Bathtub Buying Guide
Luxurious and functional, bathtubs are a quintessential fixture in master bathrooms. Styles and sizes of tubs abound, as do features and prices from longer soaking tubs to modern whirlpool tubs. Picking out a new tub can be a little intimidating, but this guide will help you learn about whirlpool tubs, including the different types of installations, specifications, and features to help you make a more informed decision.
Measurements & Drainage
If you are considering a new bathtub, the first thing to do is determine the available space and configuration you will need. Standard three-wall tub enclosures in the US measure about 60" long and 30" deep. For these types of spaces, look for retrofit bath tubs that are designed specifically for this purpose. If you have more space to work, you can opt for longer lengths or corner tubs. Wherever you wish to place your new tub, measure out the available space, and ensure that drain placement will be possible. For two person corner tubs, the drain is typically located in the back corner. Rectangular tubs will have the drain offset to one side. If you are standing facing your enclosure, the drain would be either to right or left, which should be noted when shopping. Also, it is a good idea to make sure your water heater can handle the capacity of a new tub, and that your floor will be able to handle the filled weight. Most bathtubs and whirlpool tubs will have specification sheets you or your contractor can view before purchasing.
A popular choice for tub construction is acrylic, in which acrylic sheets are molded and reinforced with fiberglass and metal or wood. Metal frames are considered longer lasting since they are not as susceptible moisture. Acrylic, especially in whirlpool tubs, is valued because in addition to being lightweight, it is resistant to abrasion and fading and insulated. Solid surface tubs are made with acrylic and polyester resins, which creates a durable stain-resistant tub and allows for a wide range of colors. Fiberglass tubs with polyester gel coats and frames offer lightweight and economical options, though don't retain heat as well as their acrylic counterparts. Enameled steel tubs feature molded steel with heat-fired enamel finishes for dramatic flair at cheaper prices than cast iron, but can be noisy with running water and may be prone to chips. Another possible tub material is cultured marble which is a manmade material with gel coat finish known for stylish looks, though it does require maintenance and gentle care.
Now that you have an idea about the sizes and materials of bath tubs, its time to consider what type of installation will work best in your design and budget. Recessed, corner, drop-in, and freestanding are the primary tub types. Recessed or alcove bathtubs are designed to be surrounded by three walls, and will have only the front finished. This type of tub works well in 5ft retrofit spaces and can also be found in 6ft lengths. Corner bathtubs can be found in rectangular one person and triangular two person bathtub sizes and have two finished walls. Drop-in bathtubs are designed to rest on a platform or may be recessed into the floor. These types of tubs can create dramatic looks with custom enclosures. Freestanding tubs allow for the greatest flexibility as all sides are finished. Styles of freestanding tubs can include modern soaking tubs as well as clawfoot tubs.
One of the most coveted luxury bath upgrades on the market are whirlpool tubs. These types of bathtubs have the same characteristics of other bathtubs and come in all four types, with added massage jets and other features. Some tubs have hot tub-style water jets and others have air bubble massage for more gentle therapy. Other considerations for whirlpool bath tubs include the pump (measured in horsepower), whether or not it has a recirculation heater (to keep water warm), the ease-of-use of controls, auto-cleaning, and entertainment features like radios and chromatherapy.