Tub Height question

jacobseFebruary 21, 2010

I thought we were all set with our choice of a Kohler Hourglass 32 tub for our remodel when the plumbing supply manager noted that the 20 inch height of the tub was very high for a tub getting dual use as a shower. Darn, after all my focus on getting the right length and depth, finding a model with a tile flange for an alcove installation yet no apron so we can tile the front face, variances in height hadn't even occurred to me!

This tub is just a soaker, but the model line is also used for whirlpool baths, and thus the taller height. Sure enough, I just checked our old builder-original, 30 year-old tub, and it's only 14 inches tall.

This tub is the only one in the house, in the guest bathroom; our master bath has only a shower. It's only my wife and I in the house, and we're both shower people. My wife takes a bath very occasionally; I never do. We'll use it as our shower when we remodel of our master bathroom next, but infrequently thereafter, mostly for occasional guests.

Thoughts on the 20" height? Is it too high to step over when taking a shower? Is it a problem if someone who isn't too tall sits on the edge of the tub to swing their legs over, rather than just stepping over as they would with a lower tub wall? Should we be forgetting this tub and looking for something with a lower height? It seems like a number of other tubs that I've looked at are 18" tall (like the Kohler 1100 Expanse with curved front, which is explicitly designed to be used as a shower tub); is 2" a significant difference? As always, thanks in advance for any advice, experience or thoughts!

-- Eric

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Hello Eric,

We faced the same decision in our current MB reno. We opted to remove the alcove from the equation altogether and now have a separate soaker and shower.

One of the alternatives we considered was to open up the floor and sink the tub slightly down into the floor.

We chose not to do this because, as it was rightly pointed out to us, it is one thing to get into a tub when you are dry, and quite another to get out of it when you are wet. 20" is not extremely high and swinging legs over the side might not be a problem for you right now, but what about in 5 or 10 years time?


    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 1:32PM
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At this point, I don't think removing the alcove is an option; it's the only logical place for a tub, which will be the only tub in the house. So I think we just need to make the best choices for the tub in this spot.

Since our idea was to tile the front of the tub, I started thinking about building a step in front of the tub -- but the bathroom isn't terribly wide and I think a step would take up too much space. (On the wall opposite the tub is a vanity and toilet; there's about 37" between tub and vanity, about 7" less in front of the toilet.) Thus the questions about whether a 20" tall tub is workable or not. (Wouldn't people using the tub just for bathing and not for showing have the same problems getting out of such a tub while wet?)

We're in our early 50s now, so I do understand about mobility concerns as we get older. I just don't know how significant a couple inches is. Could properly-placed grab bars easy entry/exit from a taller tub like this? Would we be better off abandoning the idea of getting an apron-less tub where we could tile the front, and get a lower-height basic tub? (That just can't be the right choice -- it would cost less for the tub and for the tiling, and we never choose the less expensive option!)

-- Eric

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 2:02PM
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Hi Jacobse,
I also planned to use this tub in my remodel and for the same reasons as you. I contacted Kohler and specifically asked them if this tub was suitable for a shower/tub combination and they replied , "yes". My husband and I are older than you, and I don't foresee any problems.....planning on grab bars, etc. I wonder why Kohler does not have an alcove tub with no apron for a nice and professional looking install.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 3:47PM
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I'm doing the same thing - deeper soaking tub in an alcove tub/shower combo. The tub I'm getting is 19" tall. I actually never step over the tub to take a shower because I'm an amputee so sitting on the edge and swinging your leg (or legs if you have two) over the edge is really no big deal. And if you do this, it's actually easier with a higher tub than a lower one. I think you do have to watch out though if you have shower doors - as that limits your swinging space. We have a 66" tub though and will have one of those hinged shower screens so there is quite a bit of clearance. A shower curtain obviously doesn't present a problem here.

I just tried out this taller tub in a showroom yesterday and it seems to be no problem compared to the shorter one we have now. We will be adding a grab bar when we remodel as I actually think getting out of the tub would become the bigger challenge as I get older. When the side is lower it's easier to use the edge to raise yourself up - that doesn't work as well when it's taller.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 4:12PM
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I have a 20" tub/shower combo(Kohler Bancroft).
I was a bit concerned about the tub height, I mostly shower and take a bath once a week or two.
Having a soaking depth tub is fantastic.
After a couple of weeks of use in my new bathroom, I got used to the new height and don't have any problems stepping over the tub wall.
I will however, consider installing a grab bar in a about 15 years or so(I am in my forties now).

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 9:11PM
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I am in the process of finishing tile work for a guest/main bath remodel. I have a similar situation: bath/shower combo in the guest/main and just a shower in the master. Previously it had a standard (harvest gold -- ew) tub with shower. I have replaced it with a Hydro Systems the Lacey (which is very similar to the Kohler Archer). The tub deck installation was at 20" high. I have been climbing in and out of it (with plastic and cardboard insecurely taped all over it for protection) for the last few weeks as I'm doing the wall tile myself. (This is my first tile project so it has been very slow going.) I have not found the height to be uncomfortable at all. I haven't yet stepped in and out while wet, but I am not concerned about the height. I also find the height to sit on the edge of the tub (feet in or out) to be very comfortable. I imagine if I had difficulty getting in and out, I could easily sit on the edge and swing my feet around. My significant other and I are young, but my father has come to help as well and hasn't had any difficulty either. I think you should be just fine.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 11:21AM
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Thanks for the positive replies about a 20" tub height! I'm encouraged to think this might be workable as originally planned. I'm going to try to mock up a 20" height on our existing tub tonight to see if my wife and I find it problematic to get in and out of. I suspect since I'm 6' tall, it won't be an issue, but want to make sure it seems okay to my wife, who is shorter. As for the occasional guests, they'll just have to deal with it if we deem it okay for us! ;)

-- Eric

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 2:41PM
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I also was considering this tub and was concerned about the height. So I stacked some books on the edge of my current 14" tub and tried stepping over it. Too bad I caught my toe on the top book and sent the stack sailing into the not-yet-drained tub. Now I have a crinkly copy of "1001 Places to See Before you Die". Oh well, I still think the height is fine.

Before you do your mock up, be sure to empty the tub.

In the end I am getting a Kohler Archer because my new tub will only be a tub, not a shower.

I am curious what you think about the shape of the Hourglass. I think the slanted back looks comfy but had some concern about the reduced area of the bottom.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 4:32PM
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Dedtired, you raise two good points. I was going to do the height test you suggested, and with a dry tub!

As for the shape, unfortunately, I'm going only by the pictures and specs on Kohler's web site, as I have not yet found one in a showroom to see in person. I think the hourglass shape would be nice for bathing (and actually slightly reduce the amount of water needed to fill the tub due to the indents), but I was a little concerned about whether it will seem much smaller when using it for a shower. Estimating as best I can from the diagram on the spec sheet, the flat area of the tub bottom appears to be about 44 inches, which seems like just enough for a 6-foot person like me to sit with legs fully straight out. It also seems almost identical to a non-hourglass tub shape like the Memoirs according to the spec sheets. As best I can judge from the pictures and spec sheet diagram, I don't think the curves or slanted back take away too much space to make it awkward for showering in. I don't think one really moves around too much side-to-side in the shower, and front-to-back (to step out of the water spray, for instance), the slant at the back doesn't seem to take away too much space. We'll install a curved shower rod so it doesn't feel closed-in, and I'm hoping it'll be fine as a shower. If anyone has any experience to the contrary or other words of wisdom concerning Kohler tub shapes, I'd welcome hearing about it!

-- Eric

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 6:00PM
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Eric, I know I saw an Hourglass somewhere in my bathroom shopping travels. I will keep an eye out for it and report back should I come across it again.

I currently have a tub/shower combo and since I am currently hyper-alert to bathroom design issues, I notice that I pretty much stay in one spor while showering in the tub. The floor space of the Hourglass should be fine, I think.

Althought the integrated tile flange isn't an issue for me, I tempted to get it for the nice slanted back.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 12:34PM
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The Kohler Hourglass 32 comes in versions without the tile flange as well, for a drop-in installation on a deck if you're not using it as a shower. (As well as additional models with whirlpool jets.) I just came to it because it's one of only a few tubs I've found which have a tile flange and no front apron so we can tile the front of it. Kohler also makes the 6032 tub in a similar configuration, which is one inch shorter, but something about its style in the pictures and description makes me feel it's not quite as nice as the Hourglass 32.

-- Eric

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 5:59PM
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the tub in our old house was tall and tiled. i'm 5'6" and i hated climbing over those tiles daily to shower. my 5'9" husband never noticed. we used the bubbles about 20 times in 7 years. (but we had a outdoor hot tub that last 3 years.

in the new place we're putting in lower, simpler tubs.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 7:30PM
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So glad I found this thread as I am replacing what will be the only tub in my house. It will be used almost exclusively for showers but I am trying to pick up a tub that will function well for bathing too. I liked the look of the Kohler hourglass acrylic tub but wasn't sure how showering in it was.

Eric, did you go with the Hourglass? I am trying to decide between that and the Archer. I wasn't crazy about the non-slip surface on the bottom of the Archer.

Has the height or curviness of the Hourglass been an issue for shower people?


    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 7:35PM
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Denise, yes, we bought the Hourglass. It's a very nice looking tub (nicer than I could tell from the pictures on the Kohler site). With the front edge tiled, it really looks a lot nicer than our old standard tub. I can post pictures tomorrow if it helps. Unfortunately, I can't yet comment on showering in the tub, as we have just finished the room and haven't showered in it yet! In fact, the last detail we need to get is, of all things, the shower curtain. We installed a curved rod, so I don't think the curviness of the tub will be an issue at all. And I've climbed in and out a bunch of times; I don't think the height will be an issue, but we haven't tried it under live conditions yet.

-- Eric

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 2:04AM
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Thanks, Eric. I would love to see a picture when you have a chance. I did see the hourglass in a showroom and liked the look a lot. Figures as it was the priciest of the 4 tubs I considered. :)

Btw, I have found your posts very helpful. I will be ordering Toto toilets soon so thanks for your input on that as well. You convinced me to go double cyclone although I am a bit nervous about the 1.28 capacity.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 12:59PM
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Chiming in to say I'd also love to see a picture, as we're considering the Hourglass as well. Thanks, Eric!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 6:20PM
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I would be interested in pictures and details on how the front tile "wall" is constructed.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 7:37PM
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Have you looked at/seen the Kohler Highbridge? Alcove tub that comes with or without an apron, 32 x 60 x 17

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 11:02PM
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I'm looking at the trajet bimini as a shower tub combo, so I feel that tub height concern. I can see sitting on the edge to swing in and out.

The harder part is getting from a full seated position in the tub up onto your feet. A grab bar that is higher than your shoulder could injure your rotator cuff unless you can do chin ups. Better to push up from a lower handhold. Look for a handrest edge detail to push down on. That's my theory, anyway. Does this work in practice?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 8:11AM
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I just had to post my thoughts about this topic. I try to find humor in things so please bare with me. I was renting this house and it had this builder grade (BG) jacuzzi tub in the corner kind of jammed behind the shower. The shower was one of those (BG) glass showers with the sharp gold trim. I never like the looks of that layout to begin with, it doesn't flow... So I pass the shower and approach the corner tub to find the faucet set right in the middle of the entry side..and only entry side the left side is another corner. Oh, easy access to the water I can fill it before I get in! Time to disrobe.. Yet....hmmm, this is a tight squeeze. Good thing that sharp gold corner to the shower is there, I can kind of grip that!..and then I take one GIANT step over the wall. The wall...not only is that dreadful height there, but it is beautifully capped off with (BG) 6" tile (seems like more than 6".) and let's not forget the jarring tub lip. So my hand is above my head gripping the sharp gold corner behind me, right leg reaching as far as humanly possible to find the tubs bottom, left hand on the flimsy faucet...and I'm in! There is no room for sitting on the edge and swinging my legs in! That would be a definite visit to the ER. That's the obstacle when entering dry. It would be saver to do a running summersault. While bathing in that big thing, I found that to keep my head above water, I had to wedge myself to a corner where my foot could grip a button or something to stabllize myself. Though I never was quite stable because my left left kind of floated around in limbo. All this and then I get to look forward to the wet exit. I was actually thinking of replacing the rug with a slip-and-slide. So anyway, I have come to understand why many people say, "Well, I got one of those big tubs and NEVER use it!" So here is my theory. Get a shallower tub if possible, maybe even build it into the ground or elevate the entrance floor, look for a tub that has a minimal lip and is a drop-in (some have seats molded to the edge as one piece,) keep the faucet out of the way but within reach and last but never the least, a grab bar! No matter what your age.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Hi jacobse. I realize this thread is very old, but the original question has not actually been answered. How are you finding the 20" tub height for the combo shower use? If you had to do it over would you still purchase a 20" or go down to an 18" ADA height model?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 3:25PM
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This is a very old thread. Not sure if jacobse is around anymore.

In case it helps, we have the Kohler Greek tub which is 24" deep. We have a step in front and a grab bar on the side. I would not want to be stepping over the side on a regular basis. The tub is in the hall bath which is for my mostly-gone daughters and for guests. We also use it as a shower.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 5:20PM
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Thanks. Just thought I would take a gamble on the same thread instead of starting a whole new one. Will do that if necessary. There is a huge difference between 24" and 18"/20" so the original question is still unanswered.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 6:36PM
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Take a look at the Kohler Archer tub. My daughter just had that tub installed last week in their hall bath. She has it as a tub/shower combo.

According to the Kohler website these are some of the features of the Archer:
Comfort Depthî design offers a convenient/comfortable 19-inch step-over height while retaining the same interior depth as a standard 21-inch bath.
Molded lumbar support offers extra comfort while bathing.
Slotted overflow allows for deep soaking.

I have tested getting into and out of the tub and it is not a problem for me at 5'4" and 60 years old. Sorry, the bathroom isn't quite finished yet so no reports yet from my DD as far as real usage goes.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:28PM
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