Specifying Bathtubs and Showers for Commercial and Residential Applications
Despite being used daily, bathtubs and showers are often overlooked when it comes to their design. While an individual may specify if they want a bath or shower unit installed in their home, there are far more specifications to be made to ensure that the unit they have installed exceeds their expectations. In this guide, we've outlined all of the considerations that should be made when selecting a bath or shower unit for a residential or commercial application.
Residential or Commercial Setting?
When it comes to choosing a shower or bathtub, you first need to consider the application. Traditionally, with a residential setting you have more variety, since the client may ask for a shower or bath unit and have space to experiment with all different styles.
With a commercial setting, the choices tend to be more limiting because of costs, higher demands for standardization within units (especially apartments and hotel suites), and the need to ensure that the bath or shower unit can meet the needs of all potential users.
Choosing a bathtub is heavily influenced by the space available. As with most designs-the larger the space the greater the opportunities. Let's take a look at the various bathtub styles available and the type of bathroom they are most suited for below:
If you are trying to optimize space, then an alcove bathtub is preferential. This is because an alcove tub has a standard length of 60-inches, but can have models ranging from 53 to 72-inches. With an alcove bathtub, a shower can also be easily installed, which makes them a top choice for those looking for a combination of the two.
Acting as a variation of an alcove tub, the corner bathtub is specifically designed to accommodate corner spaces. Typically with this bath style, the bather can choose between a reclined or seated bathing position. It's important to recognize that corner bathtubs tend to take up the largest space and therefore are not ideal for smaller bathrooms.
Unlike alcoves that require three-walled enclosures, a drop in bathtub can be installed anywhere in the room. As part of the installation process, drop-in bathtubs are built within a platform or built up structure. There are four main shapes for a drop-in bathtub including: corner, hour glass, oval and rectangle. While this style of tub allows for a lot of design flexibility, it can take up more space than alcoves depending upon the design specifications.
A freestanding bathtub is a stand-alone tub that does not require walls, surfaces, or support structures to be installed. Since the tub is freestanding, it typically requires a 360-degree clearance which makes it a restricted to spaces that are large enough to accommodate it.
If you're looking to conceal the bathtub, then choosing a sunken bathtub is the best option. With a sunken bathtub, only the rim is visible as the rest of the tub is dropped into the floor. This style of tub is often comparable to a swimming pool and spa because of it's appearance.
The height of a bathtub can be problematic for some users. So to ensure a safe entrance and exit from the tub, a walk-in bathtub makes a great solution. These tubs are installed similarly to an alcove tub against three walls. The difference between this tub style and others is that there is a door at the bottom of the tub which can be opened and closed. When the door is closed, a special seal is activated which holds the water and the seal is released once the water has been drained from the tub.
When it comes to choosing bathtub performance there are two options:
Providing a spa like experience, air bathtubs generate thousands of bubbles that circulate the water and provide a gentle massage.
Commonly chosen for its spa-like quality, whirlpool bathtubs use high-powered water jets to provide the user with a massage.
When it comes to selecting a shower, aesthetics tend to take second place to water flow performance. Below we'll take a look at the various shower types available:
Known for being highly energy efficient, electric showers provide hot water through using an integrated element to heat the water on demand rather than relying on a central heating system to provide hot water. As a result of this process, the flow of an electric shower can be alarmingly low. This is why it's important to choose an electric shower that has a higher kilowatt rating since that will provide an optimal flow performance.
Offering significantly higher flow rates compared to electric showers, mixer showers are installed by connecting to both hot and cold water supply of a building.
While power showers use similar heating techniques as electric showers, they tend to have an increased flow rate through the installation of an integrated pump. With the increased flow, comes higher water consumption rates of approximately 3-5 times more than electric showers.
Although still a relatively new technology, digital showers have become popularized because of their ability to be controlled remotely. With a digital shower, a user can preemptively warm the shower before entering so that when they enter, the shower will be at an ideal temperature.
ADA Compliant Showers
While an ADA compliant shower may not be considered for all residential projects, they should be carefully considered for commercial areas. In order to be ADA compliant shower, it must have a clearance area of 36 by 36-inches. There are two types of ADA compliant showers ; one that can accommodate a wheelchair roll-in, or one that allows for transferring.
With a pressure-balance valve, a single handle is used to control the temperature and water pressure.
Unlike the pressure-balance valve, a thermostatic valve allows the user dual control over the volume and temperature of the water. A user can intermittently change one variable such as the flow volume without affecting the temperature. This system allows for better water conservation because of the control over the flow and output temperature.
Bathtubs and showers are available in a variety of materials. Below we take a look at the various materials commonly used and their price range.
Acrylic and Fiberglass
Known for being the least expensive option, acrylic and fiberglass tubs are generally available in a wide selection of colours and heavily vary in price with the range being anywhere between $400 USD to a top end of $18,000 USD.
A cast iron bathtub is capable of keeping bath water warmer for longer periods of time and is a material that offers a variety of colours. It is a rather heavy material, so ensuring that your flooring can support it is essential. The pricing for cast iron is similar to acrylic and fiberglass with a starting value around $400 USD and a higher end of $11,000 USD.
A tub made of enamelled or stainless steel has a reputation for being strong and resistant to scratching and staining. Typically the colours for steel are limiting, however, if you're looking for a more affordable option then steel is the obvious choice. The most popular price point is between $350-$1000USD, with the top end at approximately $8,000USD.
Stone and Wood
Although less commonly seen, stone and wood bathtubs are possible. Due to the styling, these types of tubs are commonly freestanding in order to show off the materials. With the natural materials, the price ranges from $15,000 to $25,000USD.
Ultimately, when choosing a shower or bathtub, it's important to realize that there are numerous options available on the market. So while you may be tempted to pick one initially based on style, it's important to also consider function, the material it's made out of, and lastly, the practicality of the tub or shower for the client.