Which Tub is Right for Remodeling My Small Bathroom?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 - Bathroom

Many choices are involved in deciding which tub is right for remodeling a small bathroom. Bath tubs are available in many sizes, shapes, colors and styles. You are sure to find the style and color you want in the material you want that will be perfect in your small bathroom. Our goal in this article is to help you understand the decisions you will need to make when you shop for and choose the tub that is right for your remodeled small bathroom.

You have certainly seen huge bathrooms in model homes and in pictures in magazines. Huge bathrooms are in fashion, but they are not actually necessary. As surprising as it might seem, you can actually have just about any spa or luxury features you want in a small bathroom. You just need to find the smaller sized models that will fit your style and design.

With a little insight into the factors that make various bathtub models different, you can be an informed shopper when you start looking for the perfect tub. You will want to know about materials, installation, water conservation and available features.

Tubs are installed in a bathroom in one of three ways:
1. Freestanding installation positions a self-contained tub, probably on a pedestal or on feet, where it needs to be to connect to pipes. Where you place the pipes is a design decision.
2. Alcove or recessed installation places the tub against three walls. This is a very common installation in small bathrooms. A 5 foot or 5-1/2 foot tub will probably be a perfect fit.
3. Drop in installation “drops” the tub into a space in a platform or a finished surround. This style of installation will probably require more space than you have in a small bathroom.

There is great variety in bathtub materials. For the most part you will be choosing between five groups of options.
1. Fiberglass is very popular. Most builders use fiberglass in new construction. It is lightweight and inexpensive. It can be molded into almost any shape you need. The drawback of fiberglass is that is can scratch and show other wear and tear.
2. High-quality acrylics are growing rapidly in popularity. They are also lightweight and they can be molded into any shape. One reason for the rise in popularity is that the acrylic can mimic other materials very easily. It is also more durable than fiberglass. Most of the companies that advertise a tub or shower makeover in a day use acrylics. If you choose this route, look for treatment that prevents mold and mildew and for the thickness of the acrylic. The thicker the better.
3. Porcelain or enamel over cast iron. This type of tub has been around for a very long time. It is almost indestructible. But it is very heavy and the weight can be a problem in some new homes. This is the reason it is less popular today.
4. Porcelain or enamel over steel is another option. It is lighter, and can be easier to use, but the coating can rust or chip.
5. Less common and more expensive options. If you are remodeling a small guest bathroom, you might want to consider stainless steel (think about the water spots in your kitchen sink), copper (think big cost), concrete (think about the weight), stone (weight) and teak (cost). Some of these materials can result in a stunning room.

The tub styles most commonly recommended for small bathrooms are the corner or alcove models that combine tub and shower. But there are still other things to consider before you make a decision.

Cost: A tub/shower combination can cost only about $300. The larger tubs, spa features, colors and other options will increase the cost up to $1,000 or more. When choosing your tub, the best advice is to buy the best you can afford. It is also not a bad idea to do trendy colors because the “in” colors change every two to five years.

Weight can be a very important consideration when you choose your tub. First, you have to get it into the bathroom you are remodeling. Second, if the builder used lightweight materials and you plan to replace them with a heavier tub, you might need to reinforce the tub support structure or the floor. If the added weight is significant, you might also need to add support to the structure of the house. When calculating the weight, you also need to add the weight of the water that will fill the tub, especially if you choose a deep soaking tub.

Size is obviously important in a small bathroom. Many small bathrooms are less than six feet wide. Large whirlpool tubs can be as big as five by seven feet.  When you think about the size of the tub, you also need to think about how you will get it into the bathroom.

Safety and comfort are also important considerations. Comfort is especially important if you are considering either a whirlpool tub or a soaking tub. Safety should also be a consideration. You will want to be certain that everyone who will use the tub can get in and out of it safely. If someone falls getting out of the tub in a small bathroom, there is a much greater risk of hitting your head on something. Stepping over the side of the tub can be difficult for older adults and for children.

Care for the environment will probably be another consideration in deciding which tub is right for remodeling your small bathroom. You will probably want to choose low-flow faucets. But there are other things you can do to conserve water and energy when using your new tub. Choose a tub with an in-line heater, which will reheat and re-circulate the water so you don’t have to keep draining and replacing. You can also install a rainwater collection system and use it in the tub (rainwater is softer and better for the skin). You could also install another water heater that is solar powered for your bathroom. You might even be able to provide electricity to the bathroom from the same solar system.

Features for bathtubs are plentiful. You can choose an extra-deep soaking tub, an “overflowing” style or a whirlpool style tub. You can also add a chromotherapy option for a soothing bathing experience. You might choose a walk-in tub design. Although these are most commonly promoted for the elderly, these tubs are deeper and smaller (perfect for a small bathroom), and they are often equipped with all the spa features you want.

With all of these options to choose from, you should have no trouble finding the right tub for your small bathroom remodel. Then place the television where you can see it from the tub or place a CD player nearby, and you can have a personal spa in a very small space.

Copyright 2009 by Dan Fritschen

Watch the video related to remodeling a small bathroom

Learn about remodeling your bathrooms in this free do it yourself video on home remodeling. Expert: Gale Gassiot Bio: Gale Gassiot makes her own organic compost or “gardener’s black gold.”

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