Get Soaking with a New Bathtub

After a long hard day, is there anything more relaxing than a nice hot bath? For many people, a long soak in a hot tub is the ultimate indulgence and the perfect place to soothe their worries, not to mention aches and pains.

There was a time when a bathtub in a home was considered a luxury and was only available in hotels and the homes of rich people. Thankfully, tubs are now integral in most homes. However, the most popular bathtub model, the built-in alcove, is not deep enough for a relaxing soak as the tub is only about a foot tall and, since it is the tub found in most houses, you might want to think about replacing it with a deeper tub that makes for more rewarding soaking.

Today, there are many styles and choices of finish, including some pretty luxurious models that were once only found in a spa or luxury resort hotel. Here is some important information for finding that perfect tub of your dreams.


Size Matters

Tubs come in many different sizes and shapes and are measured by length, width and height. Standard tubs have a length of at least five feet, a width of 2.5 to 3 feet and are usually 14 inches deep. European style tubs are around 18 inches deep while Japanese tubs can be over 22 inches deep.

When you are shopping for a new tub, make sure you get in and lie down and give it a test drive. Like buying a mattress, you need to make sure it is made to fit you. A tub that is too long or too wide will never be comfortable as you will have to strain to keep your head above water. A too small tub will never be relaxing. The ideal length for most people is a tub that measures between 60 and 66 inches long (depending on your height) and rises about 18 inches. You want the water to come up to your shoulders and to cover your knees. You want to be able to rest your arms on the side of the tub.


Built-in tubs including the traditional alcove model (which comes with three sides intact) came into popularity with the mass production of the squared corner tub after World War I and are sold as either a bathtub or a shower-tub combination. Built-in alcove baths must be specified as left-hand or right-hand, which is the side the drain is on when facing it. Many alcove models have matching shower doors, either by the same or by different manufacturer.

JANE TIP: Do not buy a one-piece tub and shower combination for a remodeling project unless you know it can be installed in your home. Before you shop for one of these units, be sure to measure the doorways it will have to pass through. If you have any questions, check with your builder or remodeler.

Freestanding tub styles include the claw foot and pedestal designs. The claw foot is reminiscent of tubs from the past, comes in 5 ft. or 6 ft. lengths, and with its curved back, is a much nicer choice for soaking and relaxing than the built-in tub. Claw foot tubs sit on curved feet often in the shape of claws. Meant to last a lifetime or two, claw foot tubs date back two centuries and used to be made exclusively in cast iron that was finished with a porcelain coat. The only drawback is that over the years porcelain has a tendency to chip and eventually needs to be refinished. But the benefits are many. Cast iron gets warm quickly and retains heat. Unfortunately, it is so heavy that is impractical for use in oversized tubs.

You can find less expensive, used claw foot tubs in salvage yards. The inside may need to be refinished by a professional (for about a third the cost of a new tub) but you can paint the outside of the tub with enamel paint. New claw foot bathtubs are being made and some manufacturers have updated the design to appear quite modern. These tubs are freestanding and have exposed pipes that are easy to service, but are harder to clean around unless they're in the middle of the room.

The pedestal style is oval in shape and mounted on a base that can be constructed of wood, finished to match the exterior of the tub, painted or decorated to suit your personal style. Faucets for a pedestal tub are usually floor or wall-mounted so that, without holes for the faucet, there can be a deeper water level. This style also includes a curved back for ease in reclining, and can be painted to match your bathroom's décor.

Soaking tubs, as their name implies, are good for soaking. The styles are known as a garden tub, Roman tub, Greek or Japanese tub. These tubs are usually smaller in diameter so they are a good space saving alternative to the usual soaking tub. Designed for one person bathing, soaking tubs come with an extra deep basin. (For example, the Kohler soaking tub measures 4 feet long, 32 inches wide, 23 3/8 inches deep). This tub can be installed in a 3-wall alcove or as a drop-in.

Specialty tubs are designed for those with special bathing needs such as elderly and handicapped individuals and come in different models with various accessories. Also included in this category are whirlpool, jet spa and hot air tubs. These tubs are usually very expensive, but if you can afford it and have a need, carefully research the details of these styles.

For many of us, there is nothing more relaxing than a long, hot bath at the end of the day. If this is you, then you won't be happy until you possess a tub that is deep enough for soaking. Aside from being one of life's great relaxing pleasures, a hot bath has therapeutic benefits as well. Soaking in a tub lowers your blood pressure while decreasing the demands on your heart. It helps relax your muscles while it lifts your spirits. A new bathtub may seem like a big undertaking, but it is one of those projects you will enjoy for years to come.

Related articles:
Bring the Spa Experience Home—in 30 Minutes or Less!
Shower Yourself with Love (and Hot Water)
Are You Ready for a Hot Tub?

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