Homeowner’s Guide To Soaking Tubs
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Is a soaking tub as luxurious as it sounds? If you're considering one for your home, here's what you'll want to know before you buy.
Soaking tubs may seem like the epitome of decadence, but this type of bathtub certainly isn’t new. Let’s take a look at what they are and whether one is right for you.
What Is a Soaking Tub?
Soaking tubs, by their very nature, are places to luxuriate. Designed to submerge your body, they’re perfect for extended, leisurely bathtub soaks with or without bubbles, delivering soothing relaxation and relief from aches and pains after a long day.
Soaking tubs come in various depths, dimensions and styles. Many come with extra features such as ergonomic contours for comfort, heaters, mood lighting and whirlpool jets for an in-home spa experience. Some manufacturers offer customization to accommodate taller and larger bathers.
When choosing a soaking tub for a bathroom in a new build or renovation, it’s important to take these factors into account:
- Size, shape and layout;
- Durability of materials;
- Installation/pipe placement;
- Energy efficiency/water heater capacity;
Pro tip: Make sure your water heater can provide enough hot water to fill the tub. Often this gets overlooked. Upgrading the water heater adds unexpected time, hassle and expense to the project, so do your homework first.
Types of Soaking Tubs
Soaking tubs can be made of porcelain-enameled cast iron, ceramic, fiberglass, resin, acrylic, copper, wood, concrete, stone or marble. They also come in several styles, from traditional to contemporary to transitional (an eclectic mix of the two).
The most common types of soaking tubs:
- Alcove. A recessed style, surrounded by three walls. Alcove tubs are often tub and shower combinations.
- Freestanding. These are installed away from walls, so it’s best suited for larger bathrooms. One well-known example is the clawfoot tub.
- Corner. Shaped to fit in awkward, angled spaces.
- Drop-in/overmount. Made to be lowered into a built-in surround. The sides of the tub are hidden, leaving only the top of the rim exposed.
- Undermount. Similar to overmounts, except the tub is installed underneath a ledge or bathtub deck. It’s mostly supported by the floor below.
- Japanese. Ultra-deep and usually standalone, it lets bathers sit upright, much like a hot tub.
- Jetted. Fitted with whirlpool jets to produce bubbles and therapeutic massage action.
- Walk-in. Engineered with a door to allow bathers to step in and out easily. Walk-in tubs are ideal for older people and those with mobility issues.
- One- or two-piece. One-piece tubs feature a single hunk of material, while two-piece tubs generally consist of a skirt and vessel inserted into one another.
Are Soaking Tubs Comfortable?
They can be extremely luxurious and cozy. They can also be quite uncomfortable. A 6-foot 4-inch, 250-pound person would need a larger tub than a five-foot, 120-pound person. A lot depends on how well the soaking tub meets a bather’s needs. Keep the size of your users at the forefront when you make your choice.
Soaking tub comfort-makers
- Deep enough to submerge up to the neck;
- Sufficient legroom to stretch out completely;
- Ergonomically contoured to cradle the body;
- Built-in arm and headrests;
- Massaging jets to soothe sore muscles and ease stress.
- Awkward slopes that don’t support the back;
- Sides that are too high, making it difficult to climb in or out;
- Slippery surfaces that cause drifting and sliding beneath the waterline;
- Uninsulated materials that don’t maintain the water temperature.
How To Install a Soaking Tub
Bret Hepola of All City Plumbing in Minnetrista, Minnesota, a master plumber with more than 21 years of experience, recommends hiring a licensed plumber to install your soaking tub. But if you feel you have the DIY chops to take on such an ambitious bathroom project yourself, be prepared for anything.
“A remodel typically requires removal of flooring and walls to install the waterlines, drain and vent per local code,” says Hepola. In the midst of that, you could encounter unforeseen conditions that impact the layout. If the tub isn’t roughed-in correctly, you might need to tear out flooring, cut open walls, remove tile, etc., complicating the job.
“There is no room for error,” he says.
One- vs. two-piece tubs
Hepola favors one-piece tubs with integrated overflows drain connections over two-piece tubs. Why? First, if you spring a leak after installation, the faucet access on some requires the removal of one of the pieces. They’re also more complicated to install.
“I just can’t emphasize a one-piece enough!” he says.
Soaking Tub Costs
Standard soaking tub prices begin at around $400 and go up to $5,000 or more. As with most things, the cost depends on size, materials and embellishments. Cast iron tubs tend to be pricier, but they also last longer and retain heat better. Basic acrylic tubs are affordable and lightweight, making them a good choice for DIYers on a budget.
The main thing? Before purchasing a soaking tub, make sure you fit in it. “Length and depth,” Hepola says. “No one wants to be scrunched up in a tub that is meant for relaxing.”
Top-Rated Soaking Tubs
Kohler Underscore Alcove Bathtub
If you’re looking for a soaking tub in a three-wall, recessed design, the Kohler Underscore Alcove Bathtub fits the bill. A mid-priced option, the durable acrylic Underscore resists chips and cracks, with molded lumbar support and a sloped backrest for comfort.
A textured bottom surface promises safer ins and outs. Despite its depth, it has a low step-over height, making it ADA-compliant.
Woodbridge Freestanding Soaking Acrylic Bathtub
Like putting a square peg in a round hole, finding a soaking tub that fits into an existing bathroom can be tricky. It’s especially challenging in small bathrooms with limited floor space.
The Woodbridge Freestanding Soaking Acrylic Bathtub is a great option that’s as attractive as it is space-saving. Despite its compact size, this soaker measures 14-1/2-inches deep, rivaling many full-sized competitors in immersability.
An overflow slot allows the tub to be filled to its 60-gallon capacity without spilling over, and it comes with a choice of five faucet finishes. Add a bamboo bath caddy to hold scented candles, bath salts or a favorite book. Ahhh.
Signature Hardware Raksha Hammered Copper Japanese Soaking Tub
The Raksha Hammered Copper Japanese Soaking Tub by Signature Hardware lets you unwind in extra-deep luxury. This splurge-worthy tub is hand-crafted, using a French hot process to ingrain the patina into the 16-gauge, polished copper. The result is a rustic-chic look.
Because its water depth to the rim is a profound 26-1/4 inches, you can look forward to hours of pampering soaks.