Besides the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important room in a home, with a simple remodel yielding a whopping 102 percent return. Beyond swapping out the flooring or painting the walls with one of the year’s top calming hues, bathtubs are an integral part of improving the aesthetics and increasing the bathroom functionality.

Design experts say self-care is at the top of homeowners’ and buyers’ priority lists, and they’re looking for a relaxing bathroom experience after a long day of working and schooling at home.

“My clients are beginning to ask the right questions based on their own personal needs when it comes to their preferred bathroom experiences,” designer Breegan Jane told Apartment List. “Overall, people seem to be more concerned with fixture placements — like individualized rain heads and hand showers — for their self-care needs versus years before.”

Clawfoot tub (Credit: Dan Counsell on Unsplash)

Basic clawfoot and soaking bathtubs are the most affordable, with a base price of $600. Freestanding tubs are the next most affordable option at $750, and the price jumps considerably when looking at whirlpool ($1,000) and walk-in options ($2,000). Each tub’s prices are ultimately based on the size and any extra features, which can cause costs to balloon as much as $14,000.

After factoring in labor, which HomeAdvisor estimates can range from $1,400 to $4,900 based on the project’s size and difficulty, installing a new tub costs as little as $1,900 or as much as $10,400 for top-of-the-line options.

For small bathrooms, homeowners should consider clawfoot, soaking and freestanding tubs, which come in a greater variety of sizes to meet their needs. Clawfoot and freestanding tubs offer more flexibility in positioning, with manufacturers offering round or triangular models you can easily place in a corner. For soaking tubs, homeowners can choose a narrower model with a greater height to maintain the spa experience.

Drop-in tub (Credit: Canva)

Lastly, homeowners with small bathrooms should consider a drop-in bathtub, a classic option for most households.

“Perhaps the ultimate space saver, positioning a shower over the bathtub maximizes the use of available space,” a Better Homes and Gardens article read. “A monochrome color scheme keeps things easy on the eye.”

For homeowners with larger bathrooms, the world is their oyster — although they can choose simpler clawfoot or soaking tub options, there’s room to go all out with whirlpool, freestanding and walk-in options with all the bells and whistles.

Design website TrendBook said luxury homeowners and homebuyers are opting for gold-plated, terrazzo and wood veneer finishes that replicate styles from the world’s best five-star hotels and resorts. Meanwhile, New Decor Trends said marble and natural stone will be the go-to materials in 2021, thanks to their luxurious appearance.

“The year 2021 will be marked by the return of marble,” the article read. “The colors will be white, gray, red. Seamless fluid lines and space layout will be practical and simple, but with a touch of organic and elegant comfort.”

“Natural stone will continue to be used, not simply on the floor and walls, but also on countertops and sinks,” it added. “It is played with the majesty of natural materials that contrast with each other, which offer us visual and tactile texture in a room that has become a sanctuary.”

Homeowners are loving luxurious finishes like this. (Credit: Canva)

For those who can afford a hi-tech touch, bathtubs and showers with temperature and water flow control are growing in popularity as homeowners search for environmentally friendly and energy-saving options.

“Ecology and comfort are two ideas for modern bathroom design,” an eDecorTrends article read. “Intelligent systems of shower complexes with automatic maintenance of temperature and water flow rate, with integrated ‘light water’ devices — special mixing of water with air to create a light and volumetric water flow.”

For homeowners who don’t have the time nor budget to invest in a new bathtub, all hope isn’t lost. Refinishing a bathtub costs between $300 to $600, with most of the cost going toward labor ($200 to $500).

“Sometimes called ‘reglazing’ or ‘resurfacing,’ this process gives your tub a fresh new look,” HomeAdvisor explained. “It’s usually much cheaper than replacement, which means you can update your bathroom at a lower price.”

The cost to refinish fiberglass ($300-$1,000), porcelain ($350-$600) and cast iron ($350-$600) depends on the condition and size of the tub. Fiberglass is the most common material and is the easiest to care for; however, porcelain and cast iron are more durable and can last for more than 100 years with proper care.

Clawfoot tubs, which have porcelain insides and cast iron outsides, are the most expensive to refinish as they often require reglazing to improve their luster and durability. This can tack a few hundred dollars onto the refinishing cost, but HomeAdvisor said it’s worth it as it expands the tub’s lifespan by 20 years or more.

Motorized walk-in tub (Credit: alabn for Getty Images)

Last, but certainly not least, homeowners must think about the functionality of their new tub. If they’re planning to age in place or have family members with disabilities living with them, then walk-in tubs with railings and seating are the best and safest bet.

Walk-in tubs come in multiple sizes and can include hydrotherapy and aromatherapy features that are great for homeowners who deal with arthritis and other joint or muscular disorders. However, they also come with a hefty price tag of $2,000 to $5,000 for basic models and $10,000 or more for suped-up versions.

No matter the budget or the style preference, it’s all about helping homeowners and homebuyers choose a bathtub where they can literally and figuratively wash their worries away.

“With the stress of 2020 behind us, creating spa-like serenity at home has never been more important,” Jane added. “A bathroom designed with clean lines and simplicity in mind can provide a comforting contrast to the hustle and bustle of daily life.”

Email Marian McPherson

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