How to Choose a Tub for Your Bathroom

Rub-a-dub-dub, let's talk about tubs and how to make a smart pick.

By Jan Soults Walker

A well-chosen bathtub can serve as a dramatic focal point in your bathroom design—not to mention offer soul-soothing long soaks. Imagine a beautiful tub beneath a window with a view or a stunning light fixture reminiscent of a starry night. The possibilities are unlimited, but before you shop, let's get a handle on some of the options you'll need to consider.

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Paul Knutson

The basics

While a standard tub-shower combination (a tub with three walls and a showerhead and plumbing in one end wall) is an option, let's assume you're looking for a suite superstar—either a built-in or freestanding bathtub.

A built-in bathtub typically drops into a surround (or framework) that's surfaced to match or complement walls, cabinetry, or flooring. The surround should include an access panel for easy maintenance of plumbing and electrical, if needed. A freestanding tub stands on its own on the floor—either directly on the base of the tub or resting on feet or a pedestal.

Size and shape

Bathtubs come in nearly every shape and size imaginable. You'll find a variety of square, oval, rectangular, circular, corner units, and traditional clawfoot tubs as well more modern versions with clean or sweeping lines.

Select a model to fit the space available. If you have an especially spacious master bath, keep in mind that bigger isn't always better. Sometimes an oversize tub, especially a built-in model, can appear clunky and overwhelming if the scale and style don't suit the surroundings.

A nicely sized built-in bathtub provides a handy ledge for sitting and shaving legs as well as for showcasing candles, scented oils, and more. A freestanding tub can lend a sculptural element to the room while also creating the illusion of more space because flooring remains visible to the wall.


Check out the comfort of the bathtub before you buy. When you shop, climb in, lean back, and see how the tub feels. Is the slope of the back right for you? How's the length? Do you want room for two people?


If a large tub is on your wish list, investigate that your water heater can fill the tub with enough hot water (or that an in-line heater will keep water comfortably warm). Depending on the size of the tub, you may need to consult an architect or reliable contractor to determine if floor joists should be reinforced to support the weight of the tub, plus water and a bather (or two, if it's designed for multiple people).


Diamond Spas
Bathtubs come in several materials:
  • Acrylic tubs are made from sheets of acrylic that have been heated and molded into a specific form, then typically reinforced with additional materials, such as fiberglass, metal, or wood. While acrylic tubs are valued for their great selection, good heat retention (with insulation), and lightweight construction, they can be costly and prone to scratching.
  • Cast iron is molded into tub form then coated with porcelain or enamel. While these are considered the most durable, they don't retain heat well, are pricey, and are very heavy, so check floor supports to make sure they can hold the tub's weight.
  • Cast polymer tubs often mimic natural materials, such as stone, but are a polymer finished with polyester gel—considered less durable than acrylic but can hold heat well.
  • Cultured marble is a mix of crushed limestone and polyester resin, finished with a gel coat that makes it non-porous and stain resistant. You'll find lots of colors and patterns available, but despite the high cost, the material isn't known for its durability once the gel coat wears away.
  • Fiberglass coated with polyester gel is another material option. These tubs are affordable, lightweight, and come in a wide variety of shapes and styles, but they are considered less durable than acrylic tubs and tend to lose heat unless properly insulated.
  • Other materials used to make bathtubs include natural materials, such as stone or wood, and a variety of metals, such as copper or brass. Most of these materials provide a dramatic, custom look, and you'll pay a high price for them. Comfort and care requirements will vary with the material, so consider all the variables.
  • Steel enamel tubs come in two types: European and domestic. Coated with enamel or porcelain and similar to cast iron, molded steel is less expensive. European steel enamel tubs are thicker than domestic versions and less likely to chip.


You also find several types of bathtubs, including deep versions made for long soaks and others (jetted, air, and combination) that offer massaging streams of water or soothing bubbles.

You may also come across walk-in bathtubs, which feature a door in the side of the tub for easier access for older users or people with limited mobility.


Consider other options and amenities:
  • Heaters that recirculate and warm the water.
  • Quieter motors for jetted tubs.
  • LED lighting to suit your mood.
  • Built-in speakers for music.

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