Though selecting a new bathtub may seem like a simple task to many people, the truth is that there are actually many things you should consider when taking the plunge into bathroom renovations. In this article, we will explore some of the most important things you should consider and give as many tips as we can along the way. Get your pencil and paper ready, because you may want to take notes as you read along.

Aesthetic appeal (or visual design appeal) is one of the first things people think about when they decide to purchase a new bathtub. “How will it look in our room?” they ask themselves. “Will it match our tiles and towels?” Although these are important design considerations, there are many other things you should consider which may affect the type of bathtub you purchase in the end. Although it is good to know the general appearance you are looking for and it can be very beneficial to hold that information in the back of your head as you search, I encourage you to remember that you may have to sacrifice some visual appeal for actual function.

Let’s cover some information about the different styles of tubs first, then we can look at some more in-depth information about functions and features.

Clawfoot Tubs

Probably the oldest style of bathtub, the clawfoot tub was once a symbol of absolute prestige. In times when very few households even had indoor plumbing, the bathtub was considered a symbol of wealth and power. This is partially why bathtubs of ancient times were created with such ornate detail as legs and feet made from brass and shaped like the talons of an eagle.

These days, however, indoor plumbing isn’t quite as rare and the clawfoot bathtub has become a way of bringing some old-world charm into the home. This type of tub works wonderfully when paired with other old pieces in a typical Victorian theme. It also does well when paired with natural elements and some cleaner lines for a contemporary feel. Light colors and floral linens, when paired with a clawfoot tub, create a country cottage, country chic, or French country appeal.

Clawfoot tubs are usually one of the sturdiest bathtubs available because, in keeping with tradition, they are often crafted of cast iron. If the weight of your bathtub is of concern or you simply prefer more modern materials, rest assured that you will be able to find some sort of acrylic or fiberglass option on the market.

Freestanding Tubs

Freestanding tubs are like clawfoot tubs with a more modern/contemporary design. They can stand freely anywhere in your bathroom, as long as your plumbing is able to support your chosen location. Quickly, instead of being simply a place to bathe your freestanding bathtub becomes a design focal point. This type of bathtub is favored by people who are fans of modern, industrial, and contemporary design because of its clean lines and interesting shapes.

Freestanding tubs are often made of acrylic or fiberglass-reinforced acrylic, which means that they aren’t exactly built to last for generations. There are, however, some cast iron and enameled-steel options available on the market if you are looking for something with more durability.

Freestanding tubs are usually made in a “soaker” fashion, meaning that they are mid-length and rather deep. Some very deep yet quite short options also exist, which will allow you to fit this type of tub into a rather compact bathroom space.

Unlike most clawfoot tubs, which focus mostly on aesthetic appeal and basic function, freestanding tubs are usually built for comfort and class. They often featured angled back rests for full relaxation purposes. They also often feature thick ledges which allow you to bring a glass of wine and some candles close to you as you drift off into a serene, restful state.

Recessed Tubs

Recessed tubs are often built to be short in length and somewhat deep, allowing them to fit into the tiniest of alcoves and nooks without sacrificing your ability to submerge yourself in warm, relaxing water. Of course, if you have ample space, you can always choose from the handful of extra-long recessed tubs on the market. There are also some short to mid-sized recessed tubs which aren’t very deep. Though such a setup won’t allow you to get fully submerged when you have a bath, it is usually preferred by those who wish to create a bath/shower combination space.

Unlike drop-in tubs which require a full four-sided structure, many recessed tubs can simply slide into place between three walls. This type of tub features a full front/side panel which is made from the same material as the rest of the tub.

Drop-In Tubs

Drop-in tubs are, probably, one of the most customizable bathtubs in terms of appearance, and are one of the easiest to install. Most bathrooms are designed with special alcoves or nooks with built-in plumbing hookups for bathtubs. These nooks are, generally, made up of three walls (sometimes one or two of those walls may be only about two to three feet tall) with a space in the middle perfectly sized for a tub. Inside this little alcove is where your drop-in tub will fit.

However, instead of simply sliding into place like a recessed tub, a drop-in tub must literally be dropped inside of a four-sided structure. This is why we said that it is “one of the easiest to install”. In order to drop your tub into place you will need to build a structure for it. This extra hassle is worth it for many people because it allows them to create a very custom visual design. All you will be able to see of the tub itself will be its inside and its outer ledge. The entire exterior of the tub will be covered, allowing you to completely surround it with anything you like: colored paint, tile, wood, stone – the possibilities are endless.

Walk-In Tubs

If you are in search of ultimate comfort and relaxation, or simply need a bathtub which is easy to get in and out of, a walk-in is probably the direction you should head toward.

Of all the different bathtub types listed here on this page, walk-in tubs feature the largest range of differences among their own kind. Instead of simply differing in terms of size, material, and aesthetic appeal, the many walk-in tubs on today’s market differ in terms of motor power, motor type, basic molded structure, number of water jets, placement of water jets, number of air jets, and location of their doors. Additionally, they differ in terms of water drain placement, whether the jets and motor are controlled with knobs or a digital display, and whether they feature chromotherapy lights or not.

Left Drain or Right Drain?

This is an extremely important consideration. In fact, it may be the most important consideration you make when purchasing a new bathtub. Most bathrooms feature fixed plumbing. This means that the pipes which bring water to your bathtub and drain it away are in a fixed location. Sometimes, these pipes can be moved or extended, but you need to remember that the costs associated with doing so are often extremely high since much of that work needs to be done below the floor. If moving the pipes is something you are considering, you need to figure your bathtub’s placement out before you begin to actually work on your bathroom.

If you are unable to move the pipes due to price constraints or construction issues, you will need to find a bathtub which meets your plumbing needs. Any drop-in, recessed, or walk-in tub will be constrained by the location of your plumbing. In other words – the location of your pipes must match the location of your tub’s drain. If your bathroom features a built-in alcove and your bathtub features an obvious front face, you will need to be sure to purchase either a right-handed drain or a left-handed drain depending upon the location of the plumbing. Even some freestanding and clawfoot tubs will be constrained by plumbing, but this is mostly related to cosmetic design issues.

What Should Your Tub Be Made Of?

Now that you have come to a basic understanding of the type of tub you are looking for and have considered whether it requires a particular drain location, it is time to narrow down your possible choices a little further by deciding upon a material. The material you want will be affected by many things. Instead of getting into the tiniest details involved in your decision-making process, though, we will just give you some basic information about your options.

Cast Iron

Cast iron tubs are an old favorite. We are huge fans of cast iron at our house, but will try not to let that bleed into this discussion too much. Cast iron tubs are pretty much guaranteed to have the longest life of all the other tubs we will list on this page. Simply put, cast iron will never break down. It is so difficult to crack that we would be willing to bet a lot of money that you will live your entire life without ever hearing that one has cracked.

Cast iron tubs can take a little bit of time to warm up, so it is suggested that you run some warm water into it with a shower-head first to get it warm before filling it with water. If you do not have a shower head nearby, however, we suggest filling the tub with water which is much hotter than you will actually bathe in. Then you must simply wait for the iron to absorb some of that heat and the water will cool slightly to a wonderfully warm temperature that will hold steady for quite some time. Once the iron is warm, however, it will stay warm and keep your water warm for much longer than any other material on this list.

One major concern people have about cast iron is that it very heavy and, when paired with the weight of a person and water, it can be too much for some structures to handle.

Enameled Steel

Enameled steel is a lot like cast iron and is usually the back-up choice for someone who finds that his or her floor simply cannot support the weight of a cast iron tub. It doesn’t hold heat quite as well as cast iron, but is usually a step above non-insulated acrylic. It is almost as heavy-duty as cast iron, but is more prone to denting. The enamel on both steel and cast iron tubs can be chipped or scratched and is much more costly to repair than any scratches on acrylic tubs.

Acrylic

Many people choose acrylic tubs because they can be custom fit with much more ease and can be much less expensive than cast iron and enameled steel options. What’s more, acrylic tubs are much more difficult to scratch than enameled tubs and are much cheaper to repair if they do get scratched. This material can be molded into many shapes. If you see arm rests built into a bathtub, it is usually safe to assume that it has been made from acrylic.

Acrylic tubs take absolutely no time to heat up and will not initially cool your water slightly the way that cast iron and steel tubs will. That being said, acrylic is not a natural heat conducting material and, thus, will allow the water to cool much faster than cast iron and steel options. For this reason, we encourage you to look into insulated acrylic options, such as acrylic tubs with fiberglass reinforcement.

Final Considerations

Once you have chosen your basic style of bathtub and narrowed down your choices by drain location and material type, you can begin looking at things like the basic size of the bathtub you need for the space you have, the color of bathtub you would like, and the style of faucet and drain you would prefer.