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Feeling overwhelmed by the wide variety of freestanding bathtub styles, sizes, and materials? Learning about the options available as well as understanding your needs will make your tub hunt easier—and ensure that you select the perfect style for your new spa-like sanctuary.
Check out the 5 most important steps to take when shopping for a new bathtub.
First, you need to know exactly how much space you have. This will help you make an informed tub decision and prevent major headaches after the tub is already on-site. When you measure the area where you want the bathtub to go, make sure to account for space to install your plumbing with easy access for future maintenance. As a general guideline, plan for at least 4 inches of space between your tub and bathroom wall on all sides.
Next, measure any doorways, hallways, stairwells, and other openings that the tub needs to pass through for installation. Having to remove doors, widen doorways, or open drywall could result in added labor costs, which will affect your overall budget and timeline.
If you plan to install your tub on an upper floor, a heavy tub may be difficult to carry up your stairway. Likewise, the weight of a heavier bathtub may require additional reinforcement under your finished floor if it was not initially built to support a cast iron or resin tub.
Think about what purpose the tub will serve. How will it function in your bathroom? Consider tub depth, your general aesthetics, and your space.
If you are fitting your freestanding tub into a tight space, you may want to consider a Japanese soaking tub. Typically, this style of tub will be the smallest in length, which is made up for in height. Because of their taller stature, these tubs typically contain an integrated seat. The depth of these tubs allows the average adult bather to submerge in water up to their shoulders, which creates a relaxing feel for extended soaks. Larger versions of Japanese soaking tubs may include an additional seat for a second bather. This style of tub will contain a center drain location, and your faucet will typically mount on the opposite end of the seat. The smallest Japanese soakers can be found as little as 40" in length, and all the way up to a more standard 60" size.
Like the single-ended style, single-slipper tubs feature one end meant for lounging with the opposite end reserved for plumbing. This style features one elevated end to form the shape of a slipper. Providing heightened back support, these bathtubs are designed for maximum comfort. It is common to find single-slipper tubs sized in the range of 43"-73".
Double-slipper tubs are raised on both ends for comfortable reclining at either side. Depending on the length of the tub, this style can accommodate two bathers in a couple's suite. The drain and faucet location on this style of tub will be in the center, at the tub's low point. Size options in this style typically range from 59"-78".
This timeless, classic design is the most common tub style found in traditional homes. Single-ended tubs feature one rounded end which is sloped for lounging, with the opposite end reserved for your drain and faucet. You can typically find this style anywhere from size 48"-70".
Double-ended tubs have two rounded ends to provide the option of bathing on either side, with a level edge all the way around. Both walls are gently sloped for comfort and can fit two bathers depending on the tub’s size. This style will feature a center drain and faucet location, and is offered in a variety of sizes usually between 55"-72".
Clawfoot tubs have been available since the 1800s and remain a popular style of tub today. These are perfect for replacing your old clawfoot tub with something new, while maintaining the traditional look in your bathroom. Clawfoot tubs are commonly available with single-ended, single-slipper, double-ended, and double-slipper designs in a variety of sizes, typically between 48"-72".
Pedestal, also known as skirted, tubs supplement a traditional art deco design by resting on a plinth rather than claw feet. Pedestal tubs, like clawfoot, can be found in single ended, single slipper, double ended, and double slipper designs. This style can be found sized anywhere from 52"-78".
Select A Bathtub Material & Finish
Freestanding tubs come in a variety of materials. If you are planning for your tub to be more of a statement piece, you may want to go with something unique such as copper or stone. Every tub has its style benefits, depending on the design.
Cast iron freestanding tubs are incredibly durable, making them very heavy in return. They are crafted the same way today as they were centuries ago, which have lasted generations — still found in century-old homes today. Due to their classic appeal, cast iron tubs are often the choice for traditional renovations in historical homes. These tubs are made of iron with a coating of porcelain enamel that is tough to scratch and easy to clean. Cast iron tubs tend to retain heat very well, which makes them ideal for longer soaking.
Acrylic tubs are the most popular choice for freestanding tubs today, with a large variety of both modern and traditional designs available. Despite their high durability, they are relatively lightweight, which makes them easier to maneuver and carry up stairwells and to install. They also won't require reinforcing your floor if installing on an upper level, unlike heavier materials like cast iron and resin.
Solid surface tubs get their name from being made of resin. These generally have a more contemporary design and result in a hard surface from using a high-quality composite material. These tubs feature an integral drain and overflow system built into their walls, which makes installation a breeze and eliminates any exposed drain piping. Solid surface tubs are available in a gloss or matte finish, and require very little maintenance.
These gorgeous hand-crafted tubs are available in a variety of unique shapes, styles, and textures. Copper's ability to conduct heat allows the water to maintain a steady temperature, similar to cast iron. Copper also has its health benefits, as this material is naturally resistant to mold and bacteria.
Tubs made of stainless steel typically have a more modern look and are a fantastic focal point for a contemporary design. They are available in a polished or brushed finish, which go great with chrome and brushed nickel plumbing fixtures. This material also requires very little maintenance, as it is easy to clean and preserve its finish.
Tub fillers are available in a variety of configurations. The style and material of the freestanding tub you choose will determine which type of tub filler options you have. For example, a solid surface tub will not allow the installation of a deck mounted faucet because you cannot drill faucet holes into them. On the other hand, acrylic and cast-iron tubs usually have multiple options for different faucet drillings, so you can be more flexible.
If you have chosen a deck-mount tub faucet, or a faucet that mounts to the rim of the tub, then you will need a tub featuring a tap deck. A tap deck is a flat portion of the tub rim that is meant for mounting a tub faucet. The measurement of 7" refers to the distance from the center of the first mounting hole to the center of the second mounting hole. This pre-drilled option will only be compatible with deck-mount tub faucets that have standard 7" centers.
Some deck-mount tub faucets will not have standard 7" centers, so the pre-drilled tap deck will not be compatible. Acrylic and cast-iron bathtubs will sometimes have the option to purchase with a tap deck, but with no drillings. In this case, your plumber would need to drill the faucet holes into the tap deck to accommodate the tub faucet that you have chosen. Please note that only two-hole tub faucets will be compatible. Roman tub faucets, or faucets that require three or more mounting holes, cannot be used due to drainpipe interference.
Bathtubs with a rolled rim, or rolled top, will contain no faucet drillings. The tub will feature a continuous rolled rim all the way around. This type of tub will only be compatible with a freestanding tub faucet or a bathroom wall-mounted tub faucet that would be installed on a surrounding wall.
The variety of freestanding tub accessories available allow you to add character and convenience to your tub. Popular additions include tub caddies, reading racks, and wine glass holders to assist with relaxation. For convenience, there are also over-the-rim caddie options available which contain soap baskets or loofah holders. Foot coasters are a great add-on for clawfoot tubs, as they help to protect your bathroom floor.
There are many different shower conversion kits available for tubs that contain faucet drillings on the rim or inner tub wall, which will convert your handheld shower into a traditional overhead shower unit.
Adding an air massage system to your acrylic or resin tub creates a luxurious, spa-like atmosphere and provides many hydrotherapeutic health benefits. Small air jets, also referred as bubblers, are installed into the base of your tub. The air system’s blower motor will contain a heating element to keep your water up to room temperature. A water-resistant remote control is provided to control the motor’s speed and functionality from within the tub for maximum relaxation.