Assume that I don't want to make gin
June 16, 2008 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Bathroom remodel question: does one really need a bathtub?

I'm thinking of redoing our bathroom and am considering my options. While aesthetically I'm inclined to claw-footed double-ended enameled slipper tubs with outré Victorian hardware, they're pretty frivolously impractical. Indeed, having any bathtub at all seems pretty impractical, since both of us are shower people. The curved sides and narrow width of shower baths have always annoyed me, and I'd really just like to rip out our existing tub and replace it with a walk-in shower. We could probably squeeze a shower and a tub in, but it'd be tight, the size of the shower would suffer, and I'd rather just do without the tub.

Would this be a terrible design decision? Tubs seem like a relic of bygone bathing customs, but would I be shooting myself in the foot? Obviously there are bath-loving people who wouldn't want to buy my house if it lacked a tub, but are they a significant constituency? Is the ideal of a long, warm bubble-bath soak—even if it's something you never do—sufficient reason to build in an unused tub? Are there other reasons to have a tub? We don't have kids, but it's possible we might make one someday... do you need a conventional bathtub for children? What am I overlooking?
posted by mumkin to Home & Garden (51 answers total)
need? no. but you might want one after a long day, to bathe rover, or to let future children play in.

i think it really comes down to the two of you - will you miss it? i would.
posted by alpha_betty at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2008

My dad's house is sans bathtub and their bathroom is awesome.

But, where will you make your gin?
posted by ian1977 at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you have all the main points. Most people are shower people, there is a very small percentage of people without kids who would not buy a house without a bathtub. There are a few die-hard who love their human soup and would be unwilling to redo a bathroom to get their human soup. However, the prevaling wisdom in North America is that kids need a bathtub. I've noticed that this isn't true in some European countries where I've stayed with families.

If you later have kids and don't have a bathtub, just use those plastic mini-tubs until they are old enough to stand up in a shower. Kids, even more so than adults, are adaptable and will make do with what they have.
posted by FastGorilla at 10:03 AM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: I'm kind of like you. But about once a year I'll come down with a bad cold and have a fever, and nothing kicks the fever faster than soaking in a hot bath for 20 minutes.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:03 AM on June 16, 2008

If you don't have a tub, you can't list the bathroom as a full bath: it will be a 3/4 bath. This can lower the value of the home.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:03 AM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

> there are bath-loving people who wouldn't want to buy my house if it lacked a tub, but are they a significant constituency?

Where I live, in New England with real winters, they are a necessity. I was just apaprtment shopping and would not consider an apartment wihtout a tub. However I am pretty sure I am the exception. Is this the only full bathroom in your house? I think to most people a really nice walk-in shower would even be better than a lackluster tub.
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: We're considering doing the same thing. We asked a Realtor friend about the idea and were told that getting rid of the tub would have no negative impact if and when we eventually sold the house.
posted by imjustsaying at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2008

If you're going to sell someday, it's going to be hard to sell it to a family with kids if there's not a tub in the house. And families constitute the majority of homebuyers.
posted by azpenguin at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2008

I feel the same way. I was remodeling my small bath and wanted a walk in show with glass plate partitions. I thought it was a great idea. However I was talking to my friend who is a realtor and she advised me against it. She felt that the resale value would be affected since the home would have no bathtub. She also mentioned that I would havea hard time renting it out w/o a tub. Old fashioned thinking if you ask me, who has the time to draw a bath?

But go ahead and ask a local realtor about this. They will tell you about how you might affect the value of your house.

Good luck!
posted by MiggySawdust at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2008

I definitely would not buy or rent a place without a tub.
posted by sulaine at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2008

Nthing the vote FOR a bathtub - I definitely put the (few) "no bathtub" houses on the bottom of my viewing list when we bought last year.
posted by ceri richard at 10:16 AM on June 16, 2008

depends on a couple of things. is this a second bathroom? it's not unusual to have a second bathroom with just a shower. however, if this is the main bathroom, and you plan to resell the house at some point, i would seriously reconsider taking out the tub—buyers look for bathrooms with a tub and not having one could affect the value of your house when it comes to selling. additionally, if this is a bathroom that is part of a master suite, leaving the bath out could also affect your selling price.
posted by violetk at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2008

If you don't have a tub, you can't list the bathroom as a full bath: it will be a 3/4 bath.

I've never heard this. Source?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:20 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm apartment hunting now, too - and I'm with Jessamyn, I have to have a bathtub. If I buy a house (maybe in the next five years or so) same thing.

Then again, I also do other stuff in the tub - rinse out screens, soak delicate clothes, etc...
posted by Liosliath at 10:21 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is this the only full bathroom in your house?

Yes, it is the only full bath. It's the upstairs bathroom, serving the bedrooms. There is a powder room downstairs, so I suppose if I didn't have a tub it would be a 1.25 bath home for listing purposes. How confusing. Also, the house is in Portland, Oregon, whose winter isn't even a pastiche of New England's.
posted by mumkin at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2008

If you have a second bath with a tub, I'd go ahead with the shower idea -- make it a nice big walk-in enclosure, preferably without a raised edge to step over.

If there's no tub in a second bath, I'd consider fitting in both, separately: a small, deep (think Japanese style) soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

On the other hand, if you think you're going to live in this house a long time, just do what works best for you rather than living with a tub you're not going to use.
posted by beagle at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: Some interesting information on 'bath fractions.'
posted by Liosliath at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2008

I may be in the pre-modern minority, but when I was houseshopping I just didn't look twice at any place that didn't have a full bath. I take showers 90% of the time, but when I want a bath I really want it. And baths can be really good (combined with a hand-held sprayer thing) if you've injured your leg and can't stand in a shower (or have a cast you can't get wet).

Do you have the space (and budget) to consider a stand-alone shower plus a Japanese-style soaking tub? The two might come close to fitting into not much more space than a regular bathtub.
posted by Forktine at 10:25 AM on June 16, 2008

Considering I ripped out our conventional shallow bathtub and replaced it with a deep soaking tub, a house without a bathub is a house I would not live in. We also saw the value of our house rise when we converted a second 3/4 bathroom to a full bath.

FWIW, there's no way I could convince my child to enter a shower, his sensory processing issues made keeping his head dry a priority for many of his early years. Sure, not a situation every parent will encounter, but I'm glad bathtime was one less stumbling block.

Bathtubs now come in an astonishing variety of sizes and shapes. If you look beyond the BigBoxHardwareStore's selection, you're certain to find a bathtub which will give you adequate room for showering.
posted by jamaro at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2008

I've been without a bathtub for the last 8 years.

Let me tell you how much I look forward to hotels.
posted by TomMelee at 10:30 AM on June 16, 2008

If you are happy to exclude women and families with small children from the list of potential buyers when you put your house up on the market, then you can get away without having a bathtub.

Although I rarely bathe, I didn't want to exclude over 50 percent of the potential buying market - so put one in.
posted by mr_silver at 10:30 AM on June 16, 2008

btw, mumkin, being in portland, if you own a craftsman and are redoing your bathroom, putting in a clawfoot tub may actually help raise the value of your house. people look for period details in period houses. when i was looking for a house, i was looking for a craftsman (that hadn't been remodeled beyond recognition), and having a clawfoot tub in at least one of the bathrooms was really important to me.
posted by violetk at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2008

My wife and I bought our current house sans bathtub—the previous owners had remodeled it and replaced the tub with a shower.

I'm perfectly happy with this. My wife would prefer to have a tub for those rare occasions when she wants a bath, but obviously it wasn't a deal-breaker for her either. I'm opposed to the idea of giving priority to resale value when remodeling a house, unless you're currently trying to sell it, fwiw.

If you're contemplating a remodel, if you have almost enough room for both shower stall and tub, and if you've got the scratch, you might consider moving a wall or otherwise getting creative as a way to get both tub and stall in there. In a total bathroom remodel, moving a wall is not going to be that great an expense.
posted by adamrice at 10:37 AM on June 16, 2008

We just went through this. We had pretty much decided to get rid of the tub and just have a shower because of space issues but our contractor talked us out of it because of the kid issue. You can't really shower little kids, they need a tub so if you take it out, you're cutting out a big chunk of potential buyers. We compromised with a low, short corner tub that's 4'x4' that we'll basically only use as a shower base. The contractor wasn't too happy that it was cast-iron and he and his crew had to carry it up a very high flight of stairs to the master bath but it was his idea. I can't quite tell you how it works yet as there's still a few weeks of work to do before the project is finished.
posted by octothorpe at 10:37 AM on June 16, 2008

You say that space is an issue? Maybe this is unheard of in the US but in the UK its very common to have the shower and bath to be the same thing/occupying the same space. ie. You have your tub with a shower head affixed to the wall above the bath. I've never seen a bathroom that had both a bathtub and a separate shower unit.
posted by missmagenta at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2008

fuck the bathtub. seriously. if you do not take baths, you do not need a bathtub. i would love it if our apartment had come with a walkin shower instead of the tub/shower combo, which, as you note, IS COMPLETELY FUCKING USELESS as a tub because it is short and narrow.

why do children need a bathtub? when they're tiny, can't you wash them in the sink? after that, they should be able to take a shower, with parental help.

anyway. it's all up to personal preferences of course, and since your preference is no tub, you should renovate with no tub.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2008

If you have a backyard that's secluded, there is nothing cooler than hooking up a bathtub in the backyard, and nothing cooler than hooking up a bathtub in the backyard with both hot and cold running taps.
posted by parmanparman at 11:09 AM on June 16, 2008

Hmm. You could always get a clawfoot with a detachable, mobile shower head (which is what I encountered often in Manchester & Wales). My elderly relatives had a handlebar on the wall so they could get in easily and a bit of a rubber seat, and they loved it. They could soak their feet, which was apparently a great hobby of theirs.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:24 AM on June 16, 2008

For goodness sake, don't listen to all the people yammering about resale value. All we're getting out of this type of thinking is a bunch of generic houses.

Build a glorious walk-in shower, don't add a tub if you don't want one.

Realtors are nothing but marketers who may or may not be better than you at negotiating and filling out paperwork. When it comes time to sell your house, some people will cross it off their list due to the lack of a tub. A lot of people will see a well-planned bathroom and a roomy shower - which is much better than that cramped shower/tub combo they've been using forever.

A crap realtor won't do a good job of marketing your house. A good realtor will. Good bathrooms do sell houses. DDifferent bathrooms excite different people.

If you feel that you must include a separate tub, you might want to consider a space-saving sit-down soaker tub. I've seen 3'x3' models that are quite comfortable for one person.
posted by terpia at 11:32 AM on June 16, 2008

My partner and I don't have kids and don't want kids. We had an apartment without a shower and moved after just 8 months. NEVER AGAIN. We will not buy or rent a place without a shower.

Anecdotal, but families aren't the only ones that won't consider buying/renting the place without a shower.
posted by arnicae at 11:40 AM on June 16, 2008

Haha, that should have been, we will not buy or rent a place without a bathtub.
posted by arnicae at 11:43 AM on June 16, 2008

I just want to say that yes, some people will be very wary about buying a house without a tub. However, I also think that your home is about more than just resale value, it is about having a living space that you enjoy. One thing I saw recently, was someone who put in a Japanese style soaking tub called an ofuro. It took up less floor space than a traditional tub, and they also put in a separate shower. This was all into a fairly small space. Here are some pictures.
posted by bove at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2008

When it comes time to sell your house, some people will cross it off their list due to the lack of a tub.

This is probably the biggest issue in terms of resale. Most people look for houses in terms of

1A. Square Footage
1B. Number of Bedrooms
2. Number of Bathrooms

A lazy real estate agent will look just for the requirements given by the buyer and won't even get your house on the list to check out if it doesn't have X Full Baths on the list. But to be honest, most people will have made up their mind about your home from the time they pull up to walking in the front door. The lack of tub will most likely not make or break the sale of your home.

That being said - make the master bath how you want it. Ideally, there would be a tub in another bathroom if possible, that takes care of the "if I want a bath, if I want kids someday" issue. But if not, make the bathroom comfortable for you. A cramped shower, a limited area for two people to get ready in the morning, neither of these are pleasant day to day.
posted by shinynewnick at 12:00 PM on June 16, 2008

Did you buy your house? Call the appraiser and ask them how it stacks up for appraisal purposes. Call several realtors and ask.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on June 16, 2008

For goodness sake, don't listen to all the people yammering about resale value. All we're getting out of this type of thinking is a bunch of generic houses.

um. it's possible to create something that will have resale value without being generic. unless you have no imagination.
posted by violetk at 12:10 PM on June 16, 2008

If you do go with just a shower, make sure it has a nice shelf for a woman to prob her foot up on when she's shaving her legs. I never take baths, but I hate shaving my legs in a walk-in shower.
posted by emd3737 at 12:18 PM on June 16, 2008

"um. it's possible to create something that will have resale value without being generic. unless you have no imagination."

Yes, of course it's possible to create something that has (or adds to) resale value without being generic. That was the whole point of my comment.

When someone says that they're redoing their bathroom and don't want a bath, but people keep telling them to put in a bath because it'll affect resale value, the net effect is a bunch of houses that feel the same. Go look at almost any newly built sub-division. Those houses are engineered fromt he start to have the highest possible value, expressed as items in a check list. And yet, most of the homes are uninspiring boxes that meet the (baffling) generally accepted criteria of what makes a home saleable.

My point is that resale value isn't completely tethered to the idea that a saleable house must have this, this, these and that. It's that what you do have should be well planned, done right, and make you happy.
posted by terpia at 12:27 PM on June 16, 2008

i live quite happily without a bathtub, but it may affect your resale value.

also, if you ever have kids or have kids visit, or get an animal that will need washing, a tub will come in handy.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:31 PM on June 16, 2008

Personally I find taking a shower in a shower-bath combo feels much roomier than a shower-only, even when it's a big shower stall.

Plus, man, sometimes you just want to take a hot bath. I'm not a "bath person" but nothing is better when you're sick.

Also, if you go shower-only, make sure you have some shelves built in for product storage. The most annoying thing about shower stalls is reaching down constantly to get shampoo, conditioner, etc.
posted by radioamy at 12:35 PM on June 16, 2008

I for one couldn't live long term without a bathtub. My new place has one and my last place didn't, and I wonder how I survived without one. So many people do indeed enjoy a nice soak. I don't understand the tub bashing at the beginning of the thread...

That said, it's your house, and you shouldn't compromise on what you want, especially if you're going to be there long term.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the input everyone. Further details: the house is a c. 1907 American Foursquare, violetk. There are some Craftsman-inspired elements, but it's far from being a Greene & Greene bungalow. I am interested in reintroducing as much authentic period goodness as is practical, but not at the expense of my own comfort, and I have yet to have a comfortable shower in a clawfoot tub. So, I'm completely game for hex tiles, nickel hardware, pedestal sinks, wainscoting and all, but while it may not be quite Edwardian, I could be convinced of the merits of a soaking tub with separate walk-in shower. Again, this is the only bathroom which features bathing facilities, though if we ever get around to finishing the attic (oh, projects!), we'd probably have a somewhat cramped full bath up there directly above the bathroom in question.

We have owned the home for nine years, which is already longer than average, but have no plans to move or sell. So, rental/sale potential, while a financially prudent concern, is far from top-of-mind. I wouldn't be surprised if we never sold the place, and I would regret not taking the opportunity to make it bespoke. This would definitely mean all kinds of built-in shelves and ledges and seating and whatnot.

There is no budget yet. This is brainstorming, and it may not even be the next home improvement we undertake. I just wanted to appreciate the implications of having a bathless house before thinking much further down that route.

The house is in an urban setting with overlooking two story houses on two sides (not so much backyard privacy), in a city where it rains for nine months of the year. I dig outdoor showers too, parmanparman, but really only in Hawai'i.

More than anything I was interested in hearing of must-have uses of a bathtub beyond the sybaritic soak. So far those seem to include: dog washing, child-bathing, hygiene while cast-wearing, foot-soaking and laundering delicates. Most if not all of these alternate uses seem to mitigate against an ofuro and in favor of something shallower, unfortunately. Any other common uses of a tub that are as-yet unmentioned?
posted by mumkin at 12:54 PM on June 16, 2008

When someone says that they're redoing their bathroom and don't want a bath, but people keep telling them to put in a bath because it'll affect resale value, the net effect is a bunch of houses that feel the same.

you're missing my point, terpia. just because you put in a tub because it helps with the resale value doesn't mean you have to make it cookie cutter. and as i suspected, mumkin's house isn't a generic, new-contruction bore, so if he decided to put in a tub, he could make it attractive and non-generic.

mumkin, if you don't foresee ever leaving your house, then go for it. you can make a totally period appropriate "looking" bathroom with only a shower. the resale value comments are about the fact that the majority of people want at least one tub in their house and if they are shopping around and see a house that only has a shower, what they are going to think about is the additional money they are going to have to spend to put in a tub—if they haven't ruled out the house because of that altogether.
posted by violetk at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: Any other common uses of a tub that are as-yet unmentioned?

Sex. Clothes dyeing (though watch out for stains). Washing of large items that can't or shouldn't go in a washing machine. Filling it with ice and keeping beverages there for a party. Home distillation. Temporary home for live fish before eating them.
posted by Forktine at 2:18 PM on June 16, 2008

Golden showers.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:24 PM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: Any other common uses of a tub that are as-yet unmentioned?

Filling with water in an emergency, watering/washing big leafy indoor plants in wintertime, drying space for laundry, epsom salt soaks for injuries, bathing for guests if you host a lot and, of course, protection from vampires. I'm one of those read-in-the-tub people so I've clearly developed a lifestyle around having one and for what it's worth I think it's fine that you do whatever you want, but those are some more things I do with mine.
posted by jessamyn at 2:52 PM on June 16, 2008

Any other common uses of a tub that are as-yet unmentioned?

Cleaning the damn thing. I do not in the slightest miss having a cat fur catching, dust covered tub sitting in my bathroom making the place look dirty. It needs to be cleaned every time before you use it (to stop a tub full of dusty water) followed by another clean afterwards (to prevent rings). Ours was made worse by the cats playing in there, but even when it was shut off it needed cleaning as regularly as the rest of the bathroom even if it wasn't being used.

Every now and then I miss having a bath, maybe twice a year, but am happy to be without that extra thing to clean and am much happier with a decent sized shower.
posted by shelleycat at 3:27 PM on June 16, 2008

Best answer: I'm not sure why some of these things are listed as "use for a tub" when they can be just as easily accomplished in a shower. For example:

Washing a dog. If your showerhead comes off of the wall, I find washing a dog in a roomy shower stall far easier than wrangling with a tub.

Watering a plant. Um, hello? IT'S A SHOWER. It's like man-made rain!

Of course, one shouldn't ignore the vampires consideration.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:12 PM on June 16, 2008

Filling up hot water bottles.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:18 PM on June 16, 2008

One data point: Our new apartment has a fabulous and beautiful walk-in shower, of glass and granite, with chrome/stainless fixtures. Typical of Europe, the shower head is on a track that can be moved up and down (all the way up for us, we're tall). It's roomy, plenty of room to shower together, when so inclined (rarely, but it happens). We totally agree that the shower-in-tub arrangements are lame.

If the house isn't large (family size) anyway, I think a great shower is far more attractive to the demographic that wants a smaller house (no kids).
posted by Goofyy at 8:09 AM on June 17, 2008

Some building codes have archaic language that require at least one tub in a house. That said, I'd replace mine with a universal access shower without a second thought
posted by klarck at 8:53 PM on June 17, 2008

Best answer: We were in the same situation a year and a half ago. We couldn't find a tub that was roomy enough for a shower that would fit in our tiny space. We left your question alone and just built one out of concrete and tile. Kind of half shower half tub. Works really well as a shower, easy to get into and I don't feel cramped. As a tub, it takes alot of water and you can really submerge yourself. They say on various diy sites not to do this but we have no problems with it.
posted by pointilist at 11:17 PM on June 17, 2008

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