For a lot of people, a clawfoot bathtub is right at the top of their bathroom wishlist. It’s a classic, iconic bathroom accessory that just screams style and elegance. But while you can’t deny the incomparable aesthetics of the clawfoot tub, they do present some particular challenges if you’re looking to include one in your bathroom build or renovation.
Now, we don’t want to be a bathroom kill-joy. We love a clawfoot tub too. But there’s a big difference between how beautiful the tub looks in the bathroom showroom and the logistics of installing one at home.
That’s why we’re going to run you through six things you should know about clawfoot (and freestanding) bathtubs.
What is a Clawfoot Bathtub?
Traditionally, a clawfoot tub was a freestanding bathtub made from cast iron and lined with porcelain with a ball and claw foot design. These days, however, a clawfoot tub can refer to any freestanding bathtub on feet. While some are still made from cast iron and porcelain, they are also made from more modern, lighter materials like fibreglass and acrylic.
Most modern freestanding tubs are no longer designed with feet, but instead sit directly on the floor. Whether you’re considering a clawfoot or a freestanding tub, any of the following considerations apply.
- You need a Lot of Space
In terms of dimensions, clawfoot or freestanding tubs tend to be taller and deeper than most built-in tubs. They also tend to be installed with space between the tub and walls. Because of this, freestanding tubs generally take up a lot more room than built-in tubs. Whether you’re renovating a bathroom or planning a new build, you should bear in mind that a freestanding tub will require much more floor space than a built-in tub, not just for the tub itself, but also for the necessary space around the tub. So, if you’re pressed for space in the bathroom, a freestanding tub might not be practical.
- Not ideal for Showers
Clawfoot or freestanding bathtubs aren’t ideal if you want a combined shower and bath. While freestanding tubs can be rigged with shower plumbing and curtain around the rub, it’s not a particularly practical or safe solution. The reality is that a freestanding tub only really makes sense if you have a separate shower. And the need for separate bath and shower spaces in the bathroom further exacerbates the space issues outlined above.
- Cleaning is a Hassle
Keeping your bathroom clean can be a hassle at the best of times. But a freestanding tub presents additional challenges. You will have to clean under the tub, around the feet and between the tub and the walls. These can be difficult areas to get into and can be havens for mould and mildew.
- Storage Problems
With a freestanding tub you might have to factor in your own storage space. Most built-in tubs are designed with soap dishes, ledges or wall niches for shampoos, soaps, cloths, candles and your other bathing paraphernalia. With a freestanding tub, however, you may have to factor in your own bath-side storage solution. This could be a bath caddy, a side table or any other bathroom storage accessory that suits the space. While this is a solvable problem, it’s still an inconvenience that should be considered.
- Plumbing Issues
It’s worth bearing in mind that freestanding tubs often require very visible plumbing hardware. For some people, the plumbing hardware on display is part of the appeal of the clawfoot tub. However, the visible presence of all these pipes and fittings can be off-putting for people who prefer a sleek, minimalist bathroom aesthetic. And it’s not just the plumbing aesthetics that can be a problem. The visibility and custom nature of the plumbing hardware and the complexities of installation can add another serious cost layer. In extreme renovation cases, it can mean moving the underfloor water supply line and drainage line just to suit the position of the new tub. And that will cost you.
- Material Matters
It’s important to consider the bathtub material for a few reasons. Freestanding tubs are generally made from cast iron and porcelain or fibreglass or acrylic. Cast iron tubs are very heavy, even when empty. Before installing a cast iron tub, you may need a builder or engineer to determine whether your floor needs to be reinforced to hold the weight of the full tub, which could be another major cost component. While iron tubs hold heat very well, they start off cold to the touch, which means you need more hot water to heat up the tub.
Acrylic and fibreglass tubs, on the other hand, are much lighter than iron. However, they aren’t as durable and don’t hold the heat as well.
Now, don’t misunderstand us. We love a clawfoot tub. We just think it’s important to be as informed as possible when planning your new bathroom.