Some tubs are all function (cleaning yourself, the kids, the dog -- you name it), while others focus on indulgence. Let the primary use dictate your selection as you determine what works best for your household.
Standard: This affordable, jack-of-all-trades built-in basic is often found in an alcove installation and doubles as a tub-shower combo; it can be purchased at your local home improvement center.
Whirlpool & Air Tubs: Think of it as an on-demand therapeutic massage in your home. A whirlpool forces water through strategically placed jets, and an air tub pushes a soothing, steady stream of air into the water. With the extra plumbing required, whirlpools tend to be more expensive than air tubs. Visit a showroom or chat with your designer to determine which option best fits your preference and space.
Soaking: Extra-deep dimensions allow the bather's body to be completely submerged. It can be either built-in or freestanding.
Walk In: Climbing in and out of a slippery tub can be dangerous, but a walk-in tub is great for those with mobility concerns.
A new tub can transform a once purely functional space into a stunning focal point. If you're starting from scratch on a brand-new bath, select an installation method that works best with the space you have to showcase your new soaking spot.
Commonly referred to as a recessed tub, this installation is used for rectangular tubs adjacent to three walls. Need to replace your standard tub? Take note of the drain location as you face the accessible side -- this is how you determine if you need a left-hand or right-hand installation to match up with existing plumbing.
Tubs made for platform installation drop into a deck structure usually built into its own enclosure, often adjacent to the shower. This method works well with whirlpools and air baths, since space below the deck can house and hide pumps, plumbing, and hardware, which remain accessible with a removable panel.
The difference between a platform tub and an undermount tub is mostly a matter of aesthetics. An undermount's rim is covered with a deck top -- usually stone or tile that coordinates with surrounding materials -- and it gets its support from underneath, rather than hanging from the deck as a platform does.
As the name implies, this tub stands on its own on the bathroom floor without additional support, creating a stunning visual impact and focal point. (Who doesn't love a regal claw-foot tub?) Such an installation must be placed close to plumbing lines, so ask your designer if this option could work in your space.
Different tub materials offer different perks at different price points. Not all tubs come in all materials, however.
Acrylic: This plastic material has a high-gloss look similar to enameled cast iron but weighs much less. Its easy-to-form nature makes it a perfect choice for whirlpools and air tubs. Repairs are much easier than those that must be made to a porcelain surface.
Fiberglass Gelcoat: Also referred to as fiberglass-reinforced plastic, or FRP, the gelcoat creates a glossy, easy-to-clean surface. It's not as expensive as acrylic, but it's also not as durable and can crack if something hits it hard enough.
Composite: This engineered material coated in enamel offers the heat retention of a cast-iron tub at a third of the weight, which makes it a top contender for second-story bathrooms.
Cultured Marble: Comparable to quartz countertops, this solid-surface material is produced from crushed marble set in resin and then covered with a clear gelcoat. Scratches can be buffed out of this material, but cracks can't be repaired.
Porcelain on Steel: Get the look and heat retention of cast iron at a lighter weight with a porcelain-on-steel tub. Like its heavier counterpart, it's susceptible to chipping and rusting.
Cast Iron: A tub fashioned from cast iron is one of the most durable and long-lasting fixtures in the home. When its hefty weight is combined with water, structural reinforcement may be necessary.