I have always wanted to have a clawfoot tub. Something about how such a heavy tub can be perched on such dainty feet has always inspired me, and I’ve imagined that taking a bath in one would feel like floating. Of course, the really spacious surroundings most freestanding tubs get in pictures certainly doesn’t hurt that idea.
Since my bathroom is atrocious and needs to be completely remodeled (as in torn-back-to-the-studs-and-subfloor remodeled), I thought it would be the perfect time to try and get the clawfoot tub of my dreams.
My house was built in 1951 America, so it does not really have many of the thoughtful details and flourishes that marked 19th and 18th century home architecture. Those embellishments really make my heart sing, but it’s been challenging to try and add them to my house without overwhelming its petite size/proportions. Stylistically, a clawfoot tub would not make much sense in the house, but I wanted one anyway.
My bathroom is far too horrible to post any real pictures, so here’s a floor plan.
There are a few challenges of putting in a clawfoot tub into this space.
- The room is very small, and most clawfoot tubs are not designed for saving space. I need the tub to fit in the space of the old alcove tub.
- The tub MUST double as a shower. This is the house’s only bathroom, and we need a shower for daily life.
- The tub — a luxury item — needs to be budget-friendly. In practical terms, this means that the tub we buy would need to be made of acrylic, which I don’t find to be the most inspiring material.
An option that some people might have to stay budget-friendly is to find a salvage clawfoot tub. For a few reasons (like relying on pretty inefficient public transportation), I decided that this was not a viable option for me. Plus, most antique tubs are longer than the five feet of space I have.
The pros of having a clawfoot tub are obvious to me: aesthetics, Victorian charm, and a sense of easy/relaxing luxury. These three things are really important to me, but a tub needs to be practical, too.
Here are some frustrations people reported having with using clawfoot tubs. I’ve seen these sorts of comments in various threads around the internet, so they’re generalizations, not quotes.
- The shower curtains need to completely surround the tub, which makes people feel like they’re being suffocated and encroached on by the curtains.
- It’s tricky for some people to get the curtains to close completely and overlap one another, so shower water still gets everywhere outside the tub.
- People have to reach out of the shower curtains to get to their toiletries. (The viability of a shower caddy seems to depend a lot on the individual plumbing/piping of the shower head.)
- Cleaning around and under the tub is apparently difficult and awful. I think this would be especially awful in my bathroom since I would be dealing with a tub in an alcove and wouldn’t be able to approach from the sides.
- If you don’t clean thoroughly around and under the tub, mold situations can develop in hard-to-see areas.
- Lots of people feel very unstable when they step out of the shower/tub. Some people report that their shower curtains have been ripped down/off more than once when people grab them in a panic. Lots of people also showed concern at the thought of an older person getting in and out of their shower/tub.
None of that is very compatible with my hyper-romantic ideas of having a lovely bathtub, but I thought I could persevere.
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The way I see things, most of these difficulties come from trying to shower while standing up in a clawfoot tub. I was so pleased to find that some clawfoot tub manufacturers are trying to solve the issue in a way that still shows off the old-fashioned vibes of a clawfoot tub.
Because of all the chrome fittings, this tub gives me more Art Deco vibes than the Victorian ones I love so much, but I think it would do a good job of keeping shower water contained. The tub and shower enclosure above does come in a five-foot length that would fit my space, but the price is still close to 4000 USD. That’s simply not possible for me.
I got really excited when I saw this style of tub, however.
Do you see how this tub could solve so many of the problems of putting a freestanding tub into an alcove tub’s space? The “faucet wall” side and one of the long sides of this bathtub are designed to meet the wall in the corner. Not only does the “faucet wall” side of the tub provide a small ledge for things like razors or other small items, but I could caulk the gap along the two corner walls and not worry about moisture sneaking down there. Success! Also, providing a glass screen might eliminate the need for a shower curtain altogether if we managed to place our shower head vertically as in the images above. The bathroom’s only window is in the tub alcove, and getting one of these tubs without a shower curtain would let in all the natural light from the window in the alcove into the rest of the bathroom. Neither of these two tubs have pre-drilled for the tap/faucet, which is great since our plumbing comes out of the wall in the alcove and does not need to come out of the tub. Both models come in right-hand and left-hand configurations, so we wouldn’t need to move our plumbing. All in all, I really felt for a little bit like I’d found my perfect solution.
Then I noticed the complications.
The Appleby 1700 is 1700 mm long, which is about 6 inches too long for my space. Even though I like the curved glass screen and its cheaper price more, it simply won’t fit in my bathroom. That leaves the Burlington Hampton, which comes in 1700 and 1500 mm lengths (1500 mm is just a little bit smaller than the maximum tub length I can accommodate at 59 inches). For the 1500 mm Burlington Hampton, getting it with a glass screen will cost me around 1000 USD with today’s exchange rate. (There’s a 100 GBP difference between getting the regular glass screen and getting the screen with access panel.) That does not include shipping from the UK, where the only two corner tubs with glass screens (that I’ve found) are sold. While certainly more attainable than a 4000 USD solution, it still feels like an irresponsible amount of money, especially since I would need to request a shipping quote for US shipping. I cannot imagine it will be cheap, since these tubs are a trifecta of shipping complications: large, heavy, and with delicate parts.
Plus, the tub is acrylic. I could not find out how much weight the Burlington Hampton tub supports, so I am going to assume it’s the same as the figure I saw for a different acrylic clawfoot tub: 370 lbs. Truthfully, that’s just not enough. If that’s the weight limit, then my partner and I would not be able to be in the shower at the same time. I cannot spend over 1000 USD to have a tub that’s less functional than our current alcove tub. Plus, I wouldn’t buy acrylic if I was shopping for alcove tubs, and I worry that settling for cheaper materials would leave a sour taste in my mouth and ruin the fun of the bathtub.
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Since I won’t really be able to get a new clawfoot tub in this house, I’ve got to look at trying to get a better bath experience out of a normal alcove tub.
The first step in doing that is to get a deep tub. I’ve always been so annoyed when the water in a tub doesn’t cover me, and I won’t have that in my new tub if I can help it. Looking at the prices around me, a metal tub covered in porcelain will cost me around 600-700 USD with a deep-soaking drain.
The second thing is that the tub needs to be comfortable to lie down in. I plan on taking many baths in it, and I want to be able to recline. I’ve never found a normal tub to be very relaxing to lie down in, but I think that might be because I can’t lay my head back if the tub’s alcove is exactly as long as the tub.
She goes over the process in her post “How To Make A 5-Foot Alcove Tub FEEL Like A Vintage One.” It’s a really helpful post, and I know I’ll be referring to it again once all the walls in the bathroom are removed.
It’s a shame that I won’t have a darling clawfoot tub in my house, but it’s probably for the best. A clawfoot tub would look really anachronistic in my house, and I think I can come to accept that the vibe would be too different from the rest of the space. I’m still disappointed, but I’ll get over it as long as I can have nice baths in a new tub eventually.
My next task is to find a 5-foot alcove tub that’s deep and has a good reclining angle. And also is not acrylic. Wish me luck.