Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter
When we’re looking unwind, the bathtub is often our first port of call. Whether you go for a rectangular, freestanding or corner bath, there are various material, style and size options to consider. Looking for more? Our whirlpool models provide the ultimate in comfort. Read on for more bathtub essentials!
- Cast iron or acrylic
- Freestanding, clawfoot, rectangular or corner
- Size and cladding
- Tap fittings and comfort
- Whirlpool baths
How to choose a bathtub: the basics
Over time, the bathtub has gone from a basic sanitary unit to an essential bathroom centrepiece aiming to combine style, comfort and all the modern features you may desire. But in order to choose the right one you will have to consider several factors. First of all, you have to think about the size of your bathtub. Ideally, you’ll find a model that fits perfectly into your space while also providing as much comfort as the size of your bathroom allows.
The style of your bathtub will also have an important role in determining the feel of your bathroom decor. You can choose from square, rectangular or corner designs to match your tastes and the layout of your bathroom. There is also a wide range of materials to pick from, including heavy options like cast iron or enamelled steel or lighter synthetic materials like acrylic or resin. The latter are favoured for their shock resistance and the variety of shapes they offer.
Finally, you will have to settle on a cladding type to match the bathtub itself. From easy-to-install panels to more ambitious tiled surroundings, your choice of cladding will come down to how you want the space to look and your installation requirements (from restoring to all-out replacing).
Selecting a bathtub type and shape
The shape of your bathtub will, of course, be determined by the layout of your bathroom. But it also must respond to your comfort demands. You can select from the following options:
Rectangular or oval baths
Rectangular or oval-shaped baths are the most classic styles available. They will blend in seamlessly with almost any bathroom and also come in a large range of sizes, meaning you won’t have to compromise on space.
Corner baths can be tucked into the corner of your bathroom. Featuring a rounded shape, they take up less room than other models making them the perfect choice for bathrooms that are difficult to furnish or those with sloping ceilings. Despite their shape, they are generally spacious and comfortable.
Clawfoot or slipper baths, with their smaller proportions, allow you to enjoy a good bath even in a more compact bathroom. These bathtubs usually only stretch to a maximum length of around 150 cm.
Freestanding baths look great if you have a larger space to play with. Placed in the centre of the room, they are ideal for creating a modern feel in your bathroom – or even your bedroom! There are several different types of freestanding baths; they can come with or without feet and may feature built-in or exposed taps. Whether retro or contemporary in style, you simply cannot beat a freestanding bath and the promise of many long hours of relaxation!
Shower baths feature a flat reinforced base at the tap-end of the bath allowing you to shower with minimal fuss. By adding on a glass shower panel, you will avoid the risk of any overspill – and even create your own mini steam room!
You will also have to think about the functionality of your bathtub and any additional accessories you may require. Armrests, rounded headrests and ergonomic backrests are all comfort options worth considering.
If you really want to kit out your tub, you can also opt for a seat for a support bar. These add-on features are particularly recommended for the elderly and those with different mobility requirements.
Selecting a bathtub size and material type
How to choose your bathtub dimensions
Determining the size of your bathtub is simply a case of comparing its dimensions to the available space in your bathroom. Of course, the bigger the bathtub, the more comfortable you will be. Lengths tend to vary from 150 to over 190 cm while the width of your bathtub will generally be in the region of 70 to over100 cm. With so many baths to choose from, you should be able to find the perfect one to fit your size requirements.
How to choose your bathtub material
Next, you will have to decide upon a material. This decision should be based on the weight of the material, as well as its basic properties.
Metal baths can be made of cast iron or enamelled steel. The enamel coating of the latter makes the material highly resistant to shocks and scratches. Nonetheless, metal baths are heavy, and you should pay special attention to how much weight your floor can support – especially if you have wooden floors.
They also tend to be more slippery than acrylic baths and are not as effective at retaining heat. You should also note that there are fewer shapes and sizes available in this material.
- Cast iron is heavy and is good at retaining heat but requires a strong floor (it isn't suitable for wood flooring). It is easy to maintain and is generally long-lasting. However, not all shape varieties will be possible;
- Enamelled steel is lighter but does not retain the heat as well and can be noisy for both you and your neighbours!
Synthetic bathtubs are found in the majority of bathrooms these days with most made of acrylic or resin. Bathtubs made from these modern materials are both lightweight and strong. Synthetic tubs are easy to install and straightforward to drill into if required (to install taps, for example).
Their coating, however, is less resistant to shocks and you will need to take care to avoid scratches due to the way the material is made. Synthetic bathtubs can come in any shape with many options available to you.
- Acrylic is sensitive to scratches and harsh cleaning products. It retains heat well, does not create a lot of noise and offers good value for money;
- Toplax is an exclusive ABS (Acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene) reinforced acrylic; it is a thermoplastic polymer which offers a good level of shock resistance and grip. This material retains heat well and can be recycled at the end of its life;
- Fibreglass is known for being strong, lightweight and inexpensive;
- Resin comes in two types: roto-moulded polymer and polyester resin. The first is soft and pleasant to the touch; the latter, made from thermosetting resin with a gelcoat and fibreglass coating, is known for its strength.
Of course, baths are subject to British Standard Institution (BSI) specifications and must follow different standards according to material type and any special features they may contain (e.g. whirlpool baths).
Finding the right cladding for your bathtub
Just like the bathtub itself, there are countless cladding options designed to blend in with your bathroom decor as a whole. Cladding and bath panels come in many different materials to match to your bathtub and taste preferences.
Many manufacturers offer the option to add on cladding that is perfectly proportioned to the bath they are selling. Made from the same material as the bath, it is tailored to fit to the contours of the unit. This is the easiest and quickest finishing solution. These panels are also easy to remove for accessing the waste and tap fittings.
Tile-over cladding consists of extruded polystyrene panelscoated withfibreglass. These tough panels can be cut to fit your required dimensions.
Other material options
Various other cladding materials, such as plaster panels or waterproof MDF, can also be used. These materials allow you to create a custom-made bath surrounding that can be tiled over, painted or panelled in any way you like!
Whirlpool bath options for relaxing and recharging
To put it simply, whirlpool baths allow you to create your own mini spa at home. Fitted with several hydro-massage nozzles these baths – also known as spa baths – are designed with serious comfort in mind. Each of these nozzles creates water jet for a massaging effect to offer an unbeatable sense of well-being and relaxation. Transforming every bath into a full-body massage session, there’s no doubt these features will have you coming back for more!
In terms of operation, the mechanics of these baths are quite straightforward. There are three main types of technology on offer:
- Compressed air: air is pumped out from the nozzles by means of an air compressor. These nozzles are spread out over the bottom of the bathtub and produce a gentle and relaxing massage effect.
- Pressurised water: a pump pulls water from the bathtub and sends it out in jets via the nozzles. This produces an invigorating and energising massage effect.
- Air and water: this technology combines both of the aforementioned systems. The combination of air and water allows you to choose between effects at any given time.
The quality of the massage depends largely on how many jets there are and where they are positioned. The more jets there are, the more parts of your body they can reach; the lower back, neck, buttocks and thighs can all be taken care of! The efficiency of the massage will also depend on the power of the pump. The power rating of whirlpool bathtubs generally ranges from 600 to 2200 watts. Remember that the higher the wattage, the more efficient the features will be.
Of course, whirlpool bathtubs must also meet safety and performance standards to assure the quality and operation of their electrical parts and degree of water-tightness. If you’re still thinking bigger, why not get a jacuzzi? They offer all the same functions as a whirlpool bath but also fit several people at once!
When you’ve decided on a shape, size and material for your tub, stop for just a minute and think about the finished result of your bathroom in terms of both style and functionality. And once you’ve finally settled on the perfect bathtub, it’s time to get started on the tap fittings…!
For more information on bathroom design, check out the following guides:
- How to furnish your bathroom
- Bathroom furniture buying guide
- Hot tub buying guide
- Sauna buying guide
- Shower enclosure buying guide
- Shower tray buying guide
- Shower screen and door buying guide
- Shower column buying guide
- Bathroom sink buying guide
- Bathroom tap buying guide
- Bathroom accessories buying guide
- Bidet buying guide
Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 192 guides
Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!