Tubs for Small Spaces
When a standard 5-ft. tub won't fit the bathroom, consider one of these alternatives.
Synopsis: A standard bathtub is 5 ft. long, but some bathrooms can’t accommodate a tub of that size. As a result, some manufacturers offer tubs designed to fit into smaller spaces. In this article, longtime Fine Homebuilding contributor Jefferson Kolle looks at four categories of small tubs: walk-in tubs, which are equipped with watertight, in-swinging hinged doors; above-floor-drain tubs, which allow installation above the floor joists; corner tubs, which are available as either freestanding or drop-in units; and soaking tubs, extra deep units that can be built into a tiled surround or mounted freestanding on the floor.
A standard bathtub is 60 in. long and 30 in. to 32 in. wide. There’s no such thing as a standard bathroom, though, especially because people are tucking them into smaller spaces in their homes.
To help outfit these compact spaces, several manufacturers make standard-shape tubs in small sizes. For instance, American Standard’s Huron is available in a 4-ft.-long model ($325), and Vintagetub.com sells a 4-ft.-long claw-foot tub with a 29-gal. capacity ($900 to $1200). Before you envision a lanky movie cowboy shivering uncomfortably in a galvanized basin, though, know that there are small tubs that still hold a lot of water. A corner, safety, or soaking tub could be just what you need.
Before you buy a small tub, it’s a good idea to study all the literature. Most tubs are sold without fixtures, which can get quite pricey, and drains. For something as large as a tub, even a small one, shipping can be expensive — and don’t forget return shipping if you make a mistake. Talk to your plumber about any reservations either of you might have; know that some soaking tubs may not have built-in overflow drains. If you’re going to do your own installation, plan on a few trips to the plumbing-supply store.
Small tubs for renovations
Adding a small tub to an existing bathroom or turning a small room in your house into a bathroom can present a set of problems beyond just finding the floor space. Or maybe your home already has a small bath that needs updating.
Tub drain-line traps typically hang in the bay between floor joists. This can present problems in existing homes, especially older ones that might have joists less than 8 in. deep. In some cases, you may not be able to access a finished ceiling below where you want to install a tub, or there could be a beam or other structural member that can’t be cut.
Manufacturers have the perfect workaround for cases such as these. Above-floor-drain (AFD) — sometimes known as above-floor rough-in (AFR) — tubs are built on a pedestal so that drainpipes can run under the tub but above the floor joists. This means that you won’t have to cut into the existing floor to plumb a drain. From outside the tub, AFD models appear to be deep, but if you look into the tub basin, you’ll see otherwise.
American Standard’s Princeton AFR tub is 60 in. by 30 in. with an exterior height of 17 1⁄2 in. However, the bathing depth is only 13 1⁄4 in. Kohler’s Dynametric AFR tub is 60 in. by 32 in. with a 16 1⁄4-in. height. The bathing depth is 13 in., and the tub holds 35 gal.
For more photos, drawings, and details, click the View PDF button below: