6 Suggestions When Buying a Tub

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A deep, quiet soak with a good book and a glass of wine to wash away all of the day’s stresses – who doesn’t long for that?

A freestanding tub has become the focal point for today’s super-sized master bathroom, taking pride of place in a room that has grown beyond utilitarian function to serve as a retreat.

Stand-alone tubs exude luxury and escape, conjuring images of high-class Victorian living, English country-cottage charm, a romantic weekend at a bed and breakfast or a pampering spa getaway.

“There’s some nostalgia of a simpler time, a not so built-in time,” says New York kitchen and bath designer Kent Brasloff, president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Manhattan chapter.

As bathrooms have grown more elaborate, complete with chairs, chandeliers and fireplaces, these large soaking tubs have assumed an indulgent, even therapeutic role, encouraging rest, relaxation and rejuvenation with none of the noise of whirlpools and jets.

Is a freestanding tub appropriate for your space, budget and style?

Here are six tips for figuring it out:

1. Set a budget

Freestanding tubs average $5,000 and can get far more costly, says Brasloff. Acrylic models are available for less than $1,000.

High-style freestanding tubs are made from cast iron, copper, stone or even glass and command hefty prices. Budget accordingly. “If you have $15,000 for bathroom and the tub costs $10,000, how are you going to complete the job?” says Brasloff.

2. Plan before you buy

Resist an impulsive purchase of a claw foot tub you discover at an antique store. It’s important to take time to consider if a tub is appropriate for your needs, if it will fit in your space and if the design lends itself to your room.

“You can want to wear a pair of five-inch high heels, but it doesn’t mean you can walk in them,” says Brasloff. 

Although freestanding tubs can be outfitted with hand-held shower sprays, these are not a substitute for a real shower. If your bathroom is not large enough for both a shower and a freestanding tub, you may want to reconsider. A built-in tub is also probably a better bet for a bathroom the whole family uses, or if you are aging or have mobility issues, Sallick says.

3. Measure the room twice

Someone building a new home has the luxury of customizing a bathroom to accommodate a freestanding tub as they work with a contractor, architect or designer. If you’re a remodeler, proceed with caution.

An old-style bathroom may not fit a freestanding tub without a dramatic expansion – as in, knocking down a wall to annex more space. Freestanding tubs work best in a room that’s at least 10-feet by 10-feet. The floor must be strong enough to support the tub’s weight. Relocating plumbing will add to the cost.

If your heart is set on a fireplace, a chandelier and furniture to complement your trophy tub, you may need even more elbow room.

“Give the tub enough space that it has room to breathe, a place for your book, a chair if you partner wants to join you,” says Sallick.

4. Consider materials closely

Freestanding tubs come in a wide range of materials and finishes: wood, copper, cast iron, fiberglass, Corian, acrylic and enamel. It’s easy to fixate on aesthetics, but price, weight, durability and maintenance requirements are important considerations here.

Cast iron tubs are durable and retain heat, for example, but are very heavy. Fiberglass tubs are economical and easy to install, but are susceptible to fading and chipping.

5. Try one on

Don’t forget the comfort factor. Before you buy, Sallick recommends getting into a tub as if you were taking a bath.

“Try tubs on in many of the ways as you would try on a dress,” Sallick says. “Take off your shoes, get in and really think about how you’re going to use this tub. Can I relax and read a book? Can I spread my legs all the way out? Is there room for my shoulders, or am I crunched up?”

6. Consult a professional

Plan to spend time exploring the options at a local design center or plumbing supply specialist, and find a plumber with experience installing these tubs. It may be wise to work with a bath designer on this project.

While many people think of old-style claw foot soaking tubs, freestanding tubs come in a remarkable array of styles: Victorian slipper tubs, pedestals with rolled edges, Asian-influenced wooden boxes, minimalist Italian-marble troughs, ultra-modern looks with clean angular lines.

Choosing one that best complements your home can be a challenge.

Get help, Brasloff urges. “I think a lot of people get stuck, they respond to one element and the rest of the space doesn’t follow because they haven’t thought it through,” he says.

Tags: tub, freestanding