Kristen Hicks on April 11, 2017 3 Comments Table of Contents Types of Bathtubs (by Experience) Types of Bathtubs (by Installation) Factors to Consider When Buying Popular Brands to Consider For many of us, a long bath is one of life’s great pleasures. Finding the right bathtub can make a bigger difference than you may realize, and you have a significant variety of options to choose from. Whether you’d be happy with something basic or are ready to seek out the bathtub that will bring you the perfect bathing experience, you’ve got an array of factors to consider and options to wade through in your search. Our buyer’s guide to bathtubs will help you go into your search more knowledgeable so you have the information you need to make an informed decision. Here’s what you need to know as you start your search for the perfect bathtub for you. Types of Bathtubs by Experience When you’re considering your bathtub options, there are two different categories of types to consider. The first relates to the type of experience you’ll have in the bath. Standard Tub The most common type of bathtub, the standard tub, doesn’t provide any special bells and whistles, but does its job just fine. These are usually right around the same size, at five feet long, 30” wide, and 14-16” high. That’s convenient for anyone replacing an old standard tub that wants to replace it with a new one. These come in a few different installation options, including alcove, drop-in, and freestanding. Standard tubs are, generally speaking, your most affordable models. Most of them fall somewhere in the $200-$500 price range. They’re the most basic, easiest option to go with and for a lot of people, they do everything you need a bathtub to do. But if you want a bathtub that brings something extra to your experience, one of the other options here may be worth the extra cost. Soaking Tubs Soaking tubs are deeper than standard tubs so you can get a fuller soaking experience. Some soaking tubs are also wider or longer as well, to make fitting into them comfortably easier. They’re more expensive than standard tubs, starting at around $300 and sometimes getting up into the thousands. Whirlpool Tubs Whirlpool tubs include jets that are generally positioned at spots close to where a person’s major muscle groups will be as they lie in the tub. The force from the jets provides a massage-like experience that can be relaxing and work to reduce aches and pains for people who often have muscle or joint soreness. Whirlpool tubs cost more, in general, than both standard and soaking tubs. These start at around $700 and regularly cost over $1,000. Air Tubs Air tubs are similar to whirlpool tubs, but instead of shooting water out of a few strategically placed jets, they shoot air out from a number of different jets in a way that spreads the pressure out. The sensation is less concentrated, which some people find more relaxing and pleasurable. Air tubs are generally just a bit more expensive than whirlpool tubs, starting at around $800 and frequently costing between $1000 and $2000. Combination Tubs All these different nice-to-have experiential options don’t have to be exclusive. You can find soaking tubs with jets and tubs that offer both whirlpool and air technology. If reading about the different options has made you feel you simply can’t choose just one, then look for a combination tub that offers all of the experiential options you want. Of course, adding in more features will predictably mean a higher cost, so be prepared to pay more for a combination tub based on the features you’re looking for. Walk-in Tubs Walk-in tubs are less about indulgence than some of the other types on this list, and more about convenience and need. For seniors or people with disabilities who have a hard time getting in and out of the bath safely each day, a walk-in tub takes a lot of the risk out of the equation. Walk-in tubs can be expensive, usually falling somewhere between $2,000 and $6,000. For the growing number of seniors who prefer to age-in-place rather than move to a senior care facility, the cost is well worth the ability to reduce the risks of an everyday activity. Installation Bathtub Types The experiential options are crucial to choosing the right bathtub for getting the experience you need out of your bath, but you also have a more practical concern to consider: installation. There are a few different ways bathtub installation can work and for some consumers, you’ll be limited in your options based on the space where your tub is being installed. It’s important to understand the kind of tub you’ll need for the configuration you have. A bathtub isn’t exactly something you want to deal with sending back because you got one that won’t work in your space. Here are the main options you have and how to figure out which one is right for you. Alcove Tubs The most common bathtub installation option is the alcove bathtub. These tubs are installed between three walls, with an open space on the fourth side. Since three sides are installed along a wall, these tubs only have one finished side. Alcove tubs often include the option of adding a showerhead and faucets as well. These are generally the most affordable option and, in many cases, will be the easiest option to go with if you’re replacing an old bathtub with a new one. Freestanding Tubs Freestanding tubs are designed not to have any sides installed along a wall. Instead, they stand either on feet, as with clawfoot tubs, or on a base designed to support the tub’s full weight. These take up more space than most of the other tub installation options, since they aren’t tucked into a corner or space in the same way that built-in tubs are. If you have the space available though, many consumers like the stylish options available in this category. Corner Tubs Corner tubs are typically three-sided and installed in the corner of a room as a way to save space. Two of the three sides are installed along a wall, with the third finished and opened. Corner tubs are popular for consumers that have small bathrooms, but still want to be able to fit a tub in there. They have a different shape than typical tubs, so if you’re considering one without having used one before, it’s worth going to storeroom to sit in a corner tub and see how it feels to you first. Drop-in Tubs Drop-in tubs, sometimes called platform bathtubs, provide only the basic shell of the tub. They don’t have a side that’s finished, instead you can drop them into a frame that’s designed to match the room around the bathtub. These require a more complicated installation process, since you need to install the outside enclosure as well as the tub itself, and they’ll usually cost you more than a lot of your other installation options. If you value your tub perfectly matching the rest of the bathroom though, these give you more control over how the space looks. Undermount Tubs An undermount tub is similar to a drop-in tub, but with a deck surrounding the rim of it made of a material like tile or stone, sometimes made to match the floor of the bathroom. As with drop-in tubs, the installation is more involved and costly, but they provide an aesthetic that makes the extra worth it for some customers. Factors to Consider When Buying a Bathtub Just reading the different types of bathtubs available likely made clear that you have a lot to consider in making the right choice when buying a new bathtub. To help you figure out the particular features that will make a bathtub just right for your home, here are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind. Bath Experience If you’re someone who values your long baths, then a top consideration should be the kind of experience you want to have while taking a bath. While the particular tub types described above can play a big role what a bathtub experience is like, particularly when it comes to features like air and water jets, there are some more basic considerations to keep in mind. The shape and size of the tub will influence how well you fit in it and how comfortable it is for you. If your tub is too short for you, you won’t ever be able to fully recline. But if it’s too long, you may miss being able to rest your feet on the front of the tub. How deep your tub is will affect how much water you’re able to fill it with – some customers appreciate being fully submerged to a degree only possible with a soaker tub. And how well insulated the walls of the tub are will determine how long your bath stays hot. Different people will have different preferences when it comes to determining the best bath experience, so really consider what your own preferences are, as well as those of any partners or other family members who will be using the bath, in order to select the bath that will provide the ideal experience for you. Shower Option The type of bath you choose will also determine whether or not you can include a shower option. Some bathrooms are designed to keep the bath and shower separate, which can be useful for couples with different preferences. But combining bath and shower into one space will save bathroom space, while still giving you both options. Decide if it’s important to you to be able to include a shower that shares space with your bathtub. Size Size is one of the most important considerations you have to make in your search. If you’re putting a bathtub into an existing or already designed bathroom space, then you’ll have an easier time if you go with a bathtub that has the dimensions to fit in the spot available. In a lot of cases, that will mean a standard bathtub, which have interior measurements of five feet long, thirty inches wide, and fourteen to sixteen inches high. But don’t assume a bathtub you’re replacing has standard measurements, take time to measure the space and determine the size of bathtub that can reasonably be installed there. If you’re remodeling or building a new bathroom, then you have room to be picky on size. Whether you’re tall and like the idea of a bathtub that’s especially long, or trying to figure out how to fit a tub into a small space, you can find tubs to match your needs. Spend some time browsing to get a feel for your different size options and work with your contractor to determine what will make the most sense in the bathroom you’re designing. Cost A basic, standard tub that doesn’t include any special features and is made of acrylic or fiberglass starts at around $200. If your goal is to spend as little as possible, that’s your starting point for finding a bathtub. If you like the idea of a whirlpool or air bathtub, then you’re looking at a low end of $700-$900, or closer to $1500 and up for a combination. Bathtubs that come in unusual shapes and sizes, whether for comfort or to fit in a different sort of bathroom configuration will regularly cost more than standard tubs, and those that come in especially high-quality or aesthetic materials like copper and stone can get pretty pricy as well. The further you get away from the standard basics in features, style, and materials, the more you can expect to spend. It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of the bathtub itself isn’t your final cost. Bathtub installation may be a bit too complicated for a DIY project, so unless you’re a professional yourself, you’ll need to hire one. Some types of bathtubs require a more complicated installation process than others, particularly drop-in and undermount tubs. And if you’re replacing a tub or doing a remodel, choosing a different spot in the bathroom or a different size and type of tub than you had before will increase your installation costs. If you choose to go with a deeper tub than you had before, you may find you need to purchase a new water heater in order to be able to fill it, so be prepared for that extra cost as well. And any tubs with technology, like air tubs and whirlpools, will require a bit more ongoing maintenance and may require future repairs. In short, working out the full cost of a tub is clearly complicated and it’s worth talking through everything required and involved with your contractor and before purchasing to fully know what you’re getting into. Style Bathtubs come in an array of colors and styles. While most are white and offer a fairly classic style, if you want to seek out a bathtub that provides a modern look or complements the colors of your bathroom more than the typical bathtub style would, you have options. Most bathtubs that provide a more unique or unusual aesthetic will cost more than the more standard styles, but if you know you want a particular look, those costs may be worth it. Do some browsing to get a clear idea of what your visual options are in order to identify the bathtub style that’s just right for your bathroom. Material Most bathtubs you encounter are made in either acrylic or fiberglass (or fiberglass with an acrylic finish), because these are the most affordable options. Acrylic is a popular choice because it’s durable, lightweight, and holds heat in well. Fiberglass is especially affordable and conveniently lightweight, but prone to scratching and doesn’t hold heat as well. These options are common and available in a lot of models, but aren’t the most sturdy and durable options around, and don’t really bring anything extra to the table aesthetically. If you’re prepared to invest in something that’s more heavy duty or especially beautiful, then you have a few other material options to consider: Cast iron is sturdy, durable, and holds heat well, but it’s fairly pricy. Steel is a more affordable option that resembles cast iron and offers similar benefits, but chips more easily. Marble is beautiful and comes in an array of colors and patterns, but it’s expensive and requires more maintenance. Copper brings a unique aesthetic that many customers love, but it’s one of the most expensive options. Cast polymer can be made to look like stone, while being more affordable. It retains heat well and is relatively durable. Some of these materials can give your tub a longer life and add a burst of style and beauty to your bathroom, but you should be careful to consider issues like maintenance and weight if you choose to go with one of these. Weight Many of the materials on the list in the section above are heavy. One thing you should look into for any bathtub you buy, but especially one made out of a heavy material like stone or metal, is how much it weighs. A heavy bathtub could require extra work in the installation process to make sure your floor can take the weight. Of course, that’s especially true for any bathtub that will be installed on a higher story floor, but it’s also true with bathtubs installed on ground floors. If you’re leaning toward a bathtub that’s on the heavier side, talk to your contractor about what affect that will have on the installation process and overall cost before making your decision. Features and Extras: Tub Lighting — Underwater lighting, sometimes called chromatherapy, can add to your overall bath experience. Speakers — If you like to listen to music in the bath, having a tub that comes with speakers is a nice value add. Digital Controls — For tubs that have extra features like jets and lights, digital controls make controlling everything easier. ADA Compliance — ADA compliant tubs are designed with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. If anyone in your home has disabilities or mobility issues, or you’re forward thinking enough to want to be prepared for your senior years, look out for ADA compliant features. Warranty — Bathtub installation is a big job and hopefully dealing with it now means you won’t have to worry about it again for a long time. A good warranty can add confidence that will be the case. Popular Bathtub Brands A bathtub is likely to be with you for years to come. Going with a reliable brand makes it more likely that you’ll be satisfied with your tub for the long haul. To help you hone in on the best brand to go with, we looked at the reviews for some of the top brands in the bathtub space. Here’s a summary of what we found. American Standard American Standard is one of the premier brands in bathtubs, with a huge range of options and a solid reputation from customers across models and types. Reviewers commonly praise their bathtubs for looking great, having a good price, and being easy to clean. While reviews of different bathtub models point out different things, on the whole, customers across the board are usually satisfied with their American Standard tubs. Avano Avano’s bathtubs come in a wide range of types and styles. They don’t have as many reviews online as some of the other brands on the list, yet the reviews out there are consistently positive. Customers say their Avano tubs are comfortable and beautiful. Jacuzzi The name Jacuzzi probably immediately brings to mind the fun and comfort of the hot tubs you experience on vacations. Not all of the bathtubs they sell offer the water jets that help make their hot tubs so popular, yet customers don’t seem to miss them when they’re not there. Their tubs get points from customers for being beautiful, comfortable, offering great insulation to keep water warm, and just being all around high quality. Kaldewei Kaldewei sells tubs in a number of types and styles. Customers agree that Kaldewai tubs are high quality, keep the heat well, and are sturdy. Some mention the measurements on their tubs being a little different than what is typical with US tubs, so if you’re replacing a tub and need one that fits specific measurements, make sure you double check what’s listed for the Kaldewei model you consider. Kohler Kohler offers a wide range of bathtub options that are generally well reviewed by customers. Reviewers praise Kohler’s tubs for having quality construction, looking good, and being comfortable. Across a wide variety of models, customer reviews all boil down to saying the same thing: they’re satisfied. Mirabelle Mirabelle’s bathtubs get generally solid reviews from customers for being high quality, comfortable to use, and having a clean and simple style. If you like the style of their tubs, they’re another brand that’s likely to be a good buy. Proflo Proflo sells bathtubs that get strong reviews for being a good value, easy to install, and spacious. Overall, they’re a good choice for a satisfactory tub at a good value. Toto Toto has a reputation for high-quality products in a range of categories. Their bathtubs match the brand’s overall reputation, with customers praising them for their beauty, their size, how easy they are to use and clean, and their overall high quality. Conclusion A peaceful, relaxing bath can add a lot to your life. It can reduce stress, give you a few minutes each day of absolute comfort, and soothe sore muscles. The right bathtub can perfectly match the aesthetics of the rest of your bathroom and add some style and elegance to the space. Or it can simply be an affordable option that gets the job done and allows you to enjoy soaking in warmth without any extra features. Whatever you most want in a bath, you can probably find it in your search of available bathtubs. Figure out your priorities and find the tub that best fits your lifestyle and preferences.