From basic functionality to luxurious, today’s bathtubs offer a dizzying range of styles, features, sizes, and materials. But what is the best bathtub for you? This simple guide will help you find it!
Showers are quick and functional, but after a long, stressful day, soaking in a well designed tub is one of the best feelings in the world. If you’re uncertain of where to begin, start with our Quick Start Best Bathtubs for your new bathroom recommendations at the bottom of this post.
Over the years, we have torn out and replaced several bathtubs. As I have gained experience and lived with several types, some clear winners have lead me to make certain recommendations over and over again.
(If you are new here, Hiiiii! I’m Rachel, and I am addicted to remodeling. We are, in fact, about to start renovating house #5 in 2021.)
How To Measure a Bathtub
Bathtubs are measured stud to stud. Bathtubs are mounted directly on the studs, so they are measured without any drywall consideration. A standard tub is 60 inches long and can vary in width as you desire.
The distance from the centerline of a toilet to any bath fixture, wall, or other obstacle should be at least 18 inches for comfort. Code generally requires at least 15 inches.
Unless you move the plumbing, generally a replacement bathtub must be the same width as the old one. The waste pipe, overflow valve, and faucets are lined up centerline of the bathtub.
Types of Bathtub Materials
These are very generalized pros and cons of the common bathtub materials:
- Fiberglass or fiberglass-reinforced plastic – (pros) They are most affordable, lightweight, variety of sizes and styles. (cons) They are least durable, prone to scratching, doesn’t hold heat well.
- Acrylic – (pros) They are affordable and come in variety of sizes and styles. (cons) They are prone to scratching and cracking and doesn’t hold heat as well.
- Porcelain Over Steel – (cons) The quality of these bathtubs can vary dramatically depending on the thickness of the steel or coating. (pros) They are more durable, longer lasting, and last they are lighter than true cast iron. Additionally, some styles look cheap.
- Cast iron with a thick coated enamel – (pros) They are the most durable. (cons) They are the hardest installation because of weight and some installations cannot be done.
Factors in Choosing the Best Bathtub for You
1. Easy To Clean
Many bathtubs today have a slip resistant bottom and you should check with the manufacturer about how well the bottom surface in particular cleans. Cheaper materials are more prone to scratching which makes them harder to clean over time.
Abrasive cleaners should generally be avoided in all tubs, because it can cause pitting and scratching in the surface which will make it easier to stain/harder to clean over time.
*Our recommendations: We have spent the last 5 years cleaning our replaced bathtubs with a microfiber cloth and mild dish detergent (if really needed). No bleach, chemicals, or abrasives and all tubs look as good as the day they were installed.
2. Bathtub Weight and Considerations
Bathtub materials vary greatly in weight, with a cast iron tub often coming in at 300lbs or more even before filling with water. This extra load can be a challenge structuarly on bathrooms on second stories or unreinforced floors.
Even if the floor could support it well, trying to get it up the stairs would be a problem. On the other end of the spectrum, acrylic and fiberglass tubs are lightweight and easy to maneuver.
3. Surface Durability
Bathtubs aren’t something you want to replace often. If a bathtub must be replaced, often so will all the surrounding materials such as tile, shower doors, and possibly sub-floor. That’s a costly expense. While I can’t promise that any bathtub is impervious, here is a list of bathtub materials listed from least durable to most:
- Fiberglass or fiberglass-reinforced plastic are the least durable and prone to scratching and cracking. While a crack can be repaired, resurfacing an entire tub is not very economical.
- Acrylic tubs also present similar levels of durability and scratch resistance to a fiberglass tub.
- Porcelain Over Steel is a more durable option, depending on the thickness of the porcelain coating. Porcelain enamel can chip but the tub can be repaired in place. It is much more impact and scratch resistant than a fiberglass or acrylic tub. The steel is usually a thin sheet and can flex, so that is something to watch for.
- Cast iron with a thick coated enamel – Definitely the most durable of the basic tub materials because cast iron tubs tend to be thick and the most resistant to cracking.
4. Bathtub Flexing
If you have ever stood in a cheap fiberglass tub, you know the feeling of flexing. Over time this can weaken a tub. Cast iron tubs are heavier with less, or no, flexing.
Pro tip: However, you can stop the bottom flexing when you get in with a proper mortar setting under the bottom. Check with your installer and the manufacturer about using a mortar setting.
Like it or not, price is always going to be a factor. However, I have found that for the most part, you get what you pay for with bathtubs. Improved materials and proper installation are really the keys to a long lasting bathtub that will pay for itself with longevity.
The Best Bathtubs (Our Recommendations)
1. Best Freestanding– Wyndam Collection Rebecca Freestanding
Roomy for those six foot and taller, while still keeping a comfortable back curve for relaxing. It comes in 60, 65, an 70 inch varieties. The acrylic flatbottom retains heat very well, while providing a deeper soak for full immersion.
2. Best Alcove Bathtub – American Standard Cambridge
Americast is American Standard’s unique patented process that fully bonds a high quality porcelain surface with an enameling grade steel and a molded reinforcement composite backing. It is almost like getting all of the benefits of a cast iron tub (heat retention, durability) with the benefits of a lighter weight tub. It is also one of the deeper alcove tubs on the market. The enameled surface makes it very durable and easy to clean.
If you are looking for a more budget friendly option, we have installed the American Standard Princeton as well. It has all of the same components and heat retention of the Cambridge. However, it isn’t as deep or as wide as the Cambridge.
3. Best Budget – Bootz Industries Aloha 60 inch Alcove Tub
This tub is probably one of the most affordable tubs on the market while still having features like ease of installation, long term durability, and easy to clean if you don’t use abrasives. My main pause with this particular tub is the Styrofoam padding/support. I just feel like that will break down over time.
4. Best Whirlpool/Jetted – American Standard Everclean Whirlpool
There is a 60 inch and 72 inch varieties. The design and the 8 fully-adjustable jets are pure relaxation and comfort. You can’t beat it for the price compared to many other much more expensive whirlpool tubs.
Best Small Space – Kohler 48 inch Drop In Soaking Tub
Can’t fit a full size bathtub? A bathroom without a tub feels less luxurious, so a drop-in soaking tub it is! This tub is well-made and can be used in smaller spaces if the kids need a tub or for tasks like shaving.
In this particular remodel, after taking in all of our considerations, we chose the American Standard Cambridge Alcove Bathtub and LOVE it. However, we have installed a few of the other choices above because the needs were different – i.e. features such as jets, easier to reach into, etc.
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