Are there any bathtubs optimized for showering?
January 6, 2020 6:21 AM   Subscribe

We're taking out our small, clawfoot tub. We could replace it with a standard tub. But we only very rarely use the tub except to shower in, and the shower would be better if we gave up the tub. Before we do that, are there any tubs that are optimized for showering?

We have a small house, with one, small bathroom (roughly 5'x7.75'), and the shower is in the tub. Unless we change and/or move the sink and toilet (and maybe move a wall or two and the washer/dryer...), we have roughly 5'x30" available for the tub/shower. That's a common tub size. But once the tub is in, the space for showering is much smaller because of the tub's thick walls and contours. And of course, stepping in and out is harder than with a standalone shower.

Is there a tub that minimizes these problems? E.g., with low sides, thin walls, and no contouring? Or an innovative one, such as this cool tub with removable deck slats (but too big and probably $$$$)? We use the tub SO rarely that we'd happily put up with a less-than-optimal bath in order to gain a more optimal shower, especially since the alternative is no tub at all. That's how we're currently leaning unless we find a way to make the shower better than standard tubs do. (We do know that a house without a tub would be harder to sell and don't need that fact reinforced.)

Other things I've seen in my searches: P-shaped and L-shaped tubs (won't fit). Tubs with cutouts for stepping in (doesn't improve shower spaciousness).

Bonus questions: What else would make the shower great? Is a big window a good idea? (It's private.) A corner seat? Curbless/frameless? ...?
posted by daisyace to Home & Garden (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How long are you planning on keeping your house? If it's "a long time," just put in a shower stall, and install a tub when it's time to sell. Real estate agents tell you that a house without a tub won't sell (and they're generally right) but if you're going to live there for 10+ years more and won't be taking baths in that time, put in what fits your family and renovate again when it's time to sell. You can get a drop-in; shower stall drop-ins are not that expensive.
posted by juniperesque at 6:27 AM on January 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, a shower-only option is what we're leaning towards if we can't find a tub that makes showers better than tubs tend to do. But I do like the option of a very occasional bath, so this question is a last step before giving up on tubs.
posted by daisyace at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: I can tell you what makes a shower not great: doors. They are gross and impossible to keep clean. I hate mine.
posted by Automocar at 6:50 AM on January 6, 2020 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I can't answer the tub question, but I can say our bathroom is just slightly larger than yours and we sloped the floor and have one seamless room with a shower. It's wonderful and it's been 10 years and frankly, we don't plan on putting in a bathtub if we sell. Not sure the price difference of tile vs surround. We also have a rain shower which I use when I worked too long in the garden.
posted by Arctostaphylos at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You can have a space-efficient rectangular concrete tub poured on site to your specifications.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:58 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

We were in your position 2 years ago & never did find a good compromise, and so went with a large double-wide shower with a fancy showerhead & weighted curtains. I'm not completely on board with the notion that the lack of a tub affects house value; frankly, after a certain age, a tub is just a broken hip waiting to happen, and a spa shower would be quite attractive to older home-buyers looking to downsize.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:59 AM on January 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I just took out our only tub last year and put in a shower in the same foot print. No regrets. Instead of a built in seat, I opted for a teak bench, which I really like the look of, and it's a little more versatile. I also had a niche built into the wall with a glass shelf for shampoos and stuff, which means nothing intruding into the shower space. As far as keeping the glass door clean, I just squeegee after every shower and clean with windex once a week, and so far there's been no problem with it looking growth.
posted by kimdog at 7:09 AM on January 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I've lived for years with just a standard tub for showering - they are better than claw foot. what you want is a relatively square, low-sided tub, with a low interior.
posted by jb at 7:28 AM on January 6, 2020

There is the Kohler Walk-in Bath. It's fancy for the benefit of less than agile tub users, but might permit a shower that doesn't require stepping over a raised side.

This is just an observation, not a recommendation.

Walk-in Bath
posted by SemiSalt at 7:30 AM on January 6, 2020

I've lived for years with just a standard tub for showering - they are better than claw foot. what you want is a relatively square, low-sided tub, with a low interior.
Yes, that is the compromise, but in my opinion they are worthless as a bathtub, except for children and pets and not what I would ever install unless adhering to that realtor truism was the highest secondary concern.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:04 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are tubs with a door.

I put in a regular tub with a shower in it, and if I had it to do over, I'd get a Japanese soaking tub/ ofuro that you can sit in and separate shower.
posted by theora55 at 8:10 AM on January 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

We got a Maax brand acrylic tub. It’s fairly square with high sides. It’s not great for soaking because it’s so flat but that might work well for you. I need to order one of those inflatable back rests for the tub and then I’ll give it another whirl for soaking. But it’s great for showering. If you do a high sided tub, I really recommend adding a grab bar for getting in/out of tub if you have any mobility issues at all.
posted by amanda at 8:19 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could get a custom fiberglass bathtub made. I suggest making a full size mockup out of cardboard so you can see if it it would actually work for you.
posted by Sophont at 8:30 AM on January 6, 2020

+1 for the "Japanese Soak Tub" idea

I have made an album showing our bathroom renovation

We have a thin bathroom and would have struggled to fit a regular tub. The house had a corner bath when we bought it, with a grotty shower screen and the whole thing was pretty poor.

The new design is brilliant. The whole family love it. If we ever move we will be putting something similar in, even if the bathroom is large.

The main benefit is that most of the time the bath acts as a very deep shower tray. So you get minimal chance of splash water getting into the main room, and as a larger man I love that my skin NEVER has to touch wet plastic sheets or glass or slimy tiles. Its airy and easier to keep clean. You can readily accommodate a large shower head, we have dual heads with no problem. There is plenty of space for co-showering if you like that. Its easier to help kids with their cleaning. Seriously, we can't go back. Whenever we use a hotel shower we're shocked at how enclosed and cramped it feels. We all prefer showering in this compared to anything other than a fully open "wet room" type set up.

And you can use it as a bath if you want. My daughter does several times a week. You'll sit rather than sprawl, but if you do the calculations there isn't /that/ much more water being used and it feels way better than a lie down bath in our humble opinions.

We have added a small step (on the room side) to aid getting in and out, but my wife has restricted mobility and has no problems.

Do I sound like a salesperson? ;) what can I say, we're fans....
posted by samworm at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2020 [18 favorites]

As far as selling the house later...

What will hurt you is if you don't have any bathtubs at all in the house. People generally don't bathe children or pets in the master bath, so if you have a tub in the hall bath but just a shower in the master you should be fine.

Yes, it will turn off some buyers who really like to take baths, but there's nothing you can do to your house that will appeal to everyone, and this really isn't a big deal breaker.
posted by antimony at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Inflatable bathtubs exist, and tend to get surprisingly decent reviews.
posted by teremala at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2020

I can tell you what makes a shower not great: doors. They are gross and impossible to keep clean. I hate mine.

I just want to second this. I lived in one place that had both a standalone tub and a shower with a door, and I hated it. The shower door was an absolute pain in the ass to keep clean.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: I have only shower in my rental apartment, and when the kids were small we had a huge plastic tub. So huge that I could take a bath in it now and then. It took up a lot of space, so I got rid of it when the kids started showering, but then I got some other little ones in my life, and I googled and found out you can buy collapsible Japanese tubs on the internet. In the end I didn't buy one, but it might be an idea for you? There are different types. It's best if you have a sloping floor, rather than an edge to the shower.
posted by mumimor at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Funny - I wish I had doors on my shower/tub combo as shower cleaners work so much better with them.
I've lived in my rental for 7+ years. I never used the tub until I needed the epsom soaks that came with marathon training, so something to think about for the "We don't need it" argument. You might not now, but you might want it down the line and what's the cost trade off?
posted by TravellingCari at 9:20 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My friends who had this situation moved their old claw-foot tub outside and had a plumber run a hot water line to it. Now they have only a shower inside and take luxurious soaks under the stars once a week (it has a cedar slatted fence around it for privacy).
posted by amaire at 10:03 AM on January 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Re the shower door, we found having a textured shower door gave us more privacy and lowered the cleaning needs. It's a bit more pricey, but I would never go back to a completely clear one
posted by beaning at 10:15 AM on January 6, 2020

There is one issue about value. A full bath, has a tub. Without the tub, it is a 3/4 bath, that is of less real estate value.
posted by Oyéah at 10:35 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can tell you what makes a shower not great: doors.

100 percent agree. They look nice but they are awful to clean. I would so pull mine out if I could ever find the time to figure out if there is a way to do it without leaving a crust of dried glue on the tub edge and wall. If you do get a tub get something you'd really enjoy taking a bath in, to optimize that infrequent experience. I agree I wouldn't want to buy a house without a tub.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

What else would make the shower great? STEAM!

Years ago, I renovated a bathroom (also the only one in the house) and replaced the clawfoot tub with a steam shower. The exterior wall was brick and we put in glass blocks. That gave light + privacy and the shower was just a really cool environment to relax in. And I say this as a bathtub addi
posted by 6thsense at 12:05 PM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: Cleaning a shower (or a bath, for that matter) is much easier when you remove soap from the bathroom, and replace it with shower gels or similar. No more soap residues, and cleaning is a breeze!

I built my current house without a bath, been in it 25 years and not missed the bath.
posted by GeeEmm at 12:19 PM on January 6, 2020

Similar situation here in that we've got one 5'x8' bathroom and that's it. We remodeled it to have just a shower instead of a shower/tub, because my average number of baths taken per year was probably below 0.5, and there is a limit to how much annoyance I'm going to put up with in everyday life for uncertain payoff later.

I'm really not sure the "you'll never be able to sell it without a tub" thing is such a dealbreaker, but we've got a while before we have to think about that, and the tile shower sure looks a lot nicer than any bathtub would in such a small space. There are all kinds of temporary tubs I could use for washing pets/kids/large items that would do the job in a pinch.

If there'd been unlimited money to throw at the problem, figuring out how to fit an ofuro would have been pretty awesome. I also didn't want to pay for a hot water heater large enough to fill a bathtub properly, or a fancy heated bathtub. I love having all of the available floor space in my 60"x30" shower actually available to stand on, instead of just the part in the middle of the bathtub.
posted by asperity at 12:55 PM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: My house has two bathrooms, one with tub/shower and one with a big shower stall. We have not used the one with the tub in so long that I have to remember to dust the tub occasionally. I never want to live anywhere without a shower stall again. The spaciousness! The comfort! A tub/shower combo just can't compare.

After years of finding shower doors hard to clean, I found the thing that works on soap scum: Barkeeper's Friend cooktop cleaner. It's like magic. I use it with a Scotch-brite non-scratch sponge, but I'm not sure even that is necessary; a sponge with no scrubbing side would probably do just as well. If you give the doors a quick swipe with a towel to dry them after showering a few times a week, they stay clean for quite a long time anyway.
posted by kite at 3:00 PM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: Times when a bathtub is desirable:
Bathing a child (baby or toddler in a smaller plastic bath inside the tub), bathing a pet, assisting an adult.
Soaking for medicinal purposes -- sunburn, seabather's eruption (sea lice), bug bites, poison ivy, chicken pox, dry skin, problems with scalp or ears, etc. Cleaning and soaking wounds over large areas or in hard-to-reach places. Soaking aching muscles, sore areas, sprains, chronic pain.
Soaking after exercise, soaking for relaxation, soaking because the air conditioner is broken.
Washing clothes, washing a knitted or crocheted project, washing or soaking other items (which will not give off dirt, oil or other debris that can clog the drain).
Bathing or showering with a cast depends upon the situation.

Seconding that a "full bath" is a selling point, even if the new owners do not expect to use the tub regularly.

If I were determined to remove the tub, I would be inclined to redesign the home's only bathroom as "limited mobility access." Then a shower-only system will seem practical.
Check out bathrooms that are designed for those with limited mobility. Do install hand rails and other handicapped-friendly devises, slip-resistant flooring, etc. This will also effect other features, such as sink height, wall outlets, lighting, etc., so check the details if you are going that route.
The floor plan and door width may not accommodate a standard size wheelchair, if that is a potential selling point.
posted by TrishaU at 3:27 PM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I tend to think you should skip the tub and put in a shower with a bench. However I did find a sort of straighter-sided tub by American Standard, though it may be too wide. It's a drop in tub, so you could possibly sink it somewhat depending on your home construction, which can make it easier to get into and also visually make your shower space seem larger. Though I really think that an ADA friendly shower with a seat will not bother most people who are looking to buy your house. Especially if you put radiant heat in the shower walls. :) I personally love a window in a shower but not everyone does.

RV tubs are smaller and shallower, but made out of cheap feeling plastic that won't help the resale value of your home.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:23 PM on January 6, 2020

Best answer: If you have a shower curtain, you'd be surprised at how much difference it makes to have one that curves outward. So much more elbow room and no shower curtain touching you. It is glorious.
posted by Threeve at 8:03 PM on January 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everybody! I marked a bunch of best answers that I'll look into or use going forward...

Outdoor tub -- Though I suspect we wouldn't use it enough to justify the added cost (especially in our cold region), it's is a completely lovely idea that hadn't occurred to me. We have just the right space for it, where the back wall of the shower could be a sliding (tempered) glass door with our existing clawfoot tub moved to just outside it, at the edge of woods. So I'll probably have to have the contractor quote the job with and without it if only to jolt me back to reality.

Inflatable and folding tubs -- Good to know they exist, in case we ever need it.

Japanese soak tub -- An interesting thought, but seems like they'd still be constrained for showering compared to just making the whole 5'x30" a shower.

Wet room/"one seamless room including a shower" -- I love how these look in photos, and I'm surprised to hear one has worked well for 10 years in a small bathroom for you, Arctostaphylos. It doesn't seem like there'd be enough room to slant the floor enough and direct the shower enough to avoid frequently getting something damp -- the floor or mat in front of the toilet or sink, the towels, the toilet paper... How does that work?

Glass shower doors -- We'd been assuming them, so I appreciate the info about the difficulties and methods of keeping them clean.

Curved shower curtain -- I'd imagined looking through clear doors into the shower and then out a big window on the other side, and I still think that would look best. But given the difficulties with cleaning them, it's worth considering other options. It hadn't occurred to me that a curved curtain is the one way to get around the clearance requirements to steal an extra few inches of width.

Teak bench -- Great idea. We'll probably do this instead of a built-in seat.

Custom tubs (concrete or fiberglass) -- Interesting! I'm going to look into this.
posted by daisyace at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't know where the hate for shower doors comes from - I find that periodic cleaning with barkeeper's friend (of all things...) works great and is a million times better then some greasy, slippery shower curtain
posted by Dmenet at 10:38 AM on January 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

FWIW, I moved into a home with glass shower doors (the "frameless" look) 3 years ago and would NEVER go back to curtains, ugh. I love the glass doors; it feels so much cleaner. No problems keeping them clean so far.

They are standard in higher-end homes so depending on your market/price point they may be the best option from a resale perspective.

You don't have to let the outdoor tub become a huge installation project - if it's downslope from the house a bit and you use biodegradable soap in it (or none at all), you don't need a drain! The two outdoor clawfoot tubs I've used are just sitting on the ground on some gravel. I think they were both DIY jobs by handy folks.
posted by amaire at 3:36 PM on January 10, 2020

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