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Bath Tub Basics

Bath Tub Basics

by Jacob Benowitz, Home Product Blogger for The House Designers®

It is worth the investment for quality in the planning of your bathroom. Far too often a bath tub is quickly sketched on a blueprint and the end product is not enjoyable and can be uncomfortable. It is important to discuss bath tub basics, such as length, water capacity, and accessories, as soon as possible with a contractor. Generally, the bath tub is installed in the first stage of construction.

Comfort is particularly important when choosing a bath tub. Designers have introduced every conceivable size, shape, and material into our homes. The best way to decide is to experience them for your self. Go to store showrooms and search for the right comfort level for you.

Bath Tub Basics
Whether you are a petit person wanting a shallow tub with armrests built-in, or a tall person who may want an extra wide and totally submersible contour, the size of your tub is important. You may want a tub that will fit two. Think about ergonomics. A standard bath tub is 14 to 17 inches in depth. A European style is 18 inches deep and a Japanese (or Greek) style is 22 or more inches in depth.

Tub Styles

There are numerous makes and models of bath tub styles including built-in, freestanding, soaking, and whirlpool.

These tub styles have only frontal exposure. It is the most common American design and is quite basic. Alcoves have limited finishes and the designs and styles are shallow and usually combined with a shower. If you decide on this style, be sure to think about the drainage, shower doors, and the surrounding area around the alcove. Tip: Waterproof material is a good choice for surrounding surfaces, such as ceramic tile or waterproof paint. You also need to decide whether you would like a shower door or a curtain.

Tub and Shower
Generally in this design, the walls around the bath tub will be lined with ceramic tile to enclose the area. This style also accomplishes two needs in one space, saving room. Even so, it may be difficult to clean every day because of the grout lines. If this may be a problem, a manufactured tub and shower combination is an option. An example is a sectional acrylic over fiberglass unit. Over time, color will fade with this material, but when installed properly it should never leak.

Floor Mounted Sunken
This style can be very dangerous for some. Because of the high step it may be difficult to step out of. For this reason, most floor-mounted bath tubs are deck-mounted in a separate frame. This requires extra carpentry and will raise the costs. Most are integrally manufactured with faucet ledges for easier access. Although great for soaking and cleaning, this style is costly to repair due to the hidden plumbing.

Corner bath tubs are designed as customized or standard drop-in and are fitted into an angled deck corner. Whether set alone or placed into the room, they are a good way to set off a room. Tip: Some models are not suitable for overhead showers.

With its rich origin, this large, deep bath tub is used only for soaking. It has no capabilities for a shower or whirlpool.

With no integrated showers or jets, this much deeper bath tub is similar to the garden tub. The filler spout rises off the deck rather than through the walls of the tub.

Japanese (Ofuro)
Deep enough to immerse your body when sitting, these tubs are products of polypropylene reinforced with fiberglass. Traditionally they were made of wood, tile or metal.

In the past, roll-top and cast-iron tubs were the trend. Now this classic remains in the same form- sloped back and straight front with ball and claw or pedestal legs. Materials range from cast iron, porcelain and steel, and acrylic. Available in 4 to 6 feet, the freestanding tub comes in a variety of colors. It is important to remember that the pipes are exposed in this style.

Piping, electric pumps, and water jets circulate throughout for an even message. This is referred to as a soaker tub. Designs vary in size, style, color and shape. Usually they are comprised of fiberglass/acrylic or cast iron. They are very durable. Again, it is good to use showrooms to test the comfort level of these bath tubs. Whirlpools are offered in alcove and drop-in models.

Bath Tub Materials

As you know, tubs come in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles. Your decision regarding a bath tub should be based on your needs, desires, and budget. Porcelain on steel, acrylic, fiberglass/gel coat, composite, cast iron, cultured marble, and wood are the materials with which bath tubs are manufactured.

Porcelain on Steel (POS)
This is possibly the most practical and affordable style. It consists of a thin stamped steel shell, coated with heat-fused porcelain enamel. The pros of POS are that it is resistant to acid, corrosion, and abrasion. It is flame proof and colorfast. The con is that if the surface area is chipped or cracked, it will rust.

Sheets of acrylic and reinforced fiberglass are vacuum molded to create this material. Therefore, it is quite durable. It has a natural luster to it, is economical, and lightweight. It may be easy to clean, but is easy to scratch and susceptible to discolor over time. Some grades are durable enough to withstand a hammer.

Fiberglass/Gel (FRP)
This is generally the least expensive of the materials. Because it is lightweight and easily installed, it can be molded into varying shapes. A pigmented polyester resin spray that is applied to a mold forms the Gelcoat surface. There are thick layers of fiberglass and foam insulation that line the sleek style of the unit. Although it looks similar to acrylic, this material is much thinner and much less durable. The finish will show wear after 10 to 15 years and will scratch and/or fade. On the plus side, it is easy to repair.

Cast Iron
Because this enamel-coated material is considered the most durable, it is therefore the most expensive. Casting is the method in which molten iron is poured into a specific mold for shape. Due to its thick material, the surface is resistant to chemicals, chipping, scratching, and denting. Generally, a lifetime warranty will accompany also.

Cultured Marble
Marble is man-made from crushed limestone and polyester resin. It has a gel coat for a surface finish. Because of the process in which it is made, the material has a unique array of colors, patterns, and veining. Marble also has a tough, durable, and transparent surface resistance.

Wood just isn't a long-term investment for a bath tub. Naturally water and wood do not react well together leaving a short-term life. The bath tub's appearance will be beautiful for several years, but will eventually warp, crack, and rot. Also, many areas of the US do not permit wooden tubs in local building codes.

Completely customized, a tub will be lined with ceramic or mosaic tile. Inexperienced installation could result in a hazardous and unsealed bath tub. Therefore, be sure to find an experienced professional for this type of work.