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Why Bigger Bathtubs Aren’t Always Better

For a long time, whirlpool bathtubs were the darlings of luxury bathroom design. But in recent years this has started to change in a big way: homeowners are starting to eschew big jacuzzis in favor of smaller, simpler tubs, and buyers are even starting to count bathrooms that have more expensive jetted tubs as a point against. This is because whirlpool bathtubs come with a whole host of drawbacks that are easy to overlook until you’ve owned one, but that ultimately make more traditional bathtubs much more desirable.

Time To Fill

Caesar 60x31 Rectangular Soaking Tub PBT-CAESAR-6031-CR by Pacific Collection
Caesar 60×31 Rectangular Soaking Tub PBT-CAESAR-6031-CR by Pacific Collection

The easiest thing to overlook about a big, luxurious whirlpool or soaking tub is that they take a very, very long time to fill. A tub that’s deeper, longer, and/or wider than an average standard bathtub can easily have a capacity that’s two or three times greater, if not more.  That higher capacity is great for soaking, but it means the tub will take 2-3 times longer, or more, to fill up, so you could be waiting a while before your bath can even begin. This is actually one of the biggest reasons that luxury showers have seen such a rise in popularity: when you’re crunched for time, you don’t have to wait for a shower to fill up before you can enjoy it.

Water Capacity/Water Heater

Tre 63x32 Freestanding Soaking Tub VZ3263VY from Venzi
Tre 63×32 Freestanding Soaking Tub VZ3263VY from Venzi

Similarly, a bathtub that can hold all that extra water doesn’t come without a cost, both during installation and long-term. Big whirlpool tubs or even hefty soaking tubs can hold north of 100 gallons of water. Not only will all that water cause a spike in your water bill, it might also mean needing to upgrade your water heater. Using a water heater with a lower capacity (or even exactly the same capacity as the tub) will result in, at best, a tub full of lukewarm water. To get a piping hot bath, you need a water heater that can hold more water than your tub, or a heavy duty point of use water heater that can keep up with the flow for a very large tub.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Madre 32x60 Front Skirted Whirlpool Tub VZ3260SHWR from Venzi
Madre 32×60 Front Skirted Whirlpool Tub VZ3260SHWR from Venzi

Whirlpool bathtubs can also be a challenge to keep clean, because they have a lot of concealed parts where water can pool and promote the growth of mold or mildew. Many modern whirlpool tubs come with self cleaning modes or functionality that will flush out all the pipes and plumbing inside the tub, but even so this is a challenge that’s worth considering before you buy, particularly because it’s one that really only applies to whirlpool tubs.

Floor Space Vs. Shower Space

Ardea 36x66 Freestanding Bathtub VZ3666A from Venzi
Ardea 36×66 Freestanding Bathtub VZ3666A from Venzi

Showers are getting bigger, more open, and more decadent – and because they’re more convenient to use, they’re getting used more often. When you’re designing a major bathroom remodel, that means that more than ever you have to strike a balance between how much space you’re going to dedicate to your tub and how much you want for your shower. Whirlpools are not only large on their own, but often also require hefty mounts to conceal all the mechanisms. The larger and more complex the tub you choose, the less space you’ll have to dedicate to the shower, which is increasingly becoming a major drawback for potential buyers.

Price

Aesis 32x60 Soaking Bathtub VZ3260E from Venzi
Aesis 32×60 Soaking Bathtub VZ3260E from Venzi

Then, of course, there’s the issue of price. Adding whirlpool functionality to an otherwise identical soaking bathtub can nearly double the cost. That’s the same exact tub from the same manufacturer – same size and shape and design, but with jets and pumps and a motor to power it. In a design world where showers are much more in vogue, doubling the price of your bathtub is a poor investment, particularly if the whirlpool functionality won’t see much use. The only exception, of course, is if the functionality will be used often, and the tub is purchased specifically for hydrotherapy treatment.

What To Do Instead

Marie Louise Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub From Herbeau
Marie Louise Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub From Herbeau

Shop Freestanding Tubs tubs by Herbeau:

Whether you love to take long hot baths or would rather pour your budget into building a better shower, every master bathroom still needs to at least have a bathtub. To get the most out of your resale value while still having a tub (and shower) you can enjoy, you want to focus specifically on minimizing some of these issues. Look for soaking tubs rather than whirlpools to start, as this will make a huge difference in your budget. But also look for tubs that aren’t too long or too wide, but that are deep and have pronounced sloped backs, like classic clawfoot tubs. This will help lower the capacity of the tub while still providing a luxurious soaking experience, so the tub won’t take as long to fill, will work with a smaller water heater, and will even take up less space.

What do you want to get out of your new bathtub? Do you prefer long hot baths, or are you more of a shower person? Let me know in the comments!