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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Freestanding bathtubs are a relaxing retreat

By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon


Now that you are an expert on bathroom sinks (see Deseret Morning News column of Sept. 15: Sink can greatly add to beauty of the bathroom), it is time to brush up on bathtubs.

Bathrooms today serve more than a practical function. They are often created to be a refuge from the stress and commotion of everyday life. While the combination tub-shower is a practical solution when space is at a premium, the secret to a great tub is to have a separate shower. When the tub does not have to double as a shower, it can be more visually spectacular as well as function better for that relaxing retreat.

If relaxation is your goal, the overflow valve in this drop-in tub is located in the trough around the actual tub, meaning that you can literally fill it to the rim.

Bathtubs today come in a variety of shapes and materials. The material used will affect the look, the feel and the cost. The original material was enameled cast iron. Sturdy and durable, the cost of this type of tub runs from $800—$1,000. In the 1950s, plastics were introduced into the bathtub market. Acrylic resin is strong, lightweight, and attractive. Because it weighs less than enamel, it is a good choice for larger tubs. The cost for this variety of tub ranges from $500—$1,000.

More elaborate materials include bright metals such as stainless steel ($4,000—$7,000) and copper ($10,000-$60,000), stone such as granite ($8,000—$10,000) and marble ($45,000—$80,000), and tile. Tile can be applied to any shape created out of concrete or wood with a rubber membrane over it. The cost depends on the size, complexity, and the tile selected. (Cost estimates courtesy of Inspired House, Taunton Press.)

Tubs should be sized and selected to fit those who will use them. Ideally, you should be able to submerge your feet, knees, and shoulders at the same time. This usually means a 6-foot tub, as opposed to the standard size which is 5 feet long. Consider the tub's depth as well as length. Measure from the overflow valve to the bottom of the tub; this will be the actual water depth. Remember that large two-person tubs may need up to 90 gallons of water to fill them, so you will need an extra-large water heater, a three-quarter inch water supply line, and possibly extra structural support in your floor.

This freestanding tub with a stainless steel frame is a classy modern interpretation of the claw-foot tub.

There are five basic shapes of tubs for you to consider: Freestanding tubs were the original design and the classic claw-foot tub is in vogue again. A variation on this style is the pedestal tub, which has a continuous base rather than individual feet. Drop-in tubs rest on a platform built by your contractor. Corner tubs are shaped in some version of a triangle. Tubs are often built into an alcove. This is a niche created by three walls surrounding the tub. If there is a separate shower, the side walls can be half-height for a more open design. Finally, soaking tubs are gaining in popularity. Based on a Japanese design, these tubs are up to 35 inches deep and are meant for sitting rather than lying down.

Your final decision is whether to have jets transform your bath into a whirlpool. Traditional technology uses nozzles that shoot a mixture of recirculated water and air. A newer technology has jets that only use air. Since there is no recirculation of the water through the system, this reduces the likelihood of bacterial growth in the pipes.

As the biggest investment in your bathroom, tubs deserve careful consideration before you select one. They are VERY permanent, so make sure you get what you want and need since changing your mind later is not an option!

By the way, the owners of one of our recently completed projects are opening their home to a public tour on the evening of Friday, Sept. 29. If you would like to see a remodeled home that fits well with the scale of the existing neighborhood, please go to our Web site for more information. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2006 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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