When Les and Michele Smoot remodeled the master bath of their Dublin home last summer, they flushed the big whirlpool bath down the drain. In its place they installed a sleek, elegant stand-alone tub.
When Les and Michele Smoot remodeled the master bath of their Dublin home last summer, they flushed the big whirlpool bath down the drain.
In its place they installed a sleek, elegant stand-alone tub.
“The Jacuzzi tub was, from our standpoint, more dated and not very practical,” Les Smoot said of the feature that had been with the house since they built it in 2001. “We both wanted more of a spa look.” Whether for aesthetics, comfort or just that “wow” factor, free-standing tubs are back.
Although some might resemble your grandparents’ claw-foot model, many stand-alone tubs have a strikingly modern look that can dominate a bath like a sculpture.
“There’s been a tremendous rise in free-standing tubs,” said Michael Kornowa, director of marketing at MTI Baths, an Atlanta manufacturer of bath products. “In 2003, we had a handful of designs. Now we’re pushing 60 designs of free-standing tubs.
“It’s driven by a design ethic.”
The growth of stand-alone tubs comes at the expense of larger “drop-in”-style tubs that are surrounded by a deck and often feature jets.
The popularity of built-in jetted tubs dropped from 32 percent to 11 percent from 2010 to 2013, according to a design trends survey by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. During the same period, stand-alone tubs rose in popularity from 23 percent to 32 percent.
“In the last couple of years, when we have installed a new tub in a master bath, 95 percent have been free-standing,” said Courtney Burnett, the interior design manager with Dave Fox Design-Build Remodelers in Columbus, which remodeled the Smoots’ bathroom.
“It’s been a huge change versus four years ago,” she added. “We didn’t really see it coming; it took off so quickly.”
Homeowners, designers and remodelers say, like the elegance of the free-standing tub, along with the size. A stand-alone tub can look more sleek in a modern bath and typically takes up less room than a deck tub.
“It makes the room seem larger because, with a tub deck, you have the width of the tub plus at least 6 inches or so all around the top,” said Stefanie Ciak, a designer with the Columbus remodeling firm J.S. Brown & Co.
“A stand-alone unit, open on all sides, gives the illusion of a bigger space,” Ciak added. “It’s a very simple, very clean look.”
From teacup-shaped tubs called ofuros to softly curved, canoelike shapes that can hold two people, free-standing tubs can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, styles, material and prices.
Smaller ones can replace a traditional tub, while larger ones can comfortably fit into the space of a larger deck tub. Because showers are rarely installed in stand-alone tubs, they are most frequently used when remodeling a bath with a separate shower.
Basic acrylic units such as those found at home-improvement stores start at about $1,000, while large boutique tubs made of copper or simulated stone can run more than $10,000.
Free-standing tubs also soak up more money on fixtures and drainpipes if the tub is elevated off the floor.
Drop-in tubs are less expensive but require more labor and tile for the deck around the tub.
All in all, the cost is about a wash, said Scott Hall, owner of Scott Hall Remodeling in Groveport, which installed a striking free-standing copper tub in a Reynoldsburg home a few years ago.
Free-standing tubs hold far more water than a traditional tub — up to 80 or 90 gallons compared with about 30 for a standard-size tub — meaning owners need a hot-water tank capable of kicking out that much water and a floor system capable of supporting the weight.
Don and Cynthia Bianco installed a jetted free-standing tub in an addition to their Clintonville home a year and a half ago and love the look and comfort — even though it doesn’t lend itself to spontaneity.
“It’s a very large tub, so you have to plan in advance,” Don Bianco said. “You’re not likely to take a quick bath. It takes awhile for it to fill. We use it as a treat, maybe once a month.”
Still, he added, “I’m about 6 feet tall, and it’s wonderful to be nearly submerged in the bathtub.”
Les Smoot estimates that he and his wife use their new tub at least once a week — “much more frequently” than the jetted tub it replaced.
But there is a drawback to the new tub, noted Smoot, who has twin 6-year-old daughters and an 8-year-old son.
“The kids have been in it more than the adults,” he said. “They request that they don’t have a shower. They want a bath.”