Planning, Buying and Installing a Clawfoot Tub: Tips

A clawfoot tub is a timeless and elegant fixture that enhances the look of nearly any bathroom. However, the installation process for a freestanding tub can be fairly particular and the process must be well-planned.

Knowing how to advise customers as to the preparation and installation of a freestanding tub is essential to ensuring that it remains functionable and enjoyable for years to come. Here’s what you should know about installing a tub in bathrooms large and small.

Choosing a Location

Location is one of the most important aspects to think about when planning for a new clawfoot tub. Some freestanding tubs come with pre-drilled holes, making it easy to incorporate the tub into existing bathroom plumbing systems, Carrie Martin at Lang’s Kitchen and Bath writes. When a tub doesn’t come with a pre-drilled hole for installing a faucet, the plumber uses the line that comes from the floor or from a nearby wall.

When deciding where to put a tub, there are a few options that tend to work well time and time again. Tisha Leung at Architectural Digest explains that positioning a tub beneath a window or a light fixture adds drama and elegance. To create the look of a window when there isn’t one, a grid mirror might do the trick to enhance the statement piece.

There’s an example of an oversized grid mirror set before a bathtub on Home Stories A to Z. The placement adds the illusion of space and brings more light to the area and demonstrates how to make an existing location work for the homeowners needs in a creative way that requires minimal construction.

Small Bathrooms

A common misconception about freestanding tubs is that they won’t work in smaller bathrooms. However, clawfoot tubs actually don’t take up as much space as built-in tubs, which usually have four walls of surrounding construction that need to be considered. When Balducci Additions and Remodeling replaced a bulky, outdated jet bath with a freestanding slipper tub, they say the room felt more spacious. When seeking a more streamlined and elegant approach in a smaller bathroom, a clawfoot tub can be the best way to add functional beauty.

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Deciding on Styles

A clawfoot tub is makes a home feel instantly more luxurious. But if a homeowner isn’t looking for an all-luxury space, and is considering rustic or vintage elements, there are tub styles to suit these needs too. In fact, John Petrie, the owner of Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry, points out that homeowners can find tubs in all colors and materials, due to the increase in demand of this timeless bathroom piece.

When aiming to restore the original look and feel of an older home, as was the goal of two homeowners on the Sweeten blog, a clawfoot tub is one of the best ways to keep things feeling classic. If it’s an art-deco style your customers are hoping to achieve, the team at Vintage Tub & Bath recommends considering double-ended pedestal tubs.

Installation Logistics

Even after plumbing and installation details have been discussed, simple factors such as moving a clawfoot tub may go unnoticed. But as pointed out in the renovation blog Old Town Home, moving a clawfoot tub can be quite an endeavor. Hiring a moving company and creating a detailed plan for when and how to move the tub is the best way to get it to a bathroom all in one piece.

Home renovators should also consider what material the tub is made out of. Certain materials — specifically, ceramic, cast iron, brass and porcelain — tend to be heavier than others, according to the sustainable design and architecture studio Moss. Knowing the weight of the tub before installing it can ensure that the process is easier.

When it comes to planning the move, Alabama-based showroom Toulmin Cabinetry adds that it’s also important to get complete measurements of the space the homeowner would like to put the tub in. Doorways, hallways, and stairways should also be measured accurately to ensure that the tub will fit through the house. This ensures opening a roof or using a crane won’t be necessary, both of which can be extremely costly and potentially cause damage.

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Plumbing Considerations

Contrary to popular belief, installing a clawfoot or freestanding tub is relatively painless. Giuseppe Castrucci, vice president of Laurysen Kitchens, explains that freestanding tubs are actually easier to install than built-in tubs, as they don’t require changes to the wall tiling or drywall. Contractors and designers usually aren’t required in the installation of a clawfoot tub, but a plumber is necessary.

The best way to ensure the plumbing is installed correctly is to take the bathroom’s current plumbing into consideration. Drains can sometimes be hard to remove, which means that a friction drain removal tool might be required, Dwayne Eaton at Edmond Bathtub Refinishing writes.

Adding a Shower

While thinking about the location of a tub, keep in mind whether or not a shower option should be added. For guest bathrooms where the tub is the only place to bathe, Kirsten Hicks at Compact Appliance suggests combining the shower and tub to save on space.

For homeowners that want to add a showerhead to the standalone tub, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey suggests closing the tubs shut off valves to ensure that the water has stopped flowing. Then, he says that it’s safe to unscrew and remove the old faucet from the tub. Before installing, Trethewey says to add plumber’s putty around the threaded fittings on the backside of new faucet.

Images by: Dan Thomas, Shopify, Michal Jarmoluk