Clawfoot tubs are among the most iconic fixtures in all of bathroom design. They’re classic, elegant, attractive, and work equally well with a vintage or modern style. So it’s no surprise if you’re considering making one a centerpiece or integral part of your bathroom. But if you’ve never had (or used) a clawfoot tub before, there are a few things you should consider before putting one on your wishlist.
PRO: One of the best things about clawfoot tubs is that their freestanding style makes for a lot of freedom in terms of placement. Clawfoot tubs work equally well installed just about anywhere in your bathroom, parallel or perpendicular to the wall or in the middle of the floor. Depending on the size of your bathroom, a clawfoot tub can serve as a very literal centerpiece, or accommodate odd spaces to make a small bathroom look more natural.
CON: That said, swapping from a standard bathtub to a clawfoot isn’t nearly a one to one exchange. Clawfoot tubs are almost always larger in almost every dimension than a standard built in tub – the feet make them taller, and in addition to being long and deep (after all, they are meant for soaking), you also want to leave a little “elbow room” around the tub. Clawfoot tubs, especially slipper-style ones are designed for you to put your arms on the sides, and you should ensure there’s ample space to do so. Moreover, cramming a clawfoot tub into a small built-in size niche is not only uncomfortable, but ruins the look, too.
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PRO: The plumbing for clawfoot tubs, like the beautiful filler pictured with this Marie Louise Tub from Herbeau, is almost as iconic as the tubs themselves, with beautiful, ornate, antique style tub fillers. And, like the tubs themselves, freestanding clawfoot tub fillers can be placed anywhere in your bathroom (not just against a wall) for a more flexible installation.
CON: The unfortunate drawback to this flexibility is an extreme spike in difficulty and expense. It’s one thing to install a clawfoot tub against a wall, where there’s already an existing spout and drain. But to install one anywhere else in your bathroom means having to move your water supply line and drainage lines to where you want to place the tub, which can mean ripping out your walls and floors just to accommodate the new fixture. As part of an extensive renovation, this might not be such a huge addition, but it makes it almost impossible to simply install a clawfoot tub on its own.
PRO: I can say with confidence that clawfoot tubs aren’t really “for” showers. They’re a bubble-bather’s dream, meant for long soaks in lots of water. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t shower in one, too. In fact, many clawfoot tubs can be paired with hand held showers that rest on a cradle like an old fashioned phone. These are very glam, and are great for people who prefer baths, but want to be able to wash and rinse their hair without having to take a stand up shower as well.
CON: While you CAN use a clawfoot tub as a shower, it’s neither particularly convenient nor at all inexpensive. For a stand-up shower, you’ll need an oval-shaped shower curtain rod to surround the whole tub. As well, if your tub is freestanding, you’ll not only need a freestanding tub filler, but also a freestanding shower attachment, all of which are more expensive than traditional versions of the same things. Ultimately, a standing shower in a clawfoot tub is doable but inconvenient, with a 360 degree grabby curtain and minimal safeguarding against leaks. If you value your quick morning showers, this is probably the most serious point to consider.
PRO: While all authentic antique clawfoot tubs are made of cast iron and/or porcelain, these days you can find all types of replica tubs made in a wide variety of materials to suit your space and your specific needs. From acrylic tubs that are lighter weight and warmer to the touch to powder coated cast iron that will hold up better than more traditional finishes, it’s easier than ever to find a tub with an antique style but more modern conveniences.
CON: You should give a lot of thought to what material you choose. Cast iron tubs like this Retro Tub can often be painted to match your bathroom and are more traditional, but can be difficult to clean. They hold heat for much longer than acrylic tubs, but start out very cold and require hotter water to get the same temperature bath. As well, they’re very, very heavy, especially when filled – sometimes too heavy for a second story floor to support. On the other hand, acrylic tubs are warm to the touch, lightweight, and easy to install, but aren’t as durable and don’t hold heat as well. It’s also important to note that authentic antique tubs, while more apt to be heavy and lose their coating, are much, much more valuable than modern replicas.
PRO: Clawfoot tubs that include a hand shower are much easier to clean than a traditional tub because the flexible shower hose allows you to target water to wash and rinse any part of the tub easily. It also allows you to wash or rinse big things – like, say, a dog – more easily than you could in a traditional bathtub. The raised feet brings whatever you happen to be washing in the tub to a more comfortable level as well, though the higher walls may make it more difficult to get, say, a large animal (especially a wet one) in and out.
CON: One of the biggest drawbacks of clawfoot tubs (and one of the main reasons they went out of vogue in the first place) is that they can be quite difficult to clean around. That is, cleaning underneath the tub, around the feet, and behind the tub if it’s against the wall can be extremely difficult. As well, porcelain tubs are highly susceptible to staining, scratching, and chipping, which means they require very gentle care, while owners of authentic antique tubs need to be especially cautious of their finishes.
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Ultimately, a clawfoot tub is a beautiful addition to any bathroom, but these Victorian-inspired (or Victorian era, if you’re very lucky with your antiques!) tubs don’t come without their little quirks and inconveniences. What do you think – will a clawfoot tub work for your bathroom? If you have one, I’d love to hear what you think about it!