Different Styles of Bathtubs

Bathtubs are manufactured in many different types of materials to suit many different types of applications.

In the past, your options were cast iron stand alone or cast iron built in. Now you can choose not only right or left, but a vast array of materials.

Right or left means that as you are standing in front of the it, the drain will be on the right or left side. So if the drain is on your right, you have a right hand one.

Attached apron enameled steel bathtubs are the most common in lower priced homes today. They can be bought at my local big box stores for around $97 (prices vary by region).

The benefit is the cost. Potential problems are, they are thin and susceptible to chipping. They do not retain heat and can be noisy (check to see if it has undercoating to help muffle noise and retain heat). Some come with a Styrofoam cushion between the bottom and the floor.

Fiberglass bathtubs are inexpensive, lightweight material that can be manufactured in many colors and shapes. It can be purchased as a one-piece unit that includes the tub and the walls (new construction only) or as a replacement consisting of four pieces, (bathtub, back wall and both end walls).

Nice features can include built in soap dishes, towel bars, grab bars and built in seats.

Potential problems are the surface can scratch easily and the color may fade if exposed to sunlight.

The outer surface will be smooth and the inside surface will look like shreds of glass and very rough.

The material can be repaired if it becomes damaged. Make sure to use a professional that has experience with fiberglass.

Acrylic bathtubs are very similar to the fiberglass ones. They can be molded to any shape and size.

The big difference is that the color is all the way through making it less likely to scratch or fade.

Cast iron bathtubs are the toughest material available and without a doubt the heaviest. The liquid steel is cast into a mold. Then an enamel finish is baked on at typically 1/16 inch thick.

If you are installing one of these heavy weight bathtubs, make sure you allow sufficient support under it to support its weight. Also, make sure you have an access path from the outside to the location of the bathtub. On more than one occasion, we have had to take a sledge hammer to break up one just to get it outside.

These beauties can weigh between 300 to 450 pounds. Then add water with a weight of 8 1/3 pounds per gallon (65 gallons is typical), then add a person with a weight of ???. Make sure there is plenty of support.

Stone and ceramic tiles can be used to build custom bathtubs in any shape, color or size. Make sure the floor has a pitch toward the drain, typically ¼ inch of slope for each 12 inches of run. There are several different thoughts on how to water proof the floor.

We did a ceramic shower for my mom one time in Florida. It was really easy, we took up a utility room floor and ran new plumbing, poured new concrete and left the shower floor 4 inches below the bathroom floor with the correct slope. Next we set the tiles on the concrete and presto it’s done.

We now live in Tennessee and mono pour concrete floors are not the norm. We use crawl spaces.

So the shower/bathtub floor gets a layer of tar paper on the sub flooring, then attached a piece of metal lath to the sub-floor, lastly add some mortar to get the basic shape and slope of the floor. Make sure the drain is installed before doing any of this.

After the mortar is dry, get a piece of shower pan liner, lay it out and run the material up the walls. Some plumbers like to run the material 4 or 5 inches up the walls.

Personally, I run the material 4 or 5 inches above the water level, but at least higher than the entrance ledge. There should be no seams in this material. Reinforce the area around the drain. Test for leaks.

Then hang cement board on the shower/bathtub wall to within 1/4 inch of the floor. Do not puncture the membrane near the floor. Scribe a mark on the wall 1 1/2 inches above the floor.

Now pour mortar mix into the membrane. Level it out. Place a piece of wire lath on the fresh mortar and pour more mortar mix on top of the wire lath.

Smooth it out and slope it toward the drain. You now have a good foundation to set tiles or stone on that will provide many years of trouble free service.

Custom built tubs and showers are the only bath fixtures that require this special treatment.

Jacuzzi or Whirlpool are growing in popularity since their first introduction in 1968. These units are available in platform models (you build the space it drops into) or stand alone in almost any shape.

My local big box store has these things at a starting price just below $700. Do not forget to add the heater! It is not standard equipment on most units. My local plumbing supply house has units ranging into the thousands of dollars.

Configurations range from basic to approximately a dozen jets. Prices also run the gauntlet from reasonable into the extreme. Some can give spas a run for the money. The primary difference is whirlpool units usually are filled and drained with each and every use.

Spas on the other hand, use chemicals and the water is typically changed every three months. Whirlpools and spas are normally made with acrylic materials.

Whatever bathtub you install, make sure you are in compliance with local building codes and any safety rules the manufacturer recommends.

Home Remodeling and Improvement Center Remodeling your home? How about looking at some home improvement ideas? Simply consult our free 5-step home remodeling guide for home remodeling plans and home improvement ideas.

Dave Altman

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