How to Choose a Whirlpool or Air Bathtub

How to Buy a Whirlpool Tub

Three Parts:

Whirlpool tubs can provide a relaxing, spa-like experience right at home. Many homeowners are upgrading to these jetted tubs as they embark on bathroom renovations. But if you're thinking of buying one, you have many factors to consider, such as space requirements, design options, and the complex installation process.


Assessing Your Space

  1. Look for a space to store the tub’s pump and wiring.Whirlpool tubs require extensive electrical wiring and a pump, which need to be within a few feet of the tub. If you have a closet or cabinet adjacent to the tub, it can be stored there. If not, you’ll need to get an alcove tub with an apron or a drop-in tub that’s built into a deck. These styles will hide the electrical equipment.
    • Pump size will depend upon how many jets your tub has, but you may need up to 2 square feet (.6 square meters) of storage space for the pump.
    • If you have an adjacent space to store the pump, you can opt for a freestanding tub like a claw-foot tub.
  2. Measure the space where the tub will go.Figure out the length, width, and depth of the space you’d like the tub to fill. And unless you’re building a brand new bathroom, get the measurements of the bathroom doorway to be sure your new tub will fit through it.
    • A standard tub is about 30 to 32 inches (76 to 81 cm) wide, 60 inches (152 cm) long, and 14 to 20 inches (35 to 50 cm) deep.
    • Most tubs should fit through a standard 32-inch (81-cm) bathroom door. But some older homes have narrower doors, so measure to be sure.
    • If you’re interested in a drop-in tub, keep in mind that the deck it drops into will take up a few extra inches of bathroom space all the way around the tub.
  3. Note where the current tub’s drain is.Unless you’re doing extensive renovations, your new tub’s drain will need to be in the same location as the old one. Note whether the drain is oriented left, right, or center, and look for a new tub that will match it.
  4. Determine your water heater’s capacity.This is usually printed somewhere on the side of your water heater. Whirlpool tubs require a lot of hot water, so if you have a particularly small unit, you may need to upgrade to a larger one. Aim for your water heater to have at least ⅔ the capacity of any tub you buy.
    • For example, a 75-gallon (284-liter) tub should have a 50-gallon (189-liter) water heater.
    • The smallest water heater you should have is between 30 and 40 gallons (113 and 151 liters). If budget's not an issue and you have a large family, you can get a 100-gallon (378-liter) water heater.

Choosing Tub Features

  1. Choose between water jets or air jets.Water-jet whirlpool tubs force water through jets, giving more pressure and a forceful massage. In air-jet whirlpool tubs, air is forced through tiny holes for a lighter massage. A combination whirlpool tub uses both, but will be more expensive and may use more energy.
    • One drawback of water-jet and combination tubs is that you can’t use bath salts or oils, as these will damage the pumping mechanism.
    • Another water-jet and combination tub drawback is that some water stays in the jets, and mold can develop if they’re not regularly cleaned out.
  2. Decide which material suits your needs.Acrylic tubs are the most popular, but fiberglass is the lightest and cheapest material. Cast iron is durable and retains heat well, but it’s incredibly heavy. You’ll need to install additional floor support if you opt for cast iron.
    • A cast-iron tub can cost well over 00, but an acrylic tub will typically be less than 00.
  3. Look for special features like chromotherapy.Some whirlpool tubs have colored lights built into the sides that offer light therapy to help balance your energy while you bathe. Others have self-cleaning jets that blow air out after every use to dry the lines and prevent mold.
  4. Choose a design that meets your family’s needs.If you have elderly family members or anyone with mobility issues in your house, get a walk-in tub. There are tubs with doors and grab bars to make getting in and out easier. If you have small children, think about getting a shallower tub with sides that are easier to climb over.

Purchasing Your Tub

  1. Create a budget.Make a budget that outlines how much you can spend on the tub, the fixtures, and the installation. Compare costs of tubs with and without special features. For example, a white tub offered at 50 could increase to 00 if you want it in beige. Decide how important each feature is to you so you can prioritize.
    • Do some research to see if a tub is offered at a better price from a different seller. Just be aware that a lower price might mean less customer service.
  2. Visit a showroom.Whether you want to buy from a small, local dealer or a large home supply store, you need to be able to examine a variety of tubs before buying one. Something may look good online, but it could be uncomfortable once you climb inside.
  3. Sit in several tubs.Make sure the size and shape of the tub and the placement of controls, armrests, and jets are comfortable. If you and your significant other plan to both use the tub at the same time, you should both climb inside to make sure it’s roomy enough.
  4. Check reviews online.Check out Consumer Reports and other rating sites to be sure there aren’t any common complaints about the tub you like. Also check for complaints against the manufacturer and dealer, especially if they are new or unfamiliar to you.
  5. Consult contractors.There’s a lot that goes into installing a whirlpool tub, including complex electrical work. You may need to have an additional fuse installed or make plumbing modifications. Call an electrician or a general contractor and give them the specifications for the tub that interests you. They’ll let you know if any work needs to be done before installation.
    • Also ask your contractor to build a deck if you'll be purchasing a drop-in tub.
  6. Purchase a faucet and other hardware.Once you've selected your tub, then you can purchase a faucet and accessories like a handheld sprayer. Different types of tubs require different types of hardware, so be sure that you purchase a free-standing tub filler if you've chosen a free-standing tub.
  7. Schedule installation services.Typically, the business you buy the tub from will offer installation services for an additional fee. Schedule this at the time of purchase, or just wait and hire your own plumber or general contractor to do the job.

Video: Installing a Whirlpool Tub

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