The bath is the central feature of a bathroom, so choose the style and material carefully
Before you buy…
Here are some sound starting points in your quest for the perfect soak.
First, establish what annoys you about your current bathroom, and what you want to change, before setting out to choose a new one.
Think about who will use the bath and what for – from washing children (and the dog?) to long, luxurious soaks.
Is the bath for two people? Do you need to use the bath for a shower?
Measure your bathroom, and the space available for the bath, before proceeding.
Mark them on a rough sketch along with water inlets and waste. Take this plan out shopping. If the bath is to be boxed in, be sure to allow access to plumbing.
Ask whether the products carry a guarantee. Always get in an empty bath to test it for comfort.
Don’t forget to include the price of all fittings and installation in your budget; extra costs can mount up.
Acrylic baths (the most popular type in the UK) are warm to the touch, and keep water hot much longer than metal baths – so you don’t have to waste money and water topping them up if you’re in for a long soak. They are durable, hygienic, easy to wipe clean, as well as being light and easy to transport and install. They can also be moulded (inside and out) into sculptural shapes. Right: This Urbano bath is made from Lucite – the finest quality acrylic on the market. By Adamsez.
Although their surface can go matt after a while, unless meticulously cleaned (ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully), but any light scratches can usually be polished out. Acrylic baths must be solidly made and very firmly fixed or they could shift slightly when you get in or out, which can be rather unnerving. Try to look for models with a fully encapsulated baseboard (a hidden strengthening board in the bottom), which will give extra stability. You can easily add a luxurious whirlpool/spa system to this type of bath.
Resin composite baths contain mineral particles and are stronger than acrylic ones. They feel pleasantly warm and smooth to the touch and can even be moulded into imaginative designer shapes. Right: The Shui Bath by BC Designs is made from Cian Solid Surfacing – a blend of acrylic polyester resin and mineral fillers.
Steel baths with a tough enamel coating (in white and several colours) are strong and rigid, but come in a limited choice of shapes, mainly ready for ‘boxing in’ (see ‘top tip’). If you do decide to go for this sort of bath, make sure you spend the extra money and buy a quality brand. On cheaper models the enamel coating may chip and is difficult to repair.
Cast-iron baths are no longer mass-produced in Britain, but they are imported from abroad. Strong, rigid and long-lasting, but available only in a limited choice of styles, they have an enamelled interior that can be tricky to mend if chipped. These baths feel cold before being warmed up by water, although the water will stay satisfactorily hot. Remember that cast-iron baths are heavy – you will need at least two people to carry it upstairs. Right: This freestanding cast iron bath is from Ideal Standard.
You can also find old cast-iron and steel baths at architectural salvage merchants – buy from one that specialises in bath restoration. Visit salvo.co.uk for a nationwide register of architectural salvage merchants.
Wood baths are mainly made from teak, cedar, chestnut and black pine. Wood is an excellent insulator so you can soak for hours without getting cold and they have inherent anti-bacterial properties. They will need oiling occationally and it's best to avoid using products that contain bleach to clean them. Right: This Geo bath is made from Japanese teak and is from Evitavonni.
Sizes and shapes
The standard size for a bath is 1700x700mm, although many longer and wider shapes are available for greater luxury. Check that a bath is as spacious inside as it looks, as some curvy internal sculpted shapes can in practice feel quite cramped. And the best way to test a bath, even in the showroom? Get in it! If space is an issue, but you’re set on installing a bath, it’s possible to find smaller space-saving designs, at 1500mm long or less – but bear in mind that if you’re of average height you won’t be able to stretch out.
Another space-saving option is a bath that narrows at the feet end. Double-ended baths have taps and waste in the middle so that either (or both) ends of the bath can be used, giving you greater flexibility. Shower-baths are specially shaped with a wide curve at one end for comfortable showering and close-fitting curved screens. New fluid shapes for corner baths often make clever use of space, too.
Although the most popular colour for baths by far is white, a small number are made in colours. Enamelled steel baths come in a variety of colours and resin baths are available in several finishes, including stone and metallic effects. For colourful designs in a range of contemporary shapes, take a look at Durat (durat.com).
Boxing in an inexpensive bath gives plenty of scope for adventurous colours and finishes at a relatively modest cost, but make sure you leave easy access to plumbing for any essential maintenance and repairs.
Words: Trish Lorenz Images: Compiled by Adele Bird