Whirlpool and Air Bathtub Buying Guide
Are you renovating an existing bathroom or building a new home? A beautiful whirlpool tub can define your space and provide a relaxing oasis. Before you purchase one, there are several considerations to keep in mind.
Measure Your Space
Measure the length, width and height of the space where your tub will go.
- If you're replacing a tub, check if your old one has a drain located on the left, right or in the center. You'll need to purchase a new tub that has the same drain location to ensure that it will properly align with the existing plumbing.
- Many tubs require a mortar base underneath. This mortar bed prevents the tub from squeaking, cracking and breaking.
Then consider who'll be using the tub:
- If you have children, consider a low model that's easy for them to get in and out and for parents to help them.
- Older owners or those with disabilities can purchase walk-in tubs for easier accessibility.
- If you're tall, consider a longer tub.
- If you like to lounge, purchase a tub with a high back.
Determine Your Capacity
Consider the capacity of your hot water heater. Check the owner's manual or the Energy Guide tag on the side of it to see whether the unit can handle the amount of water the tub needs.
Types of Tubs
Alcove or Skirted Tubs
These tubs are fixed on three sides by bathroom walls. The front side is finished to conceal the subfloor and plumbing. It can be flat or have a design embedded in the material.
These rimmed tubs are exposed on all sides and dropped into a deck that's usually covered in tile. They're typically used in larger master bathrooms where the tub is separate from the shower stall.
Designed to help people with mobility issues who need easy access, these are made of either acrylic or fiberglass and are taller than a typical bathtub. Most walk-in tubs come with an integrated seat, and some have whirlpool jets that can provide therapeutic relief.
These tubs stand alone and can be used in modern or traditional bathrooms depending on the style that you select. They're usually more expensive than other types of tubs and require more water to fill them, but they make up for it in style and can be dramatic statement pieces that define the look of a bathroom. Two other types of freestanding tubs include:
These tubs are often found in older or traditional-style homes. They're usually white with feet that resemble an animal's claw in polished or brushed nickel (see image). Clawfoot tubs can have higher backs, which are good for lounging.
These tubs sit on a raised platform and are usually found in more modern bathrooms.
A soaking tub is deeper than a standard tub. The extra depth allows the bather to immerse the torso in addition to the lower body.
If you're unsure of which style would work in your bathroom, take a photo of your space and bring it to a Lowe's associate for a free consultation.
There are many types of tub materials to choose from.
Acrylic tubs are the most popular option and come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. Acrylic tubs can scratch or stain, but the higher-grade acrylic tub you purchase, the less prone it is to damage.
This is one of the more expensive finishes on the market, but it's also the most durable and less likely to dent or scratch. It's heavy so a reinforced floor may be needed before you install one. Due to the heavy material, the water will also stay warmer longer.
This material is the least expensive and most lightweight. Fiberglass tubs are some of the easiest to install. This is also the thinnest material and more prone to fading, scratches or cracking.
Porcelain Enameled Steel
These tubs are another less expensive alternative to acrylic or cast iron. They're easy to clean and quite durable but are heavier and can chip if struck with a hard object.
There are also other more unusual tub materials that could make a big impact in your bathroom, such as copper, solid surface or natural stone composite.
Tub Shapes and Colors
The most popular tub shapes are oval or rectangular. But there are other shapes to choose from including:
- Hourglass in rectangle
- Oval in rectangle
The most popular colors are white and off-white. But if you want a tub that stands out, there are many colors to choose from including:
- Chrome or silver
- Other solid colors, such as red or blue
Air Baths and Whirlpool Tubs
Whirlpool and air baths both provide relaxing and therapeutic benefits. Most are composed of acrylic, are rectangular or oval and fit into a 60-, 66- or 72-inch opening. However, there are a few differences between the two types.
These baths have injectors on the bottom of the tub that produce millions of heated air bubbles, providing a low-pressure massage. Air bath injectors are fixed and can't be controlled like the jets on a whirlpool. However, if you like to use bath products, such as bath salts or gels, an air bath is a better choice because it won't clog as easily as whirlpool tubs. Most air baths are acrylic, but there are some made of fiberglass.
These push water through jets, providing a high-pressure massage. They're often used in physical therapy facilities where relief is needed for aches, pains and muscle sprains. They've also been known to help those suffering with arthritis. You can also control the jets in a way that you can't with air baths. The majority of whirlpool tubs are made of acrylic, but cast iron is another option.
Questions to Ask
Before you purchase a whirlpool tub or air bath, ask a plumber and/or an electrician the following questions:
- Will it fit in my existing space, or will I need to reconfigure the bathroom?
- Will it fit through the door? Keep in mind the tub goes into a deck, which takes up space beyond the tub.
- Will my existing wiring support a whirlpool or air bath?
- Will my floor need to be reinforced to accommodate the weight? This is especially important if it's going on a second floor.
You'll also need to consider the type of faucet that you want with your new tub.
If you have limited space around the tub, mount the faucet on the actual tub. You'll usually see these with a drop-in or whirlpool tub. It's also the most economical choice.
If you like the look of exposed pipes, a floor-mounted faucet is a good option. Measure carefully because these faucets require more room around the bathtub. They're used with freestanding tubs.
These faucets can produce a longer water arch and offer more surface space. Wall-mounted faucets are good to use when the tub and shower are together.
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