It’s true most folks prefer to get clean themselves in a shower rather than a bathtub nowadays. Consider the results of an Angie’s List survey of 2,000 people published in 2016: 90 percent of respondents were more likely to take a shower over a bath.
Yet experts agree the tub is hardly in danger of disappearing altogether from the great American bathroom.
In fact, two in five homeowners plan to upgrade a tub during a master bath remodel, and the tub ranks in the top five (as chosen by 35 percent of those polled) among features that homeowners splurge on most during a renovation, according to the 2017 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.
“Tubs are far from being considered obsolete,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist with Houzz in Palo Alto, California. “Seventy-eight percent of homeowners who remove a tub still have another tub elsewhere in their home.”
Paul Knutson, owner of St. Paul, Minn.-based Knutson Residential Design LLC, says most people consider tubs to be an essential part of their homes.
“While luxury showers have overtaken luxury tubs as the centerpiece in many of their baths, they still want a tub somewhere,” Knutson says. He notes that it’s harder to sell a home without at least one bathtub in it.
If you’re planning a bathroom redo, many pros recommend replacing your existing tub or adding one that wasn’t there before. Popular styles today include:
â€¢â€…An alcove tub, typically rectangular, recessed and installed next to three walls.
â€¢â€…A soaking tub, often deeper and/or wider to enable you to fit your entire body in the water. Theses are often free-standing.
â€¢â€…An air or whirlpool tub, which offers therapeutic and massaging comfort; the former injects air into the water to make relaxing bubbles, while the latter shoots jets of H2O to stir up the water.
â€¢â€…A walk-in tub, equipped with a door that allows you to walk in and out of the tub when empty Â– ideal for older homeowners.
Bathtubs are available as either aesthetically appealing free-standing units (including claw foot and slipper tubs) or spatially efficient built-in or corner units (available in undermount or drop-in configurations). Common materials include acrylic, cast iron, enamel on steel, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble and composite.
“Among those upgrading their tub these days, two-thirds opt for a soaking tub, followed by two in five who choose a free-standing flat-bottom tub,” Sitchinava notes, citing the aforementioned Houzz survey. “Acrylic remains the dominant tub material, chosen by 51 percent, although fiberglass and cast-iron tubs each represent a significant share of new tubs at 16 percent each.”
Spencer Shaw, owner of Re-Bath of Southern Idaho in Meridian, Idaho, recommends acrylic and soaker tubs to his clients most often.
“Acrylic tubs are nonporous, affordable, easy to clean and maintain, and have superior heat retention and warranties,” Shaw says. “And soaker tubs are usually less expensive, more functional and can be installed without requiring a full bathroom remodel, including a new floor.”
If you’re on a tight budget, you might be able to breathe new life into your existing tub by refinishing it.
“Reglazing a bathtub to like-new condition is a smart choice, as it can save up to 90 percent over the cost of replacement,” says Dani Nichols, president of Skokie-based NAPCO, a tub/tile/cabinet/countertop refinishing company.
For best results, trust in an expert.
“It’s important to work with an experienced bathroom remodeler who understands the entire bathroom — even if the tub or shower area is the only portion of the room being remodeled,” Shaw says.
Enlisting a general contractor is wise, “but so is hiring an interior design professional, who can help you save money and avoid regrets by choosing the right bathroom design, tub style and finish,” adds Nichols.