Which Bathtub Should You Choose For Your Master Bathroom?
When buying a bathtub, many factors affect the price tag. Before purchasing a tub for a remodeled bath or a new one, consider what tubs are made of, how and where the tub will be used, and your budget. Taking a bath is the ultimate in relaxation, but buying a bathtub can be fraught with stress. There is an array of shapes, sizes, and materials available today, but it’s a decision you want to get right. Ripping out and replacing a tub isn’t quite a fun job, so answer these questions before you purchase a new bathtub.
How do you plan to use your tub?
The answer determines whether an inexpensive design is sufficient or you need a top-of-the-line. A standard soaking tub simply gets filled with water, while a whirlpool or air bath has jets or channels that provide massaging air. Extras in a soaker are typically limited to arm or headrests, grab bars, and slip-resistant flooring. Whirlpool, air-bath, or combination tubs have many more options, including adjustable jets, ambient underwater lighting, aromatherapy features, heated blowers, and automated cleaning systems. The more elaborate your tub, the more expensive it will be.
How much space do you have?
Before falling in love with a particular type of tub, you need know just what your bathroom can accommodate. A standard tub is 60″ long, 30″ wide, and 14″ deep, but many other sizes and shapes are available. To determine how large the tub can be, take careful measurements of your space and doorways.
Are there special installation considerations?
If you’re considering a jetted bathtub, you’ll need to plan for the pump, air switch, and electric timer. Many pumps fit within the tub unit, but some manufacturers have remote-location pumps that can be placed up to 5 feet from the tub and hidden in a closet or vanity cabinet. The air switch, which is nonelectric, may be located on the tub unit. Plan on installing the electric timer a safe distance at least 5′ away from the tub to satisfy code requirements.
Can your water heater handle the task?
The size of your tub will affect your monthly expense. A typical bath consists of one-third cold water and two-thirds hot water. If you have a hot-water tank, can it supply enough hot water? Tubs vary in size, holding 25-150 gallons of water. Make sure your water heater is large enough to fill about two-thirds of your tub with warm water.
Does weight pose a problem?
Plastic tubs can weigh as little as 50 lb. empty, while a cast-iron bathtub can top 1,000 pounds. If you’re considering a heavier material, can your floors handle the weight? When you add up tub weight, plus the weight of water and people, it may be necessary to reinforce the floor beneath the tub with supports or bracing. Also, a too-heavy tub may be impossible or prohibitively expensive to get into a second-floor bathroom.
With hundreds of shapes and sizes to choose from, buying a tub can be overwhelming. And the material you select determines the tub’s price, durability, and cleanability. Here are your choices.
Plastic, either fiberglass or acrylic, offers the greatest design flexibility because it can be molded into many shapes. It’s warm to the touch and insulates well, so water doesn’t cool as fast as in enameled-steel or cast-iron tubs. Plastic is also the lightest tub, weighing in at 60-70 lbs. Although it doesn’t chip easily, abrasive cleaners will damage the surface.
Cast-iron tubs, like steel, are coated with enamel. However, they don’t chip as easily as steel because the enamel coating is thicker than on steel tubs, and cast iron is more durable and resistant to impacts. At first, a cast-iron tub will pull heat from water, but once it heats up, it will keep water warm for a long time. Cast iron’s main drawback is its weight, 350-500 pounds, which may complicate second-floor installations.
Cast-polymer tubs traditionally replicate the look of marble, granite, or onyx, and they’re available in a range of solid colors. Cast polymer costs a little more than acrylic; however, its surface doesn’t stand up as well. With time, the gel-coat finish on cast-polymer tubs can become brittle and expose the material underneath, leading to cracks.
Repair or Refinish?
Maybe your old tub’s character doesn’t justify replacement. Refinishing or lining your tub is a great way to take care of unsightly chips and stains. Some companies can refinish your tub with a polyurethane coating that gives it a hard, high-gloss surface, so you can update rather than replace.