Introduction to Bathtubs

We know that there were bathtubs as early as 1700 B.C. in the palace of King Minos of Crete. And that is how bathtubs began: as a luxury. Few people had enough money to buy a tub or water to fill it. But in the United States, where most people follow a daily washing routine, a tub or tub-shower combination is common.

Bathtub Material

Early tubs were made of various materials, for example, terra cotta and bronze. Today, there are a number of materials and colors available. These include:

  • FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic)—a lightweight material that’s easy to clean, often treated with a special gel coating for durability. This is not only the most affordable option, but also is available in a wide variety of colors. Professional repair for scratches is recommended and colors may fade with time.
  • Acrylic—a strong, sturdy material with a smooth, chip- and crack-resistant finish which is bonded to a fiberglass backing. Acrylic tubs are inexpensive and resists staining. They do scratch easily, and cost more than fiberglass. Many color choices are available and they can be repaired if scratched, however, eventually the colors may fade.
  • Enameled (sometimes referred to as “Porcelain Enamel”)—both cast iron and steel are covered in enamel which both protects the metal and creates a smooth, shiny finish. These tubs are both more expensive and heavier than acrylic and FRP, but they are exceptionally durable, and also have good heat-retention. Basic models are white. Other colors and increased thickness of the underlying metal both increase the price.
  • Specialty Materials—granite, slate, marble, and limestone are examples of specialty materials used in custom-made tubs. They are all expensive and require specialized treatment. Wasauna offers a glass bathtub.
  • Proprietary Materials—Individual manufacturers also feature proprietary materials, exclusive to their brands. Kohler has Vikrell and American Standard has Americast, for example. They may also offer special features such as molded in floor texture to prevent slippage.

Tubs are available in a variety of lengths. They typically range from under 5 feet (1.52 meters) to over 6 feet (1.82m), with 5 feet, 5.5 feet (1.67m), and 6 feet being common choices. Widths range from under 30” (76.2 centimeters) to more than 48” (1.21m). Homeowners can also choose a variety of drain placements, shapes (oval, oval in rectangle, triangle, and other irregular shapes), and tubs for one or two bathers. Most manufacturers offer basic white as well as a selection of pastel colors, with several darker choices, such as black and a deep blue/navy. The darker colors may be more expensive, while white is often cheapest and the pastels are set at an intermediary price.

Tubs can be freestanding, such as the clawfoot bathtub, built-in, set-in, or deck mounted. There are 3-wall alcove models, and corner models, or tubs that can be custom-designed to fit a space.

An important alternative is the walk-in bathtub (also called “accessible bathtubs”), which are made by a number of manufacturers and in a variety of models, all of which feature a door in the side so that a person may walk (or be assisted) through, rather than over, the side. Some other features that are offered with some models are: a built in seat that allows you to be submerged while sitting down (rather than reclining); water jets for massage; and a hand shower.

There are a variety of extras available with a tub. One can purchase a tub/shower combination, or purchase a tub as part of a bathroom suite or ensemble, which may include toilets, bidets, sinks, baths, showers, faucet fixtures, toilet seats, and other items, all with a matching style and color to create an integrated room décor. There are also whirlpool tubs, air baths (also known as bubble massage baths), and soaking tubs with built-in arm rests. Perhaps the most luxurious tub option is the two-person whirlpool with a built-in 14” (35.56 cm) flat screen television.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Introduction to Showerheads
  • Grab Bars
  • Walk-in Bathtub Buying Guide
  • Tub Enclosure Buying Guide
  • Introduction to Bath Toys
  • Introduction to Bathroom Cleaners
  • Water Conservation in the Bathroom
  • Introduction to Toilets
  • Showerhead Buying Guide
  • Toilet Buying Guide
  • Baby Bath Seat Safety Tips
  • Introduction to Bathroom Sink Faucets