The typical bathroom is already so starved for space that it can be like a jigsaw puzzle trying to comfortably fit everything in. Large pieces such as the toilet, shelving, and bathroom vanity crowd into this tiny area, and every square inch is at a premium. And the one element that takes up the most space is the bathtub or bathtub/shower combination.
A standard-sized bathtub displaces over 13 square feet of floor space; a corner shower stall unit, while it occupies about 30 percent less room, still takes up about 9 square feet. Since small full bathrooms can be as small as 36 to 40 square feet, positioning the bathtub is no easy feat.
Because bathrooms tend to be small spaces with many elements, space planning is of utmost importance. Homeowners and designers working out bathroom plans often find themselves nudging items by inches rather than by feet in order to get things just right. Knowing standard bathtub sizes is the first step toward smart, effective bathroom planning.
As you plan the location for your tub, remember that designers recommend the free space in front of the tub should be a minimum of 60 inches long and 30 inches wide, to allow users to safely enter and exit the tub. In practice, this may not be also possible, but even in small, cramped bathrooms, the toilet or vanity cabinet should be spaced at least 12 inches away from the edge of the tub, and the rest of the tub should have open floor space at least 24 inches wide.
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In the context of a bathroom, an alcove is defined as a space bounded by three walls, and this is often the most logical way position the bathtub within the room. In narrow bathrooms, a typical configuration is to situate the tub alcove so that the two long walls of the room form the ends of the alcove and the back wall forms the enclosure's side. In other words, the room's walls naturally form the alcove. This generally works well in a small 6 x 6 or 7 x 7 bathroom that's considered the minimum size for accommodating a full bathroom.
However, in larger bathrooms, the walls are often too far apart to form a natural alcove. In this kind of bathroom, an extra partition wall might be constructed to isolate the tub alcove from small privacy alcove for the toilet. Larger bathrooms have many more options for positioning the tub within the space.
Bathtubs designed for alcoves generally have a finished front panel, but the ends and back side are open, since these sides will be covered by the walls of the alcove. Alcove bathtubs range in size from 4 1/2 to 6 feet long, and 30 to 36 inches wide, which lets you choose a tub appropriate for your space.
Small Alcove Bathtubs
Very small bathtubs are not common but they are slowly gaining acceptance, largely because of the popularity of the tiny house movement. If you have a very small bathroom, your best bet is to forego the tub altogether and install a shower instead. But if you don't love the idea of giving up a spa-like bath in your tiny bathroom, this size is your best option:
- Length: 54 inches
- Width: 30 inches
- Height: 15 inches
Moderately Sized Bathtubs
Millions of bathrooms are outfitted with this standard-sized bathtub, which fits the natural alcove size in most bathrooms. In most remodeling projects, this will be the type alcove tub you install, since other options would require build-out to change the physical size of the bathroom itself.
- Length: 60 inches
- Width: 32 inches
- Height: 18 inches
This popular segment of the alcove tub market adds an extra foot to the length and several inches to the width of a standard alcove tub. This supersizing of the tub will accommodate larger sized bathers or two people. Or it is the perfect bathtub for people who simply want more space to splash about.
This long bathtub will not fit in most natural alcove spaces, but it can be a good option for new construction projects or for remodels that involve moving walls for added space.
- Length: 72 inches
- Width: 36 inches
- Height: 20 inches
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Another popular style of bathtub is the drop-in tub, which is designed to fit into a constructed deck with the top and exposed sides finished off with tile or another material. These tubs have no factory-finished sides at all; they simply drop into a cutout in the deck, much the way a drop-in sink fits into a vanity countertop. This is a style often used for luxury whirlpool tubs or large two-person tubs.
In medium-sized bathrooms, the deck for a drop-in tub often is sometimes fitted into an alcove, with the deck exposed only on one side. But in larger bathrooms, the tub deck can fit into a room corner and left exposed on two sides. In very, very large bathrooms, such tubs can even be fitted into pedestal decks that are exposed on all sides.
Drop-in bathtubs are usually best suited for larger spaces, since the constructed deck takes up a considerable amount of extra space in the room. It's standard practice to construct the deck for a drop-in tub so there is at least 6 inches of flat deck space around all sides of the tub. This means the deck structure needs to be at least 1 foot longer and wider than the tub itself.
- Length: 45 to 72 inches
- Width: 30 to 32 inches
- Height:14 to 20 inches
But again, remember that during planning you'll need to add a full foot to both the length and width to accommodate the constructed deck that surrounds the bathtub.
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Oval bathtubs come in either drop-in or free-standing models. Even though oval tubs appear to be more generously sized in all directions, in reality, they are only wider, not longer. And garden tubs are taller soaking tubs.
Comparing a standard-size oval bathtub with a similarly sized alcove tub (60 inches), the oval proves to be up to 6 inches wider. For the drop-in variety of oval tubs, this means that you must build a wider apron for the tub to rest in, which you must plan for as you design the bathroom layout.
- Length: 60 inches
- Width: 41 inches
- Height: 24 inches
Oval bathtubs may be an impractical choice for small bathrooms, and fitting one in call be tricky even in a medium-sized room. They can be quite effective in larger bathrooms, or medium-sized bathrooms with a long configuration, in which the extra width of the tub is not a problem.
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Even though whirlpool bathtubs might visually appear to be larger than normal, in many cases these tubs come in standard alcove-ready sizes, since so many standard-sized tubs are now being outfitted with jetted, whirlpool mechanisms. Whirlpool tubs also come in styles designed for drop-in installation.
The thin acrylic shell provides ample interior space for hiding the tubes for the jets and the pump unit. Six-foot rectangular sizes are available, as well as high-sided whirlpool walk-in tubs.
- Length: 60 inches
- Width: 32 inches to 36 inches
- Height: 18 inches to 23 1/4 inches
A whirlpool tub can be a viable option in almost any medium- to large-sized bathroom that can accommodate a standard alcove tub or drop-in tub.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Corner bathtubs are a great option for a primary bathroom, especially when you love nothing more than lounging in a tub with a good book or watching a wall-mounted television. Corner bathtubs are more about luxury, fun, and treating yourself well than about getting clean.
For placement, it helps to think of corner bathtubs as square-shaped, not triangular, since they dominate a hefty footprint in the bathroom. Essentially, a corner tub is a square with one corner snipped off. A corner tub can be configured in several ways. Some tubs are indeed shaped with a triangular shell, but it is also possible to use a drop-in style tub that is fit into a triangular-shaped deck built into a corner of the room.
Many standard-sized corner bathtubs can fit in alcoves, but they will take up a good amount of space. These are tubs best suited for rather large bathrooms.
- Length: 60 inches
- Width: 60 inches
- Height: 22 inches
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In addition to the standard-type bathtub that is set into an alcove or a drop-in style that is mounted into a constructed deck, there are also many freestanding bathtubs available, ranging from reproductions of the old-style clawfoot bathtubs to ultramodern pedestal tubs.
With a freestanding tub, it's accepted practice to provide an extra 3 inches of space around the ends of the tub and 4 inches between the side of the tub and the wall. So if you want to fit this tub into a natural alcove space, it will need to be about 6 inches shorter than the alcove's width (3 inches at both the head and foot of the tub). In other words, when planning the tub's location in the room, use a footprint size that is 6 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the tub's actual dimensions.
The standard size for a freestanding tub is:
- Length: 55 to 72 inches (about 4 1/2 to 6 feet)
- Width: 27 to 32 inches
- Height: 15 to 20 inches
However, remember that the tub's style may change the space required in the bathroom. And remember that the tub will require extra clearance around the ends and sides of the tub. These are bathtubs that are best suited to large bathrooms, or to medium-sized bathrooms with a shape that accommodates such a tub.