Deep soaker bathtub vs. classic style bathtub — which to choose?

american-standard-evolution-tubQuestion of the day: If you have only one bathtub in your house, should you make it a deep soaker tub? My two cents: No. 

This issue — which I’ve run into personally before — came up when Elishia commented with a question on my 2010 story Choosing a bath tub big enough to soak in — I change my Kohler recommendation.

Elishia asked another reader, Patti, about the American Evolution bath tub (shown above) she was considering. Elishia asked:

Patti, how are you enjoying the Evolution bathtub? I’m just about to buy the same one. I’m debating between the 72 and 60″ at the moment. The 72″ says it takes 110 gallons to fill up! That seems like A LOT Of water and might make me way less likely to take a bath. So I’m heading towards the 60″ which fills at 87 gallons. That is still a lot of water, but I’m guessing it’s at least 10 gallons less since I don’t need to fill it all the way up. I was also thinking that the 72″ might be too long for me at 5 7″ and that I’d slip down into it without my feet touching the end.

It will be in our second bathroom with a shower over. I’m guessing it would feel too deep to want to shower in there daily, but on occasion wouldn’t be a big deal. Are you showering in yours too? How is the depth for stepping over?

Sounds like Elishia has a normal-sized tub in her other bathroom.

That said, I wanted to spotlight this subject because I have two good friends who installed deep soaker tubs in bathrooms where daily showering was the norm — and they deeply regretted it.

Above: The old Cinderella tubs — like this 1947 model from American Standard — clearly were marketed for soaking. I presume they were messy to try and shower in… and the tub part wasn’t even much bigger than a normal tub; I am pretty sure this design emerged when people were shorter than today. That said: They sure are purty! Click here to see our stories that show Cinderella bathtubs.
vintage bathtub
Above: Vintage “receptor” baths were kinda brilliant, I think. Click here to see our story with more photos of these fascinating tubs. They were small bathtubs that were really more intended to be used as showers. But, if you had small children –they look like they were a great size for bathing them when they were small. Then, as they grew, they could transition to using the space as a shower. The entire footprint was smaller, too. These were available (by Eljer, as I recall) through the early 2000s. Now, no more. The only way to get these now: Vintage.

Install a soaker tub — or a “normal” tub?

Disclaimer: I am not a professionally trained bathroom designer. But here are my thoughts based on my personal experience with this issue:

  • I have two friends who have used soaker tubs in their bathrooms. Each of the two bathrooms were used daily by two people — but almost always to shower, rarely to soak. These friends both reported that the tub was a real hassle to get in and out of for showering. They both told me they would never ever do it again. About 10 years later, one of my friends actually gutted the bathroom and started over again because installing that soaker tub had been such a mistake.
  • One of the two bathrooms was initially installed for two children, when the children were young. This also became a regret. The soaker tub was too big, too deep, too difficult for the parents to reach in and out to help their young children bathed. So instead, the family hauled the kids two stories down — to the basement bathroom, where there was a normal-sized tub to bath them in. Later, when the children were old enough and wanted to shower on their own — well, see the first bullet in this list, wrong product for this use.
  • I definitely think it’s good to have one tub in the house — specifically, for children to use or, if you don’t have children, in case you ever sell your house to someone who does. But as per the bullet above, for children, you want normal-sized tubs, not soakers.
  • All that said: Heck, soaker tubs are great — if you (1) already have one normal-sized tub in the house and (2) have one bathroom large enough for both a walk-in shower and nearby, a stand-alone soaker tub. My aunt Mary Anne has a soaker tub in the corner of her master bathroom. When I was staying with her a few years ago, I used it. It had jets even. It was heavenly.

Finally: Important safety advice to consider: Consult with your own professional about installing safety grab bars. This is an important piece of advice for all tubs and showers, but I would surmise, all the more so the deeper the tub.

Room for only one “normal” sized bathtub — but want to make the water fill deeper for occasional adult soak time? Try one of these (affiliate link), I bought one and use it on the rare occasion that I decide I need a soak in my Kohler tub. Works fine.

Them’s my two cents.
What is your experience re this issue, readers?

  1. Cindy Friday says:

    One other factor to consider is whether someone put a glass shower surround on top of your tub, like on mine. Still have the old non-code chicken wire style of glass, in a surround on a left apron tub. With that glass, I can can’t lean back to enjoy the water, no matter what. The porcelain on the apricot-colored tub, which sorta matches the salmon 4×4 walls, is shot. The metal on the surround is shot. I’m thinking of replacing the tub with normal size, and using curtains so I can sit back and enjoy a soak. But will a new tub require building a pony wall on the end? Can’t seem to find the apron tubs online. I have the room, but that would mean the salmon-pink wall would have to go. So many little challenges!!

  2. Mary Fryar says:

    We recently rehabbed a 1956 ranch (1200 Sq ft). The bathroom had to be redone due to wood rot. We put a soaker tub with shower in the original tub space. Added grab bars. We use both the tub and shower and are very pleased to have both.

  3. Roger says:

    I took out a way too small shower 26″,made a 48″er,walk in and put in a whirlpool soaker,daily showers,Sunday baths,love it..

  4. Carolyn says:

    Our tub is an old cast iron built-in from the late 1940’s. We rarely use it. By the time the tub fills, the water gets cooled too quickly by the tub itself. We only use it to shower. The original shower spigot was set at around 4.5 feet tall. We put in a shower hose and holder to overcome the height challenge.
    Does anyone else have these similar issues with their old tubs?

  5. Kathy says:

    Personally, I would dearly love some sort of soaker or whirlpool type tub, but the regular is fine with the little rubber dohicky to block the overflow.

    One reason I don’t have one is because water is really heavy and those big bathtubs with a person in it are super duper-heavy, even if you don’t have cast iron, and my floor joists can’t support it. Blame the mid-century plumbers who cut through the joists to put in drains in my Victorian. Plumbers and electricians are well known for making holes everywhere without adequately supporting the structure, and changes over the years can really compromise the framing. Be sure to check that out if you are thinking of putting a soaker tub in.

  6. Lisette says:

    My current tub is 58″ and only allows for 9-10 inches of water unless you block the overflow drain. This isn’t deep enough for me but perfect for small children which is what the bath was remodeled for. It’s not the original tub in my 1954 ranch but it does have a slanting back so I make do. Soaker tubs are waaaay too big, the backs don’t slant and being sort of short, I have trouble keeping my head above water not to mention stepping in and out. ????

  7. Gwen says:

    I am 5’2″ so the tub original to my 1955 house works just great for me. And I like that it doesn’t take up a lot of water to fill it. I bathe with bubbles and a candle once a week. I lived for a year in a condo that didn’t have a tub and I really missed it.

  8. Teresa says:

    A friend had a soaker tub installed due to back issues (hot bath provided the most relief). Other than that, I don’t see it worth the extra expense. If there is only one tub available for an entire family, would you really want to encourage anyone to linger a long time in the bath? I think not!

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