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 Guide to the Most Popular Bathtub Styles

Guide to the Most Popular Bathtub Styles

Bathtubs have been given their last rites for some time now, but they refuse to die. Why is this? Because, at the end of the day, there’s nothing like a good old soak in the tub. Or in the afternoon come to that, or any time you like. Having a bath is like a dose of luxury you can afford. Besides, bubble bath’s no use in the shower. And that rubber duck’s completely wasted. 

We’re going to take a look at the amazing world of bathtub shapes. You’ll be surprised at the variety – it’s surprising, even a little overwhelming. But don’t worry, after you’ve read this, you’ll totally be able to keep tabs on tubs. 

A dip into history

Ever since the Romans extolled the virtues of bathing to their possibly whiffy conquests, the human race has had a love affair with baths. Of course, back in Caesar’s day, it was all about the communal act of bobbing about in a big heated pool, combined with a cleaning session wherein their skin would get scraped free of all the sweaty consequences of going around busily subjugating other civilisations. 

Say what you like about the Romans (it’s OK – you can now), they totally had the bath thing nailed. But in truth, they probably got the idea from the Greeks – there’s evidence of a bath in ancient Greek remains on Crete. 

In any case, fast forward a few hundred years and private bathing was more the thing. 

In the twentieth century, private baths came within reach of the masses, mainly in the shape of tiny tins in front of the fire. However, modernist looks and plastic came in with the jet age of the 1950s, and since then there’s been a wealth of washroom styles coming and going, like, well, like ripples in a bathtub.

Freestanding tubs

So, this is the oldest style, and can be of a claw-footed roll top design, or something altogether different. Some freestanding tubs are extremely minimalist, with a rectangular or slightly rounded profile. Most of them are built now from a combination of acrylic and fibreglass, although porcelain and, for the serious wow-seeker, copper are sometimes used. 

Freestanding baths are showing a resurgence in popularity, but two matters need to be thought about before you go ahead and get one. 

Firstly, is there space in your bathroom? For real effect, they need to have at least a little framing space around them. Wedged tightly between the toilet and a lovely vanity unit they lose some of their impact. 

Secondly, they come without plumbing, so you need to ensure that the waste and water supplies that exist in the bathroom can be directed to the right spots.

To give you a rough idea of cost, freestanders usually come in at around $1000 to $6000, although it’s possible to get a really expensive looking one surprisingly cheaply, like the Galaxy Oval, for instance.

Built-in tubs

A perennial favourite, a built-in tub gets its name from the fact that it sits within a wooden frame. The frame is usually set against a wall, with wall tiling finishing where the frame starts. 

A major advantage to a built-in tub is that it’s easily paired with a shower fixed to the wall. Another advantage is that it sits very happily in a smaller bathroom, where there’s not the space for a freestanding fella. Be warned though that in a bigger bathroom, a built-in tub can make the space look a bit empty and even a touch lopsided. 

Prices for these can vary enormously, but for the tub itself, you’re probably looking at around $800-$3000.

Island tubs

Strictly speaking, this is a subset of the built-in group, but it deserves a grouping of its own, if only for the impact one of these babies makes on the eye. Basically, it’s got the frame of a built-in, but the surround is usually tiled and often wider than most built-ins. 

Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of extra surface there to pop your bathtime products on, or maybe your bits and pieces from your pockets. Or how about a nice cup of tea? Now you’re talking. Make sure you don’t drop your biccies in the water though. Disastrous. 

The real difference is that they are usually set away from the wall, so combine elements of built-in and freestanding. Because of their tiled surrounds, they’re immensely practical and a joy to clean. Well, not a joy, but you get the idea. 

Best thing about them? They look amazing. You’ll look like you have the bath of the Gods. Use gold tiles and you can lie in there pretending you’re Elvis.

Spa tubs

OK, this is for the real bath addicts. Those users who are forever after a bigger hit. What you have here is bathtub+. You not only get the washing and lolling about. You also get jetstreams of miraculously pain-easing bubbles flung at your aching muscles. 

When you buy a spa bath, you’re effectively taking on a household masseur. So, all those stresses and strains you’ve built up throughout the day can be washed away by the ticket to heaven you’ve got waiting for you in your bath. 

Most spa tubs feature controls that govern the intensity and variety of water currents, meaning that you can get the massage that’s right for you. A tub that rubs. Hubba hubba. 

Walk-in tub

These are tubs with a door in the side, enabling those with reduced mobility to enjoy a bath. They also usually feature high sides to increase the immersion depth, and a moulded seat for ease of use. 

Fittings are usually included, such as handheld shower heads, and some models include spa-style bubble jets. It’s a good idea to have them installed next to a plain wall, onto which you can mount whatever handrails are necessary for increased safety

There’s only one drawback with these sorts of tubs: you have to wait until the water runs out before you can open the door and get out. But that’s a minor point. The great thing about these is that they bring the bliss of bathtime to those who can’t manage a regular tub, so fair play to them. 

Corner tub

These are either the sort that will fit snugly into an empty corner, or can be the sort that sprawl out into your bathroom like a huge mantaray. The latter are great once you’re in them, but they can take a lot of time (and expense) to fill. Whatever size they are, they need two supporting walls. Alcove tubs are the same, just with three walls rather than two. 

Smaller ones can be a very cheap option, coming in at around $400-$1000. Big ones that can fit two people can be pricey though. So, it all boils down to just how much you want to share that bath.

Let’s get out before the water goes cold

So, there you have it. A tour of tubs to suit all bathers. Don’t forget that what you pair your tub with, from tapware to screen, can make a lot of difference to its look. Which type of tub you plunge for in the end is going to depend a lot on the overall bathroom theme you’re after. And the space, of course. Because a colossal freestander is only going to look daft poking through the door onto the landing.