and maintain; most of the time wiping them down with a damp cloth is all it takes.
You might also want to consider a copper bathtub, which can lend your bathroom a high-end vintage vibe. Copper tubs are naturally antimicrobial and take on a beautiful patina as they age. Copper is also extremely easy to maintain; just use a mild soap and water and rinse completely then dry it.
Finding the Right Fit
Taking a bath is supposed to be a time to relax and let the stress of the day slip away, so take the time to make sure the new bathtub is the right fit for the folks who will be using it the most. Try out the new tub, if possible, by getting inside it and stretching out. Is the end of the tub far enough away? Is the slope of the side comfortable enough for reclining? Are there grab bars for safe entrances and exits?
Bathtubs can be expensive, so spend time comparison shopping to get the biggest bang for the buck. Features, materials and manufacturer’s warranty should all be taken into account. Additionally, homeowners should factor in the cost of removing the old tub because taking out a corner unit with a tile surround is much more costly than switching out an old drop-in for new one.
The larger the tub, the faster the water cools so installing a bathtub with a heater might be an option to consider. There are also models available that incorporate electronic controls, sound and programmable light therapy to energize or soothe, respectively.
One Final Check…
Finally, before choosing a new tub homeowners should double-check the strength of the floor underneath the new bathtub. While the weight of a new tub will vary depending on the material with which it’s made, the added weight of water and a human being can bring the total weight a floor needs to bear to 1,000 pounds or more.