If you’re thinking of remodeling your bathroom anytime soon, you might not realize just how many bathtub options you have. In addition to an amazing palette of color choices, you also have options in materials, sizes, design, jets, controls and installation methods. Let’s take a look at a few of those basic options to get you started on the right path.
Some bubbly with that tub?
A basic choice you’ll be making right away is whether you want a jetted or nonjetted tub. Jetted tubs utilize a pump to circulate water though pipes that surround the tub, pushing the water into the tub through adjustable jets. Air is also introduced into the water through various means, creating bubbles.
The combination of the water jets and the air bubbles create a sensation in the water ranging from mildly soothing to invigoratingly therapeutic.
If you’re thinking of a jetted tub, be ready for lots of additional options. Depending on the price range, you’ll be looking at different types, sizes, and locations of jets, as well as different types and sophistication levels of control panels.
Besides the jets, you’ll have options for chromotherapy (different colors and patterns of lights) as well as tub heaters, which keep the tub water heated without continually adding more hot water.
You’ll also need to be ready for some additional expense. Jetted tubs cost anywhere from a little to a lot more than their nonjetted cousins. They also require dedicated electrical circuits, as well as a means of accessing the motor for future maintenance.
Installation methods — choices upon choices
Knowing where the tub is going to be in the room and how it’s going to be installed is a crucial first decision, and will dictate a lot of the rest of your design choices. Here are the basic options:
Drop-in: The drop-in tub is perhaps the most popular. Drop-in tubs have a lip around the upper edge, and as the name implies, they’re designed to be dropped into an opening in a platform. Since you can make the platform any size and style you like, drop-in tubs also give you a lot of design flexibility, and let your creativity have free reign.
Drop-ins come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, as well as in jetted and nonjetted configurations. With jetted drop-ins, the controls may be in the top lip or the inner sidewall of the tub. If you opt for a jetted tub, remember that the platform design needs to make allowance for a door or other access panel where the motor is located.
Undermount: An undermount tub is similar to an undermount sink. It has no upper lip, and is designed to sit in a platform and have the deck material installed over the top of the tub. Undermount tubs have a very clean look, with a flat, level deck area. They’re also available in both jetted and nonjetted versions, and if you opt for a jetted tub, the controls will be mounted in the inside sidewall of the tub so that the deck installation doesn’t interfere with them.
Another, more common version of the undermount tub is the traditional three-sided, alcove installation. This type of tub has a finished skirt on one long side, and the other three sides are contained within a three-sided alcove. If the tub is jetted, it’s typically designed so that the front skirt is removable to give access to the motor.
Cornermount: Cornermount tubs are more triangular in design, rather than rectangular. They can be drop-in or undermount, and are designed for installation in a corner platform. Corner tubs can be used to free up floor space while still creating a dramatic platform in one corner of the room, and their design is often more conducive to two-person use. Both jetted and nonjetted versions are available.
Freestanding: Another interesting design option is offered by the freestanding bathtub. Tubs of this type are not built into a platform or an alcove, but rather stand alone, resting directly on the floor. The claw-foot tub is probably the most commonly recognized example of a freestanding bathtub, but there are a number of European soaking tub designs that are also freestanding and have a much more contemporary look.
Some of the newer freestanding tubs are now available in jetted models. If you’re thinking of one of these, look over the installation specifications well in advance, as they typically have very specific requirements for the location of plumbing, drains, and wiring.
Walk-in: Finally, you have the option of a walk-in tub. Once considered only a tub for someone with disabilities, walk-in tubs are gaining popularity among people who are remodeling their homes with an eye toward "aging in place" and future accessibility.
Walk-in tubs have a door in the side that opens into the tub, allowing easy access without having to step over the tub’s side. Once inside, the door seals against the inside of the tub, preventing leakage. Seat heights of 14 inches and an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant 17 inches are both available. Walk-in tubs are designed to fit into a standard 5-foot tub alcove, and are available in both jetted and nonjetted versions. Look for more styles and options of these tubs in the future as their popularity increases.
Sizes and materials
Once you have a better idea of where your new bathtub will be located, you can narrow down the choices of sizes and materials. Steel and cast-iron bathtubs are still available, but most of today’s tubs are made from durable, lightweight acrylics.
The standard size is still the 5-foot-long tub, but 6-foot tubs are certainly popular, as they give a lot more soaking room — especially if you’re tall. If you have the room, consider a 6-foot tub, as the cost difference usually isn’t too great, and you’ll gain a lot in comfort, appearance and resale value.
Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at [email protected]. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.
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