Updated: Aug 20, 2018
There are important considerations when choosing a freestanding bath. While they may have a similar appearance there can be significant manufacturing differences that may not always be reflected in the price.
The first thing to consider is whether a freestanding bathtub is really right for your space. My pet hate in bathroom design is when I see a freestanding bath with tapered edges pushed into a corner (like in the image to the right)- or worse still - with a shower over the top! Consider how you are going to clean around the bathtub, can you get a vacuum cleaner or mop right the way around to sufficiently clean the floor and walls? If you cannot achieve this then you should consider a back to wall freestanding bath which is tiled in along the back edge while shrouded at the front and sides so still giving the look of a freestanding bath. If you still have an area that is hard to clean on one side then you should opt for a traditional built in or island bathtub.
Additionally, if you are renovating and want to replace an existing tub, you should consider the location of the existing waste pipe in comparison to your new tub. Freestanding bath tubs usually require the bath outlet to be placed directly over the waste pipe in the floor, this is because they have little room beneath the tub to run piping. It can be an expensive oversight if you need to reconfigure your plumbing.
You should also consider the additional cost of special tapware to suit a freestanding bath. Freestanding bath mixers are quite commonplace nowadays but again there are planning considerations and a plethora of quality issues you should be aware of - that's for another post though!
If you have decided you have the space and budget for a freestanding bath, your next consideration is the material. These days you can get steel, concrete, stone, acrylic, solid surface and even timber freestanding bathtubs. For each material there are different things to keep in mind before making your choice. We'll start with acrylic because these are the most common and often where most people fall into the 'too good to be true' pricing trap.
Acrylic freestanding baths are usually at the bottom of the pricing ladder because they are lightweight and easy to manufacture and transport. Acrylic freestanding baths are usually manufactured by vacuum forming two separate pieces, the outer shroud and the inner 'soaker' piece. On the cheaper models you can clearly see the join between the outer shroud and the inner 'bath'. These joints are quite weak and can easily come apart during transportation or installation. I would avoid the two piece designs altogether - it's just not worth it. Where the join is not visible, they have heated the acrylic to weld the separate components together. These versions are much stronger, however care should still be taken as the material around the joint can be thinner than in other areas.
Solid Surface freestanding baths are manufactured from a composition of acrylic, epoxy, polyester and/or mineral resins. Solid Surface baths are cast in a mold and then sanded to achieve a smooth finish. These baths retain heat well as the walls are thick in comparison to steel or acrylic. Due to the high acrylic content Solid Surface baths are still relatively light weight and so no additional engineering is usually required however it is always best to check the weight first. Be wary of seemingly cheap solid surface baths, check the brands and their ethical and quality standards and ask questions of the retailer, as manufacturing solid surface material without proper safety procedures and equipment to protect workers is not ethical practice, unfortunately though it happens more often than you would think!
Steel baths, like acrylic, are often vacuum formed from a single sheet of steel but can be made in two pieces and welded together. Steel baths are coated in a ceramic coating which can chip and require repairing, repair kits can be purchased relatively inexpensively if the damage is not too severe. Claw foot steel baths are a lovely pre-loved purchase and are the most sustainable option. They are fairly easy to restore if you can manage the effort.
Timber baths are currently a big trend and they can be a lovely statement piece for your bathroom design. They are at the top end of the price range due to their being handcrafted and requiring a high level of craftsmanship. If you are choosing a timber bath ensure the bath is constructed from a timber with a high oil content like Teak, or to a standard that is approved for boat building. Keep in mind that these baths will likely require regular maintenance and oiling but they are well worth the effort and are a great sustainable choice if using reclaimed or FSC certified wood. The pictured bath is from the range of beautiful Australian Made timber baths by Wood and Water.
Stone baths - or 'Stone' baths - are most often constructed from a solid surface material with 60% or more mineral content as opposed to acrylic. As with solid surface, these baths are durable and retain heat well, they are also visually stunning. Natural stone baths should be treated with caution - ensure the retailer knows what they are doing. A lot of stone is porous and so regular sealing will be required. In the case of soft stone, like marble or limestone, you will have to avoid scrubbing as well as it will scratch. In addition, stone baths are very heavy. When considering the weight of the bath, you need to take into consideration it's weight when full of water - that's normally upwards of 70 Litres! your floor (and flooring material) needs to be able to sustain this weight. If you have your heart set on a stone bath you will need to advise your builder or architect during the planning stage so that additional engineering can be put in place to hold the bath. If your bathroom is not on the ground floor your chances of having a stone bath approved are greatly reduced!
Concrete bath tubs often require in-situ construction and again can require additional engineering to the sub floor. They can be a good eco-friendly option and can either be finished with polishing or tiled in recycled tiles. In order to build these in-situ you may require additional space for form work so your builder will need to be advised early on in the project.
I hope this will help when considering your new bathroom design. Of course, if you need any further help please drop us an email. We would love to hear from you!