In today’s fast-paced world, many homeowners opt for a walk-in shower rather than a bathtub when renovating their bathroom. The fact is, most of us take a quick shower much more frequently than we take a bath. Some of us, however, simply must have the option of a long, luxurious soak, even if we don’t do it that often. Additionally, most real estate experts agree that, for resale purposes, a home should have at least one bathtub. If the plan for your bathroom includes a new bathtub, your options are many, ranging from the inexpensive and easily installed to tubs with special features that require special considerations when installing. Choosing one that fits your style, your budget and your bathing needs is an important step in your renovation.
Let’s start with the materials that our bathtub could be made of. How important is durability to your family? What about style and the feel of the material? And, of course, your budget will come into play.
Marketed as fiberglass, these tubs are actually made of a combination of fiberglass and plastic. Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) is the technical term. During the manufacturing process, layers of fiberglass are formed into the shape of the bathtub and then coated with plastic. The result is an inexpensive, lightweight material that is easy to carry, work with and install. The downside is that it’s not as durable as other materials. Because fiberglass is inherently flexible, it does not have the stable feel that some people prefer in a bathtub. The finish easily fades, cracks and scratches.
A step up from FRP, these tubs can either be solid acrylic or they can have a fiberglass core. In either case, the
acrylic makes them more durable than FRP. Solid acrylic is slightly more expensive, but more durable. Because the colour is the same all the way through the product, scratches are less noticeable. Solid acrylic can also be molded into unique shapes with soap dishes, arm rests or other detailing. Like fiberglass, it is lightweight and easy to install.
In the manufacturing process for these tubs, a thin sheet of steel is stamped into the shape of the tub. The steel is then coated with a layer of porcelain, resulting in high-end, stone-like feel. Because porcelain is resistant to most chemicals, these tubs can be easily cleaned over and over again while retaining their sheen. Negatives include the fact that the thin, porcelain surface can chip or crack when impacted, they are available in fewer shapes than fiberglass or acrylic and they are heavier and somewhat harder to work with.
Many older homes have cast iron tubs and, in most cases, they have not chipped, cracked, dented or faded over the years. That’s what happens when you form molten iron into the shape of a tub, smooth it and coat it with a thick porcelain enamel. Not only are these tubs durable and resistant to most cleaning chemicals, they offer a solid, luxurious feel that can not be matched by other materials and they retain the heat in your bath water better than any other material. The only downsides to cast iron tubs are their relatively high cost when compared to other types of tubs and their extreme weight, which requires not only additional labour, but reinforcement in the bathroom floor.
These are the most common materials for bathtubs, but if you want to look beyond the traditional, you do have other options. Manufacturers have begun making tubs out of solid surface materials, which are commonly used in countertops. Cultured marble tubs are made from crushed limestone finished with a gelcoat, creating a durable finish that is less expensive than cast iron. If you want to get really creative, you can make your tub from ceramic tile, though you’ll need to maintain the grout, or you can custom order a tub made from natural stone or even certain woods like teak.
Now, the fun part. It’s time to think about what style of tub you want. Find one that suits your personal aesthetic and also fits the dimensions of your bathroom.
Typically built into the bathroom itself with walls or cabinetry surrounding it, standard tubs are rectangular shaped and are available in standard sizes. The most common size is 1.5m x 0.75m, however, other standard sizes are available if your bathroom has special dimensions. When selecting a standard tub, be sure to purchase one that has the drain on the right side and finished face on the right side so that it faces out.
A freestanding tub is not built into the wall or cabinetry. Instead, as he name indicates, it stands on its own and can be a glamorous focal point of any bathroom. These tubs can sit flush against the floor, be raised up on a platform or stand on feet. One popular form of freestanding tub is the claw-foot tub, which offers a traditional look that has been popular through the ages.
Longer, wider and deeper than most tubs, soaking tubs can be a luxurious addition to any bathroom if space allows. Available in most of the materials mentioned above, these huge tubs can hold 200-300 liters of water. All of that water, plus the tub itself, particularly if it’s cast iron can stress floor joist. Make sure they are properly reinforced. Heating all that water can be beyond the capacity of a typical water heater. Consider installing an on-demand water heater if you choose a soaking tub.
A tub with jets that shoot either recirculated bath water or air to create bubbles takes bathing to another level. Not only are you getting clean, but you’re getting a relaxing massage. Typically, the jets are housed behind the walls next to your tub and special installation is, therefore, required. When selecting a whirlpool tub, look for one with a powerful, but quiet motor and when installing it, allow for access to the internal parts for maintenance purposes.
If you’ve made the decision to install a tub, you’ll want to make sure it is one that will meet your expectations for durability and comfort. Understanding your options in terms of materials and style will help you do that. If you’re not sure what type of bathtub you want, take a trip to the home store to touch and feel different kinds and learn as much as you can about each option. Every time you decide to pamper yourself with a nice, long bath, you’ll be glad you did.