Buying Bathtub Tips

white bathtub on white tile bathroom near brown framed clear glass window

Many people nowadays look at their bathtub as more than just a place to bathe. As a result, consumers have demanded more choices and manufacturers have responded by providing a wider variety of styles and designs.

Before You Start

Before starting your quest to find the perfect bathtub, you need to take a few important steps. Whether constructing a new home or performing a remodel, be sure to take accurate measurements. While not necessarily a concern in a new construction situation where the bathtub is usually installed before all the walls are finished, measuring the door frames are important when handling a remodel. The last thing you want to do is find out that the bathtub fits your allotted space, but you can’t fit it through the door.

The next item on the checklist is to see if your water heater will meet the water capacity of your bathtub. Generally, you should figure that sixty-five percent of the bathtub’s capacity will be filled with hot water. Is your current water heater large enough to handle the bathtub you are considering? If not, you may want to consider replacing the unit or looking for a smaller bathtub.

Finally, if you will be looking at any type of whirlpool, air jet, or water jet style bathtub, make sure that your electrical panel has adequate space and size for the proper circuit.


For what purpose do you intend to use the bathtub? As mentioned, some people simply view it as a place to bathe. Others see their bathtub as having therapeutic benefits in the sense that they can relieve tired muscles and cramps, lower blood pressure and stress. As such, these people may prefer a deeper soaking or whirlpool model with jets to a standard bathtub. Another thing to consider is if you have any special needs. Would grab bars prove beneficial?


You want your bathtub to be both comfortable and easy to use. How easy it is to use will have much to do with the user’s body shape and size. Shorter or petite people may find a standard or European tub, which ranges anywhere from 14 to 18 inches deep, to be the most comfortable. On the other hand, taller or larger-framed individuals may find a deeper bathtub such as a Japanese or Greek style bathtub, which can range upwards of 22-plus inches deep, more relaxing.
It may sound odd, but a test drive may be in order. You lay on a mattress in the store prior to buying, why not stretch out in a bathtub? Sure it may seem a bit awkward, but it’s the best way to judge not only length and width, but also if the tub’s contours will closely match your own to provide optimum comfort.


For those with a stressful lifestyle, soaking in a hot bath brings many health benefits. It lowers blood pressure, and by simulating weightlessness, reduces the workload on the heart. At the same time it relaxes muscles, temporarily relieving pain from physical exertion.
To treat lower limbs, a standard tub is satisfactory, but for soothing back pain or to treat other ailments, the body should be completely immersed, which requires a deeper model. Many extra deep models are available having contoured backs with built-in lumbar back support.


Here is where your personal style and the decor of your bathroom have a chance to shine. Bathtubs come in a variety of colors and styles. White and cream are standard bathtub colors, but you can also find other colors such as blue, brown, maroon, green and even pink. In terms of shapes, the most common is the rectangle, but selection abounds here also. Consumers can find heart-shaped, oval, round, corner-style, alcove, freestanding, drop-in and much more. Your shape selection will depend largely upon the size of your bathroom and the material used in the manufacturing of your bathtub.

Bathtub Materials

Bathtubs are produced from a multitude of materials. Acrylic, fiberglass, porcelain, cast iron, marble and even wood are popular choices. Each has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Your choice of material will largely depend upon your budget, frequency of use, ease of maintenance and durability.

Fiberglass/Gelcoat (FRP)

Fiberglass is probably one of the more cost-effective materials used in the construction of bathtubs. It is light weight, easy to install, and inexpensive. The gelcoat surface is thinner and less durable than acrylic. As a result, the finish tends to lack the depth and resilience found in acrylic and porcelain tubs and, over time, the color may also fade. Additionally, fiberglass tends to scratch easily.


Acrylic is similar to fiberglass, but tends to cost a little more because the color is embedded throughout the substance rather than just the surface coat like fiberglass. Thus, the color has a nice high gloss finish and lasts longer. Acrylic is also a good insulator so your water stays warmer longer. It is also easy to clean and more durable than fiberglass. Some manufacturers actually use a grade of acrylic that is so durable you can hit it with a hammer and it won’t crack. In most cases, if the surface becomes scratched, you will be able to buff it out.

Porcelain on Steel (POS)

This refers to a process by which a layer of porcelain is coated onto steel. These types of bathtubs are resistant to acid, corrosion, and abrasions. They are also flame proof, sanitary, easy to clean, and colorfast. On the down side, they can be easily damaged on impact, the surface may chip and rust and lower-priced porcelain on steel bathtubs can be quite noisy.

Cast Iron

Cast iron can last for years but is quite expensive. It can resist damage, dents and dings with ease. Because of their sheer weight (two to three hundred pounds), they are effective at reducing vibration and noise. Another added bonus is that water tends to stay warmer longer. Most manufacturers of cast irons will also issue a warranty for as long as the original purchaser owns the tub. Outside of the tremendous weight factor of a cast iron bathtub, they do have their limitations. Few models are longer than 5 feet. They are usually not large enough to accommodate two people, and whirlpool jets are not an option.


Marble bathtubs are extremely attractive and come in a variety of unique shapes. They are great if you are looking for a bathtub that will leave a distinct impression. Marble is, however, more costly and can scratch easily. Another drawback is that marble is very brittle and will crack from thermal shock if the water temperature is too hot or the temperature of the marble changes suddenly.


Wood bathtubs are also attractive, but are high maintenance and do not have as long a life span as bathtubs made of fiberglass, porcelain, or acrylic. It’s also important to mention that if you put a wood bathtub into your home, the floor has to be waterproof. It’s also advisable to add a floor drain as well. If you have your heart set on a wood bathtub, you will need to check your local building requirements. Some areas of the U.S. do not allow wood bathtubs.


The most popular tub type today is still the basic, 5 ft. wall-to-wall built-in model in white or biscuit. Millions of these units are sold every year. There is very style little difference between any of these models. Some are porcelain on steel; some are acrylic; some are cast iron. There are differences in quality and price, but not a great deal in style.

Claw-foot bathtubs are still being sold if you prefer an antique look. Actually, the quality and finish on these units today is as fine as any available. Many people still prefer this style of bathing. Some manufacturers have updated the design to appear quite modern.

In addition, Bathtubs are available in the following styles: Built-In, Freestanding, Soaking, Whirlpool, and Specialty

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