Andrew Dehan8-Minute Read
UPDATED: November 21, 2022
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There’s nothing like a relaxing soak in the tub, especially if you’ve had a hard day. Drop in some essential oils and some oatmeal, or maybe a special bath bomb, and soothe. Maybe light some candles and enjoy your favorite beverage. Time in the tub can be restorative for your mind and body.
If you’re upgrading your bathroom or looking for a home with the perfect tub, consider these types of bathtubs to find the right one for you.
Here are several different types of bathtubs, each with unique features and purposes. Here we’ll cover some common types and why you may choose one over the other.
Free-standing tubs rest on the floor and aren’t built into walls or showers. They come in different sizes and orientations depending how you want to soak in them. They fit well with modern and minimalist designs.
When you think of luxury bathtubs, it’s possible a clawfoot comes to mind. These tubs literally have claw-shaped feet elevating them off the ground. They can give your bathroom a classy, upscale feel.
Alcove tubs are surrounded by walls on three sides. On the fourth side, they have a tub apron descending to the floor. This style is one of the most typical you’ll see and often has a shower head attached. Alcove tubs are especially common in smaller homes and apartments as they don’t take up much space.
Corner bathtubs are usually oversized and fit into corners. They often have a triangular, diamond or heart shape. They may have multiple seats. One popular feature frequently seen on this style is added in whirlpool jets.
Drop-in tubs fit into a raised platform. These tubs are very versatile. They can look minimalist and sleek, or upscale and luxurious. A lot depends on the fixtures and the type of platform they’re installed in.
While this isn’t a type of bathtub per se, this is the most common setup you’ll see in most bathrooms. Sometimes the tub is a separate alcove or drop-in tub with tile above it. Other times, the whole bathtub/shower fits together in segments.
Slipper tubs and angled tubs have high backs for leaning back in to rest your shoulders and neck. These styles can have claw feet, as seen here, or be freestanding with more modern features.
Soaking tubs, aka Japanese-style tubs, are narrow and deep tubs with a built-in seat. While there are some modern, rectangular versions, most of these tubs are circular. Traditionally these are constructed of wood, similar to what you would see cowboys soaking in in old western movies.
Nowadays, they come in a variety of materials, from wood, to steel, to smooth stone. Their tall, narrow shape makes them a great option if you want a standalone tub but don’t have a lot of space.
While not necessarily for your bathroom, hot tubs are a popular choice for many looking to relax. Typically found outdoors, hot tubs feature multiple seats, steamy heated water and whirlpool jets to massage and stimulate your muscles. The cost of a hot tub doesn’t have to break the bank, either.
If you’re interested in a big tub to relax in, but don’t have room in your bathroom, an outdoor hot tub might be your best option.
Along with many popular styles, bathtubs come in a wide array of materials. Some are more common and functional, while others are more luxurious.
Here are some common materials bathtubs are made from, reasons for choosing them and how much they cost.
Acrylic/fiberglass is one of the most common materials for a tub. It’s durable, easy to clean and affordable. Typically, acrylic tubs are reinforced with fiberglass for added strength. Fiberglass on its own isn’t a suitable bathtub material as it’s porous and can warp.
Without hardware, acrylic alcove-style tubs run in the $200 – $300 range with freestanding-style tubs running around twice that much.
Cast iron is another incredibly common material for bathtubs. You’ll see it enameled with porcelain to give it a nice, smooth finish. Cast iron tubs are more durable than acrylic. They’re built to last for a long time. Expect to pay a little more for that durability.
These tubs run $600 and up, starting at basic styles without fixtures to high-end, stylish clawfoot tubs.
Copper is an incredible material for a bathtub. It looks amazing, it’s very durable and naturally antimicrobial. Most of these bathtubs are freestanding, and some are available in an upright Japanese-style. Copper tubs also retain heat much better than other materials, letting you soak in warmth longer.
You’re not going to find copper bathtubs in most homes, though. Why? They’re expensive. A copper bathtub will run you into the multiple thousands of dollars. That is, if you buy a quality one. Be wary of a cheap copper tub, especially antiques. They can contain mercury and lead. Learn the tub’s metal composition to steer clear of unsafe alloys.
Steel is a common material to find in bathtubs. Like cast iron, steel is bathtubs are usually porcelain-enameled. However, unlike cast iron, sometimes the steel is left bare. This could be partially, with the interior left enameled, or fully in the case of a high-grade stainless-steel tub.
Because steel runs the gamut in terms of variety and style, the price range is large. Basic alcove tubs without fixtures start in the mid-$200s. Freestanding styles can range between $1,000 – $3,000.
The pinnacle of luxury: the marble bathtub. Do you have a bathroom that just needs a heavy, stone tub with a cherub’s face carved on it? A marble bathtub is for you. As you can imagine, installing one of these things is a pain. They’re heavy. Chances are, though, if you can afford a marble tub, you can afford to pay someone to put it in.
Marble bathtubs run in the multiple thousands of dollars, starting around $3,000 without fixtures, easily cresting $15,000 if you want some custom bronze lion paws to go with it.
Choosing the right bathtub can mean taking a lot of factors into account. Obviously, if you rarely take baths, the importance of a luxurious bathtub is low. But maybe you’re someone who dreams of relaxing nightly in some suds by candlelight. You could be somewhere in between, looking for a bathtub you can occasionally enjoy, but that will also stand out and add value to your home.
Cost, size, space, durability, the experience you want and the design of your home are all things to consider when picking the right tub for you.
Cost is one of the largest determining factors in buying a new bathtub. If you’re on a budget or just need a tub to fill the space, an acrylic alcove-style model is likely going to be the most affordable option. These still come in a variety of looks and sizes, ready to be paired with a showerhead. They’re the most common and easy to install.
But say you want to go a little bigger. Generally, the larger the tub, the more it will cost. Materials like stainless-steel, marble and copper are also going to cost you more. If you want features like seats and whirlpool jets, these will cost more as well.
Take into account whether the tub you’re buying comes with its fixtures. When shopping for bathtubs, it’s easy to see a cheap alcove tub and think you’ll only need to spend $300. Then you realize you’ll also need to buy the faucet and knobs or handles. Fixtures can easily cost you another $150 or more depending on your choice.
At this point, $600 for an all-inclusive freestanding tub with fixtures may sound like a more reasonable choice. However, you’ll also need to consider if you want to pay for a separate shower, or if you have the space.
Second to cost, the space you have in your home is probably going to be the next biggest determining factor of what type of tub you have. For instance, you’re going to have a hard time fitting a 72-inch-long tub into a bathroom that’s only 5 feet by 8 feet. It’s going to eat up a lot of real estate.
If you’re renovating a space, you also need to consider the placement of the plumbing. Unless you want to pay to have the walls and flooring torn up to make room for more pipe, you’re going to have to put the tub in the same space the old one is.
Size is an important factor for tubs. If you’re looking to upgrade, there’s a chance you want a bigger bathtub. Whether it’s for a tall family member or you want a place the kids can play and get clean together, a big bathtub has its appeal.
Consider whether a big, personal corner tub with jets is what you want. Maybe the money would be better used building an outdoor hot tub with easier accessibility for guests.
Most new, modern tubs are quite durable. Acrylic/fiberglass tubs may not be as durable as something like cast iron, but they’re easy to repair. Iron is prone to rust, but if its porcelain enamel is intact, this isn’t a concern.
Be aware of what sort of cleaning materials you use. Something overly abrasive may wear away enamel or scratch the tub. Likewise, an acidic cleaner for a copper tub is an easy way to ruin an expensive purchase.
Especially if you’re investing in a luxurious tub, research how to maintain it. Certain materials and types of tubs are going to need more work than others. Along with the material type, thickness and weight are attributes that contribute to the longevity and wear of the tub, as well as the structure that supports it. For instance, two steel tubs can vary in thickness and quality of steel. One may outlast another.
You will also want to consider the tub’s support structure. Even freestanding tubs must sit on the floor. If you’re planning on installing an ultra-heavy, high-end marble tub, be sure the floor underneath can hold it.
Before you decide, take a moment to consider the experience you’ll have in your bathtub. Do you want to spend as little time as necessary in your shower/bath combo? Maybe you just want a standalone shower, then. Or do you want to be able to feel like you’re at a relaxing spa getaway? Then a drop-in tub surrounded by candles and a fresh supply of cucumber masks might be what you’re after.
Consider extra elements like lighting and jets. If you had them, would you use them? Likewise, remember that a bigger tub means more cleaning and takes more water to fill. Is the extra effort and cost worth it to you in exchange for the experience?
Another element you should consider when buying a new tub is its design. You want a tub that matches the design of your home. An ornate clawfoot tub doesn’t work in every home. Likewise, a completely wooden soaking tub could feel out of place. Especially if you’re considering selling your home, be aware of how design choices could be a major turn-off for others.
Design goes beyond appearance. It also applies to practicality and usefulness. For example, getting in and out of a clawfoot tub may be difficult for you or some of your family members. Take into account accessibility. Are there nearby handles, edges or grips to help get in and out? Tubs can be slippery. You don’t want your new purchase soured by a fall.
The right tub for you depends a lot on your needs and wants. Determine your biggest limiting parameters, such as space and cost, and use those to narrow down your search.
The right tub in a well-designed bathroom can add a lot to your enjoyment of your bathroom. There’s a possibility that it could increase your home value. Then again, if it’s the wrong fit for your home, it could have a negative impact. Keep in mind that, if you’re upgrading to sell, this bathtub needs to fit the space and the design of your home.
Interested in more homeowner tips? Check out the Rocket Homes® Homeowner Guide.
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