Curtains, Hooks and Rods: How to Outfit Your Clawfoot Tub With a Shower

Clawfoot tubs are an elegant and timeless addition to any bathroom, but let’s face it: Sometimes you need to shower. When you don’t have a shower in another bathroom (or you’d simply like to expand the versatility of your clawfoot tub), what should you do?

Converting the bathtub to a tub and shower combination is the perfect solution. From finding the right size shower curtain to choosing the proper hardware, here’s how to add a shower to your clawfoot tub.

Clawfoot Tub Shower Hardware

Outfitting your clawfoot bathtub with shower capabilities can make your bathroom more user-friendly with minimal work.

“Rather than install a brand new shower, a capable DIYer can add a shower to a freestanding or claw-foot tub,” says Improvenet writer Jacob Hurwith. Whether you’re ready to DIY your own tub or you’re having someone revamp your tub for you, there are a few things to keep in mind for your new bathtub setup.

The first accessory on your agenda? Hardware. Choosing the right shower rod, for example, can make all the difference in your bathroom remodel. Where the shower rod is placed affects where the shower curtain liner falls in and around the tub. The shower curtain can impact the bathing experience (too-short liners cause leakage, for example), so it’s important to get the height right.

Freestanding tubs also require a different style of shower rod. While oval rings are the most common option, they aren’t the only choice. Square and rectangular rods also can be used to hang a curtain around the tub, says Rhonda Bonecutter, occupational therapist and founder of Zero Barriers Consulting and Homeability. If you’re not seeking full 360-degree curtain coverage, alternate solutions for freestanding tubs include U-shaped, D-shaped and bendable shower rods.

Shower Curtains

Next up? Shower curtains. There are a few things to keep in mind when acquiring a shower curtain for your freestanding tub. First of all, it’s essential to get a curtain that’s the proper width and length. Benna Crawford at Hunker says that while the industry standard for shower curtains is 72 inches by 72 inches, it may be that you require a custom shape for your antique clawfoot.

Custom curtains for freestanding tubs should be about 180 inches wide so they can encircle the entire tub — if that’s what you’re going for. They should also be around 68 inches tall so they can hang from a rod on the ceiling.

This is a solid baseline to follow, but measuring your clawfoot tub is still a good idea. This is the next most important step to remember in choosing a shower curtain. After all, different tubs from different eras and manufacturers can vary in size.

“You should measure their length to allow for a bit of overlap of the curtains and of the liners to trap water within while allowing easy entry and exit—so not too long or too short of an overlap,” suggests interior designer Jeff Schwartz.

An example of a shower curtain that’s the proper length can be seen in this colorful beach style design, photographed by Ken Gutmaker of Architectural Photography. The gauzy fabric is long enough to rest inside the tub when it’s not in use, which means it’s long enough to keep the water within the bathtub when someone is using the shower.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it might be more difficult to find a wide selection of extra long and extra wide curtains in the right sizes. And if you can’t find the color and style that suits your needs in the proper length and width, interior design writer Kimberly Bartosch says that a seamstress or custom drapes maker might be your best bet. This will ensure that you achieve exactly the look and size that you want, without having make any design or usability sacrifices.

Clawfoot Tub Shower

Faucets and Shower Caddies

There are two main types of faucets that outfit clawfoot tubs: telephone and gooseneck. A telephone faucet takes the shape of a vintage phone, while the gooseneck faucet has a large spout with a more classical design, Scott Sidler explains at The Craftsman Blog. Regardless of which faucet type you have, a showerhead is possible.

“Both can be adapted to replace the handheld shower receiver with a shower pipe and shower head if you wish to have a more traditional shower experience,” Sidler writes.

You might also consider buying a clawfoot tub shower kit, like these from antique and modern supplier, The Period Bath Supply Company. The kits come with everything you need for your clawfoot tub, including a wall mount tub filler faucet, a shower ring and a riser — which is used to adjust the rod’s height. Another kit option can be found at Danco, which offers quality, stylish hardware for converting your clawfoot tub to a shower.

Once you’ve found the right faucet and showerhead for your tub, you’ll need a shower caddy to keep all of your toiletries organized. Shower caddies for freestanding tubs need to be more minimalist and streamlined than your average caddy, as you’re typically working with less space than a normal shower.

Blake Lockwood at Decor Snob points out two main different styles. One caddy can be hung on the shower head, if a permanent spout is installed. Another is a corner shower caddy, which is shaped like a triangle and can be installed in the wall corner near the bathroom. This might not be convenient if you have a wraparound shower curtain, however, so it depends on which style curtain you’ve chosen.

Clawfoot Tub Shower

Once you’ve installed the proper shower curtain hardware, you’ll want to ensure you’re making the most out of your tub/shower combination. A few user-friendly tips for getting accustomed to the new combination come from Allie Ellenbogen at The White Apartment.

For one, Ellenbogen says it’s important to shower with the liner inside the tub to prevent water from splashing out during the shower. Getting one large liner and curtain, rather than hanging multiple curtains, can also help prevent leaks.

Another common issue that occurs with freestanding tub showers is curtain billowing. When the curtain blows into the tub while you’re showering, it can be a major inconvenience. “The reason the billowing happens is because the temperature outside your tub is significantly cooler than the temperature inside,” she explains.

Ellenbogen suggests keeping the temperature in the rest of the bathroom similar to that of the shower. This can be achieved through a space heater, a built-in heater near the shower or heated floors.

Images by: Sylvain Robin/©, Alexey Koldunov/©, Erika Wittlieb