Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Time for a New Tub

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Among homeowners who upgrade their tub, two thirds opt for a soaking tub. Pictured here: Stargaze bath with fluted shroud. Image courtesy Kohler. Where to Buy: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Lakewood NJ

Choosing the right tub for your bathroom renovation

by Erik J. Martin

It’s true that most folks prefer to get clean via a shower than a bathtub nowadays. Consider the results of an Angie’s List survey of 2,000 people published in 2016: 90 percent of respondents were more likely to take a shower over a bath.

Yet experts agree that the tub is hardly in danger of disappearing altogether from the great American bathroom. In fact, two in five homeowners plan to upgrade a tub during a master bath remodel, and the tub ranks in the top five (as chosen by 35 percent of those polled) among features that homeowners splurge on most during a renovation, according to the 2017 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.

“Tubs are far from being considered obsolete,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist with Houzz in Palo Alto, Calif. “Seventy-eight percent of homeowners who remove a tub still have another tub elsewhere in their home.”

Where to Buy: Tub and Fixtures – Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Lakewood NJ. Shower Doors – Autumn’s Glass

Most people consider tubs to be an essential part of their homes.

Image courtesy Moen. Where to Buy: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Lakewood NJ

While luxury showers have overtaken luxury tubs as the centerpiece in many of their baths, they still want a tub. Take note, that oftentimes it can be more difficult to sell a home without at least one bathtub in it.

If you’re planning a bathroom redo, many pros recommend replacing your existing tub or adding one that wasn’t there before. Popular styles today include:

  • An alcove tub, typically rectangular, recessed and installed next to three walls
  • A soaking tub, often deeper and/or wider to enable you to fit your entire body in the water
  • An air or whirlpool tub, which offers therapeutic and massaging comfort; the former injects air into the water to make relaxing bubbles, while the latter shoots jets of H2O to stir up the water
  • A walk-in tub, equipped with a door that allows you to walk in and out of the tub when empty – ideal for older homeowners.

These types are available as either esthetically appealing freestanding units (including clawfoot and slipper tubs) or spatially efficient built-in or corner units (available in undermount or drop-in configurations). Common materials include acrylic, cast iron, enamel on steel, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble, and composite.

“Among those upgrading their tub these days, two thirds opt for a soaking tub, followed by two in five who choose a freestanding flat-bottom tub,” Sitchinava notes, citing the aforementioned Houzz survey. “Acrylic remains the dominant tub material, chosen by 51 percent, although fiberglass and cast-iron tubs each represent a significant share of new tubs at 16 percent each.”

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Memoirs freestanding bath with center toe-tap drain. Image courtesy Koher. Where to Buy: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Lakewood NJ

Acrylic tubs are non-porous, affordable, easy to clean and maintain, and have superior heat retention and warranties; while soaker tubs are usually less expensive, more functional and can be installed without requiring a full bathroom remodel, including a new floor.

If you’re on a tight budget, you might be able to breathe new life into your existing tub by refinishing it.

Reglazing a bathtub to like-new condition is an economic option, as it can save up to 90 percent over the cost of a replacement tub.

For best results, trust in an expert.

It’s very important to work with an experienced bathroom remodeler who understands the entire room – even if the tub or shower area is the only portion of the room being remodeled.

Enlisting a general contractor is wise, but so is hiring an interior design professional, who can help you save money and avoid regrets by choosing the right bathroom design, tub style and finish.