|Many times a bathtub is just one of those items that gets casually sketched on a blueprint and... when it's too late... you find yourself with a less than enjoyable bathing experience. This can all be avoided with a little thought and planning, because there are so many options to choose from. Don't get shorted when it comes to length, water capacity and accessories. Be sure to discuss your tub as soon as possible with the contractor because it's usually installed in the first stage of construction. As far as household fixtures go, the bathroom ranks among the top ten as far as durability and life span (well over 50 years), so it's worth the investment to get a high quality, accessorized tub. By knowing your bathtub basics, you will be giving yourself years and years of "Calgon" moments. Bathtubs start around $300 for a basic model or up to $2000 for a top-of-the-line whirlpool tub.||
The most important thing to consider when choosing a bathtub is comfort. Tubs are being designed in every conceivable size and shape and come in a variety of materials. The best way to choose one is to think about how you'll want to use it and then don't be shy - go to several showrooms and sit in a few models to find out what feels comfortable.
You'll want to think about whether you want a tub for you or a tub for two. Then you'll need to think about ergonomics. If you're a petite person, you might want a shallow tub with built-in armrests and a contoured back rest. If you're tall and/or heavy you should go for a tub that is extra wide and shallow so you be totally immersed without contorting your body. A standard tube is 14 to 17 inches deep, a European style is 18 inches deep and a Japanese or Greek tub is 22 inches deep or more. Of course if one of you is tall and the other is short, you may have to compromise with a bigger tub that has more accessories to accommodate a smaller person.
When it comes to picking out your tub, there are several different styles to choose from, including built-in, freestanding, soaking, and whirlpool.
Alcove tubs are enclosed on three sides with only the front exposed. This remains the common type of bathtub in the U.S. Common is the key word here - because these tubs have limited finishes and style and are fairly shallow because they're usually combined with a shower. When purchasing an alcove tub, be sure to specify if you want the drain to be on the left or right wall, ask about matching shower doors and choose your tub surround (a wall kit). Note: it's best to go with a waterproof material such as ceramic tile or waterproof paint, if your shower is attached. Depending on your preference, you can have a shower door installed or use a shower curtain.
Tub and shower combinations are very popular because they satisfy two needs using the same floor space. Generally, a contractor tiles the walls around the tub with ceramic tile to form a shower enclosure. It's great on saving space, but can be a challenge to clean every day because of the grout lines. Another option is going with a manufactured tub and shower combination like a one-piece or sectional acrylic over fiberglass unit. If properly installed, they should never leak, but over time the color will fade. You can use either a shower door or curtain on these units.
Floor mounted sunken tubs are easy to get into but very difficult to get out of because of the high step. This makes it extremely dangerous, which is why most drop-ins are deck-mounted in a separate frame in much the same way that sinks are installed in countertops. Most of these baths are designed with integral faucet ledges for easy access. This type of model requires extra carpentry and adds to the cost. These units are great for soaking and usually easy to clean (unless they're corner units), but are costly to repair because the plumbing is hidden behind a wall.
Corner Tubs are designed to set off a room and can be either customized or a standard drop-in tub built into an angled deck in the corner. They can be made to stand alone, or fitted into the room against your vanities or cabinets. Note: Some models aren't suitable for an overhead shower.
Garden tubs - which have richly origins - are basically a large, deep tub that has no integrated shower or whirlpool. Simply put - they're used only for soaking.
Roman tubs (also known as bathing pools) is a term used for any type of tub where the filler spout rises off the deck rather than through the walls of the tub or room. These tubs are much deeper than the standard American bathtub and like the Garden tub - its has no integrated showers or jets.
Japanese tubs (Ofuro) consists of a tub deep enough for the bather to immerse the body up to the neck when sitting. Although traditionally made of wood, tile, or, more rarely, metal, these tubs are now being manufactured out of polypropylene reinforced with fiberglass.
Freestanding tubs. Back in the old days, the only type of bathtub found in American homes was the roll-top, cast-iron claw foot. Manufactures have given this century old classic - a new make-over. The design remains true to form - a slope back and straight front, but the feet can be ball and claw, pedestal or legged. As for material, you can choose from cast iron, porcelain on steel and acrylic. The exterior of the tub is available in a wide range of colors and as for the length you can choose from 4é to 6é feet. Remember these tubs are freestanding so their pipes are exposed.
Whirlpools are specialty soaker tubs fitted with piping, an electric pump and water jets to circulate water throughout the tub to give you a nice massage. With the new demand in these comfort tubs, manufactures are offering a multitude of sizes, styles, colors and designs. Generally speaking they're made of fiberglass/acrylic or cast iron because of their durable nature. Donét be fooled by looks, some of these whirlpools are so compact that you wonét fit in it comfortable. Donét be shy... test the comfort level of your whirlpool by hopping in it before you buy it. Whirlpool tubs are offered in two basic types: alcove (which look like ordinary bathtubs) and drop-in model (installed in the same fashion as a drop-in bathtub).
Tubs come in a variety of materials as well sizes, colors and styles. The choice and combination of materials should be based on your needs, tastes and budget. Bathtubs are made from porcelain on steel, acrylic, fiberglass/ gel coat, composite, cast iron, cultured marble and wood.
Porcelain on Steel (POS) is one of the most common and reasonably priced tubs available. The POS is made up of one thin stamped steel shell, which is coated with a heat-fused porcelain enamel. The advantages to these tubs are that they are resistant to acid, corrosion and abrasion, flame proof and colorfast (they generally maintain their original color and high gloss). The drawback is that if the surface gets chipped it will rust.
Acrylic is vacuum-molded from sheets of colored acrylic and reinforced with fiberglass, which makes it resistant to chips and cracks. It is economical and lightweight, and it can be repaired if damaged. It has a natural luster, and a non-porous finish that is easy to clean, but it's subject to scratching and can discolor over time. Some manufacturers make a grade of acrylic that is said to be durable enough to be able to be hit with a hammer and not crack.
Fiberglass/Gel coat (FRP) is usually the least expensive material for bathtubs. It is lightweight, easy to install, and can be molded into a variety of shapes. Though similar in appearance to acrylic, FRP is different from acrylic. While the surface of an acrylic unit is vacuum formed from a single sheet of solid plastic, a Gelcoat surface is formed by spraying a pigmented polyester resin onto a mold. Thick layers of fiberglass and foam insulation underscore the sleek and stylish lines of gelcoat units, but donét be fooled by appearances, this material is much thinner and less durable than acrylic. While the finish won't last as long as other materials (it shows wear after 10 to 15 years), and can scratch or fade, it can be easily repaired.
Cast iron is enamel coated and considered the most durable bathtub material available - it is also the most expensive. The word "cast" simply identifies the method used to produce the finished product, and not to describe the material itself. The casting method involves pouring the iron in a molten or liquid form into a mold which defines the shape of the finished product. Because it's such a thick material its surface is resistant to chemicals, chipping, scratching and dents. It's nice to know when you make an investment like this, that you generally get a lifetime warranty.
Cultured marble is a man-made product, manufactured from crushed lime stone and polyester resin, with a gel coated finish. The gel coat is specially formulated to produce a tough, durable, transparent surface resistant to normal wear. This unique process produces a unique range of colors, patterns and veining.
Wood is certainly not the preferred tub material since water and wood do not make for a long-term partnership. It may look grand for several years, but eventually it will warp, crack and/or rot. In many areas of the U.S. wooden tubs donét even cut the code (local building code that is).
Mosaic/Ceramic tile is truly a custom tub, where contractors can design and build a custom tub lined with ceramic or mosaic tile. It is imperative that this type of job be done by professionals who are experienced in installing custom built baths. Less than perfect work could result in a dangerous and leaky tub.
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