Forfeit airtub for soaker?? Please help

kmarcelFebruary 1, 2012

I know this isn't so much a need for design help and of course only a decision I can make, but would please like some opinions.

We are doing a bathroom remodel, replacing tub, tile on floor and tub surround, vanity and countertop. I have secured my contractor and going forward with this project in mid-April. I have had my heart set on a Bain Ultra Thalassa alcove air bath. Now some unexpected things have come up (non-bathroom related) and I need to cut costs. Of course my tub is the biggest expense. I know there may be some less expensive nice airtubs other than BU but I need to keep the height as low as possible and I have not found one that is less than 20" high. This is a tub/shower combo.

So I'm pondering what would be my biggest regret?? Giving up the air tub for a soaker or giving up the granite countertop for a less costly countertop? Our vanity is 6' long so I need to custom order whatever we get and I'm not even sure what would cost less than granite other than laminate, as I have looked at quartz, corian and all of those are just as expensive as some of the granites.

Does anyone have a soaker that wishes it was an airbath or visa/versa? And what about the countertop issue, will that be a bigger regret?

It's an upstairs bathroom only used by myself and my husband or when grandkids come. Therefore, not a bathroom normally seen by guests. But of course I see it!

This is keeping me up at night and need to make some very fast decisions, please help me.

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I'm going through the same process that you are so maybe I can help. The biggest question is how much you will really use the air bath. If you will really use it a lot, then I would advise you to get it and look at cultured marble for your countertops.

My experience with having whirlpool (I know air bath is a bit different and better) tubs in various homes for the past 20 years is that I seldom used them. In our current home, we are removing the whirlpool and replacing it with a deep soaker. We are not "bath" people so it still will be lightly used.

You say that you and your husband are really the only people who see the bathroom so it should have what you want in it. From what you write, it sounds like the air bath is the way to go. Look at cultured marble -- it's different than 25 years ago.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 10:13AM
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I had a similar problem as you, but mine was that I needed to give up a freestanding tub for a tub/shower to make space for a small powder room. I found this airtub by Kohler which I thought was very reasonably priced, it is 19" tall and the drain is configured so that the water level can be deeper for 'soaking'. I thought it was the best compromise for both soaking/bubbling in and stepping over. Someone else on here has the same tub without the air feature but it seemed that they liked it. Ours isn't installed yet but I like that it's got a heater for the air and what the heck.. it blows air, how much better can one be over another rather than style-wise and I can't see how an alcove tub can differ much from the next in style. Anyway, hope this helps. Free shipping from this site, too and it arrived in like 3 days from order.

Here is a link that might be useful: airbath

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 11:03AM
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When you had your granite countertop quoted was that using a remnant? There could be a nice cost savings there. I agree that the big question is how often do you think you would use the air tub. It is alot easier in most instances to replace a countertop than an alcove tub.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 11:22AM
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In the 19 years I've had my kohler jetted tub, I've used is less than 12 times. It take forever to fill and I don't feel right using that much water for myself. The jets just make noise and don't really do anything. My Sundance outdoor hot tub really relieves back pain, the jetted tub doesn't. Talk to someone who has lived with one, most don't use it.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 11:38AM
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newsouthern1, I'm not sure how much I will use it. When I shower I always wish to just lay in a tub and enjoy the hot water, but my tub is your basic uncomfortable builders tub. I will look at cultered marble, but thought that was even more pricey than granite.
Deedles, thanks for the info on the Kohler airtub. When do you plan to get installed?
freedee, my daughter has a jetted tub and when I go to visit I like to use it. It does take forever to fill because you need to get the water at least as high as the jets, plus her alcove tub is bigger than the air tubs I looked it. Also, an airtub as very small holes around the bottom instead of the jets that are up higher.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:01PM
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We have a soaker but stayed at a condo for a ski trip a few weeks ago with a BU airtub. Not impressed. Sounded like a jet taking off, and those little champagne bubbles weren't doing much. Went to turn it off and it kept coming back on intermittently to try to "dry out" the bubble mechanics.

Prefer a scalding-hot, silent bath myself.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:09PM
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We are not bath people but were advised that for resale, a tub was necessary. We looked at the air tubs at the Signature Hardware showroom (they are one of he leading providers of freestanding and clawfoot tubs) and felt like the bubbles were pretty weak for the price difference. We chose a freestanding soaker which has arrived but hasn't been installed.

For a tub you are going to step in and out of everyday to shower, it seems like it would be uncomfortable to have a 19-20" height. For our girls bath, we chose the Kohler Expanse which has a curved from apron like the new curved shower rods. This tub is only 17" tall but the curve makes for a more satisfying soak when used as a tub (60 gallon capacity).

Good luck with your decision! We have also found that a basic carrara marble is cheaper that quite a few granites. We were also able to find a quartz remnant at a very low cost from a local fabricator.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kohler Expanse Tub

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Thanks, workingondreamhouse, that Kohler Expanse looks very nice. I'm concerned with the height as well.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Using stone remnants is a great suggestion. We used remnants for the two bathrooms we are remodeling right now, just as our friends did, all to save some $$. They even used a remnant for their long master bath counter. It's seamed in the middle but since they also added a tower cabinet, it's not noticeable at all (plus the installers did a good job).

We will begin our master bath shortly, hoping to use a remnant again. It might be a little harder since we need 88" of counter, plus we're locked in to a color scheme (had drapes for bathroom and bedroom made last year). We'll just have to see what we can find among the remnants our fabricators have on hand. If we can't go the remnant route, our contractor said it will cost us about $500 more to purchase a half slab of granite or quartz, depending on what we choose.

As for the tub, you're right, only you can answer this. But maybe the advice given to me by a friend who's a CMKBD (unfortunately not in my area or I would have hired her) when I was trying to decide whether to replace my whirlpool tub with an an acrylic or cast iron soaking tub:

If it were my home and it was long-term and I wasn't using it often: acrylic
If it were my home and it wasn't long-term and I needed to keep the budget down: acrylic
If it were my home and it wasn't long-term but everyone in the neighborhood had cast-iron: cast-iron
If it were my home and it was long-term and I was using it often: cast iron.

Translated for your situation, it would be something along the lines of:

If it were my home and it was long-term and I wasn't using the air tub often: granite counters
If it were my home and it wasn't long-term but everyone in the neighborhood had granite counters: granite counters.
If it were my home and it wasn't long-term but everyone in the neighborhood had an air tub (or something similar): air tub.
If it were my home and it was long-term and I was using the air tub often: air tub.

If you opt for an air tub, one way to keep costs down is to reuse your existing sinks (provided they are still in decent shape) and get laminate counters for now. Buy new sinks when you can afford to upgrade to stone counters. Buy enough extra tile now so that you can replace the backsplash to match the existing tile (generally won't be able to save it when you remove the laminate counter). It's much easier to replace a laminate counter than it is to replace a soaking tub.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:41PM
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lisa a, thanks so much for that perspective! I am looking into granite remnants. I'm also going to look at laminant. Keeping all my options open. Think I really want that airtub.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 5:41PM
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You're welcome! Her perspective certainly helped me make my decision. She's a wise friend - and a very experienced designer. ;-)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 7:25PM
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Shame on me for not giving credit where credit is due. Kelly Morisseau is the wise woman behind the thought process I shared with you. She blogs mostly about kitchens but you can also find bathroom advice at her blog.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kelly's Kitchen Sync

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 7:37PM
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Since you need a 6' piece of granite for your counter top, it is going to be difficult to find a remnant.

You might want to consider putting in a laminate with an attached backsplash for now. It is easier to replace the laminate than it would be to replace the tub, so put in the tub now and the granite in the future. Get some extra tile to be used as a backsplash when you upgrade to a granite counter top in a few years.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 10:00PM
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"Since you need a 6' piece of granite for your counter top, it is going to be difficult to find a remnant."

I think it depends on the fabricator and their volume of business. We only needed a remnant 55" long for the boys' bath but we needed a piece at least 6' long for the powder room and we had at least six 6' or longer remnants to choose from at our fabricator's warehouse. I hope we get this lucky when we go remnant hunting for our master bath counter.

You could also check ready-made bathroom counters. There are several granite suppliers in my area that carry polished and ready to go 6' long counters for bathrooms. All that needs to be done is to have holes cut for the sink and faucet. Prices were really quite reasonable. We almost went that route but the remnants ended up being a little less expensive. And these were reputable suppliers, not the fly by night places with slipshod quality one should avoid.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Lynne Reno

We have a long (93") vanity in an alcove in our bathroom, in order to spend more on other things that were more important, we opted to keep it and refinish it rather than replace it. It's about 24" deep so a prefab piece of granite was perfect for it, we got a 108x26 piece of granite for around $400. There were several other prefab pieces for under $200 but we wanted something special so got a great piece of Verde Fire.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 10:58PM
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kmarcel, I thought I'd let you know how our trip to our fabricators to check their remnant stock went. We needed a remnant at least 87" long for our master bath counter. I thought we'd have scant pickings but we had 13 remnants, ranging from marble and limestone to granite to quartz, to choose from. And - yay - we found one that we like and that goes with our existing color scheme (don't want to replace the drapes I had made last year). So definitely check the remnant supply at your local fabricators. You just may be able to have your air tub *and* stone counters.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:33PM
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lisa a, I also made out well going to another fabricator that I hadn't been to before. Sometimes the well known ones are the most expensive and have the fewest options as far as remnants. I found giallo napoli in a remnant just the perfect size to do my countertop. Originally I wouldn't have chose this granite for my bathroom as it has alot of darker colors in it and I wanted to keep my bathroom light and creamy colored. I am finding the longer I take to do this job, the more my taste is changing.

I did order my Bain Ultra tub. It's the tub I wanted from the start and so I decided to go for it. Of course a couple days later I got buyers remorse and got really nervous that I would regret it due to the height issue. But too late it would cost $600 for re-stocking and $235 for freight to send back. So now I just want to get on with this project and enjoy the tub I have been wanting for months. I'm confident I will bathe alot. My husband is the one who only showers. He's 5'10" and really when you think about it you only step in and out of a tub once a day. When we get older our stairs will probably be an issue before the tub.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:13AM
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Yay, I'm glad you had success finding a remnant!

And, how well I know buyer's remorse. It's given me more than a few sleepless nights. I had a pretty good idea what our projects would cost us (although I was a few thousand light on the master bath) but we had initially intended to take them on one at a time, not all in one year (extensive bathroom flood from a faulty toilet supply line ruined carpet, walls, etc and forced our hand). Rolling all these projects into one big remodel ... it's quite unnerving to see the total in one lump sum. I've had many "what have we started?" and "we shouldn't be doing this" thoughts but then I remind myself to breathe as I tell myself that we're on the right course. As long as we keep the "while we're at it" projects to a minimum, we'll be okay. But rational thought only goes so far when it comes to remodel jitters. ;-) Good luck with your remodel!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 12:46PM
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