No showrooms for bathtubs and can't decide.

lachaseApril 21, 2012

We are at the point to where we HAVE to make a decision about a bathtub for our small bathroom remodeling project. I thought I was certain, soaking tub, but now I am waffling and wondering if I would be happier with an air tub or a whirlpool. I have researched and read everything I can get my hands on (which has kind of made me more confused), but what frustrates me most is that I can't seem to find very many models of bathtubs actually on view anywhere. It is annoying that anyone would have to buy a bathtub sight unseen, particularly when it isn't going to be an inexpensive purchase. I really don't know how they can get by with not having all of their tubs in showrooms somewhere. Do others share my frustrations? I am going to have to go with a 30X60 model or perhaps 32X60. It is a small room with a window too close to the tub area. Can anyone praise or steer me away from tubs? I am considering American Standard Evolution, but I'm afraid of Americast finish and possible chipping. I've thought of Kohler's tea for two, but it is very expensive and the cast iron is really going to be heavy to move into place. I've thought about Cambridge, Am. S., but again, not sure of the Americast finish holding up. I wonder about Acrylic. I like Aquatic Serenity 4, but then read about someone having lots of trouble with the company. Has anyone actually seen any of these tubs in a showroom anywhere? I haven't in my area, at least. I read a quote that said that whirlpools and air tubs end up being more trouble than they are worth. Do those of you who have them agree, or are they pretty reliably built? Thanks!

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I hear ya-- I ordered 2 kohler tubs sight unseen and returned them both (big head ache on that one!!). I am also looking for 2 tubs for a renovation of both bathrooms, and my head is spinning from all the choices, yet inability to see them in person.

I have the same trepidation with Americast-- that the finish doesn't hold up, is hard to clean, etc.

I also know that most pple do NOT use their whirlpool/air tubs anywhere near as much as they think. I say go with a basic soaker that doesn't require a ton of water per bath, so you're more likely to use it. You might want to look into the Kohler Archer-- Its 60x32x19 deep, with a higher slotted overflow so you can fill it pretty high if you want, and its acrylic. My parents built a new house and put in 3 Maxx/Pearl acrylic tubs, and the material (acrylic) is really nice. Nothing at all like cheapy fiberglass.

Hope this info was helpful, good luck!!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:16PM
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I was deciding between the Kohler Archer (60x32x18), Hydrosystems Lacey (60x36x20 (comes in a variety of widths, including narrower)), an MTI tub similar to the Hydrosystems (Andrea, I think), and the Mirabelle Edenton (60x30x20). I ended up going with the Mirabelle because it was the largest interior dimensions of all of the tubs. I drove to three different places (two Fergusons and one other showroom) to sit in them each. The Mirabelle ($1850 with drain) was slightly more expensive than the Kohler ($1450 with drain), but the acrylic didn't feel as cheap to me. The Hydrosystems was the most comfortable to me in terms of the backrest, but it was shorter (I'm 5'11") than the Kohler and Mirabelle and expensive ($2900). Although the Kohler is 32" wide and the Edenton I bought is only 30" wide, the Edenton feels (and is) larger inside because there's no armrests eating up space. You really need to sit in each. The other benefit to the Mirabelle (or Hydrosystems or MTI) is if it's an alcove installation, the Kohler skirt is unattractive. So long as you can fit an access panel behind one of the walls, the Mirabelle (and Hydrosystems and MTI) offers a modern skirt (and Hydrosystems and MTI even provide you with the option of adding the skirt and tile flanges on other sides). The Kohler is a lower tub but the drain allows you to fill it more, but that feature doesn't seem that important if you can fit a 20" high tub like the Mirabelle.

(Mirabelle is only sold at Ferguson, by the way, so you get some of the features of the more expensive tubs at a lower price point because it's their own brand.)

I posted pictures of my remodel if you want to see the tub I used.

If I had bought the Hydrosystems, I would have had the company put a skirt on two sides, a tile flange on two sides, and installed the pump remotely in the linen closet (most air baths allow you the option to install the pump several feet away, and sometimes as far as 15 feet, which at least to some extent eliminates the need for an access panel). That customization is included within the price I quoted above ($2900). The tub may be cheaper in an alcove application.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:32AM
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FWIW, the Evolution line is acrylic, not americast.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:45AM
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We stressed over the same decision during our recent remodel. It is best if you can first see (and sit in) what you're buying. Check to see if you can find a plumbing supply store in your area. You may need to set up an account with a plumber to go there. Check with a local plumber to see who he uses. A knowledgeable salesperson will help you make the right decision.

We decided on the Bain Ultra air tub, and are very happy with it. I wasn't sure we would use it enough to justify the extra cost, but we are actually using it a lot more than we thought we would -- and it really didn't cost much more than the soaking tub I was looking at. What I love about the air tub is you don't have to fill it up very far for the jets to work. Its very relaxing, and feels great on the muscles after a workout or a day of yard work. Our two college age kids even like to use it when they come home for a weekend.

I called Bain Ultra's customer service number and found their salespeople very helpful in choosing the model right for us (based on size, features, and price).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 7:56AM
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We've been looking for months now and sitting in lots to try them out. The MTI Andrea is very comfortable and they now offer that tub with a slim-line drain and toe-tap, which means it's a slot at top, rather than a big circle and you can fill it higher. We finally found a showroom that had one and it was very comfortable. It's cheapest to get that one at online though and they offer free shipping and no taxes. We sat in the Mirabella as well and decided on getting that one for our hall bathroom where we don't need a drop in (we are doing two bathrooms at the same time). The front of that one is beautiful if you aren't doing a drop in. It looks so similar to the Andrea tub by MTI that we are now trying to decide whether to get the Andrea 7 (60 x 31.5" tub that's a deep soaker) or a Mirabella. The Mirabella is cheaper and it's just under 60 inches. We have a space that is just under 60 inches between the wall and we didn't want so much of the rim under the wall after it was dropped in. Seeing both, I now think the Mirabella is a better deal than the Andrea, but we are going back to Ferguson to get help in comparing both of them. We were just going to go with the soaker since we almost never used the jets in the tubs we've had before and we currently have a hot tub so we aren't planning on using the tub much anyway. With that all said, I think the Mirabella and Andrea are very similar and both are comfortable. MTI Andrea does come as a free standing model. In regards to whirlpool or not...If we weren't going to be selling our house in 4 years, I wouldn't even both thinking about whirlpool or air tub because I personally don't think they are worth the money. But they might help with resale value. If you can't do a drop in, I think the Mirabella is a great choice. It's really an eye catcher and is comfortable.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 6:22PM
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Storm, I see you found the Andrea comfortable, but I was just looking at it online and it doesn't look like it has any internal armrests. The reason I bring that up is that with the deeper tubs, sometimes I feel like I have to put my arms up on the tub deck, which is too high to be comfortable. I don't know if this is just a showroom thing or not. My current tub has armrests and I like having them. Just wondered if that was a criterion for you (or anyone else who wants to chime in).

I'm looking at the tubzlady site, but wishing the selection criteria worked like they do on AJ Madison where it is easy to keep narrowing features until you can see what's available that meet your criteria. So if anyone knows any other site that does that, let me know! I can only seem to use one criterion at a time on tubzlady, not multiples.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We went with Bain ultra and are very happy. Air jet tub can always be used as a soaker but not vice versa. Air jets are quieter than whirlpool, can be used w bubble bath and has a dryer built in so jets stay clean. Whirlpool can get gross slime coming out of the jets.

We use ours infrequently, but we aren't big tub users anyway. When we do use it though, it's an absolute pleasure, especially with the herbal bubble baths they provide. Ours has arm rests, is a 60", and is reasonably narrow so it doesn't take a ton of hot water to use.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 9:53PM
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I don't have that much to say other than that I sympathize with your frustrations. Even the high end stores only have perhaps a dozen tubs on display, and they are usually the really large whirlpool tubs. I am also in the process of buying a tub for a small bathroom, and it was been frustrating to say the least. I went to a nicer plumbing store yesterday looking for cast iron, and the saleslady said they could order it but that that don't display them on account of lack of interest.

This surprised me. I thought cast iron was the gold standard of tubs? One theory I have is that often people don't put them in because their bath is on the second floor and many newer homes probably can't sustain the weight.

And of course, the big box stores have maybe 5-10 tubs on display, but they are way above your head, so you have no way of actually touching them or getting into them.

In our case, the decision will probably be made for us, since we are 95% sure we want cast iron. We can't afford to spend $1,000 or more on a tub, and it appears Kohler has the corner of the lower end cast iron market. So, Kohler Villager it is.

But I also have reservations about Americast, although I find myself intrigued by it. It looks and feels the most like cast iron without the extra cost and weight. I'm just not sure I'm willing to take a gamble on it.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 2:22PM
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Re: armrests -

Advantage: they're comfortable to rest your arms on (if they're well-shaped and -positioned) and sometimes can aid with sitting up.

Disadvantage: they detract from the usable width of the tub, which may require a wider tub that takes more floor space.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 8:28AM
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I am moving towards taking on our main bathroom for a reno. Used an online supplier to get the marble for a smaller bathroom and that worked out well. Just wondering if anyone knows of a good online supplier of claw bathtubs?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:36AM
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