It is easy to believe that choosing a tub for a small bathroom remodel will be a simple task. Many people believe the choices in tubs that fit into small bathrooms well are very limited. If you are planning a small bathroom remodel, you might be very pleasantly surprised to learn that there are actually a number of excellent choices available to you.
Choosing a tub for a small bathroom remodel can actually offer almost all of the features you expect to find in large bathrooms. Most of us are accustomed to seeing large bathrooms in new homes, remodels and photos of fixtures and other remodeling materials. Once accustomed to those pictures, it can be difficult to believe you can still have all of the features you want in a tub and still have room to turn around in a small bathroom.
Before you decide to just go with the easiest or the least expensive options for your small bathroom, it is important to be sure you have considered all of your options and all of the available styles, types of installation and materials to make even a small bathroom big on both function and attractiveness.
There are three primary types of tub installation:

  • Alcove or recessed installation positions the tub against walls on three sides.
  • Drop-in installation drops a tub into a platform or a finished surround.
  • Freestanding installation simply places a tub with a pedestal, feet or legs on the floor.

Drop-in installation might require more space than you can spare in a small bathroom.
There are many materials that are used for tubs:

  • Porcelain or enamel over cast iron is familiar to most people. It is almost immune to any kind of damage. But it is heavy. This is why many homeowners choose other options.
  • Porcelain or enamel over steel is much lighter, but it can chip and rust.
  • Fiberglass is a very popular option. It is both low cost and very lightweight. Fiberglass will, however, show wear and scratches. They can be made in most any shape.
  • High-quality acrylics are increasingly popular because they are lightweight and they are less likely to show wear than fiberglass. These can also be molded to fit a space.
  • Some of the more expensive and less common options include stainless steel (think about the water spots in your sink), copper (think cost), concrete (think weight), stone (weight) and teak (cost).

The very accessible tub models are most commonly made of fiberglass or acrylic. They are smaller and deeper. The materials used by companies that promise a tub remodel in a day are most often acrylics. Despite the fact that the accessible models are often promoted for older people, they can be an excellent choice in a small bathroom because they take very little floor space and they are equipped with many of the features people want.

The most frequently recommended for small bathrooms are tub/shower combinations in a five-foot alcove installation or a corner model, which may or may not include a shower. So, how do you know what to choose? Here are some things to consider:

  • Cost: A one-piece tub/shower combination can cost as little as $300; a large tub with lots of spa features can cost several thousand. Rule of thumb: buy the best you can afford of whatever style you choose.
  • Size: Size is obviously important in a small bathroom. Small bathrooms are very often no more than five feet or five-and- a-half feet wide. Large whirlpool tubs can be as large as some small bathrooms (up to seven feet long and five feet wide). The other thing to consider related to the size of the tub is how to get it through the doors and into the bathroom.
  • Weight: The weight of the tub can be a serious issue with a remodel. If the builder installed lightweight materials, and you plan to replace them with heavy materials, you might need to stop and build some structural reinforcements of walls and floors to support the extra weight and direct it into the foundation. In addition to the weight of the tub, you must also account for the weight of the water that will fill the tub.
  • Most important considerations: Is it comfortable? This is especially important if you are considering a whirlpool or a soaking tub. Can everyone get in and out of it easily and safely? Think about ages of family members as well as their agility. Stepping over the side of a tub can be difficult for people of all ages. Keep in mind, as well, that a fall getting out of a tub in a small bathroom presents greater danger of hitting your head on something.
  • Features: Many of the fancy features you see in large, expensive bathroom designs can also be found in small bathrooms. You can choose an extra-deep tub for soaking. You can choose the “overflowing” tub design for its appearance. You can choose a spa or whirlpool tub. You can even add chromotherapy options (lighting the water with soothing colors). You can install a television, blue-tooth, CD or DVD player that will be visible from the tub. You can also add an “in-line” heater to keep the water warm longer.
  • Eco-friendly options: You can save water by installing low-flow faucets and tubs that re-circulate and re-heat water (put an end to emptying and re-filling the tub). You can install a separate solar-powered water heater for your tub. You can collect rainwater (softer than tap water and easier on the skin) for your tub. You can also run the electricity from a small solar-powered cell.

You can also add all of the other features you wish to your small bathroom to make it look bigger, to conserve energy and water, and to make even your small bathroom the personal spa experience of your dreams. You might even want to surround the tub with fogless mirrors to create the feeling of space in the room without the need to constantly clear the mirrors. Choosing a tub for a small bathroom remodel actually offers many choices.