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3 Installation Tips for Sunken Tubs

a great bathroom remodel white tile and walnut cabinets

If you’re like many homeowners this spring, you’re probably looking to accomplish a home remodel or home improvement project during the summer months. After a kitchen remodel, there’s a strong second contender for any remodel work: the master bathroom.

Radiant heat flooring and tankless toilet systems are recent innovations that are all the rage due to their affordability and their efficiency. These bathroom features are also pretty neat to show off to first-time visitors. Despite the popularity of the new-fangled features, a modern classic is making a strong return to primary bathrooms: sunken and recessed bathtubs.

While a eco-friendly shower heads or interactive LED mirrors don’t take up any additional space, deciding on a sunken bathtub means less square-footage in your bathroom vs. deciding on installing a walk-in shower. Normally, master bathrooms have enough space, ranging from 45 square-feet to 100 square-feet, but forgoing 3 to 7 square-feet for a bathtub can mean missing out on a dual sinks or a built-in linen shelf. Most new homebuyers would prefer not to make that choice, but sunken bathtubs are making a comeback nonetheless.

What is a Sunken Bathtub?

A sunken bathtub is a type of built-in bathtub that’s dropped into a surrounding structure. This surrounding structure can be made of acrylic, fiberglass, porcelain, tile, wooden cabinetry, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or a composite stone.

Recessed bathtubs look very similar to undermount bathtubs since they are both built-in tubs surrounding by a structure. The main difference between a sunken tub and an undermount tub is how they’re mounted to the built-in tub surround:

  • Sunken bathtubs sit on top of their built-in structures, leaving an exposed bathtub rim
  • Undermount bathtubs sit underneath the rim of their built-in structures

While their appearance is breathtaking and the effect of a sunken bathtub is inspiring, there’s a lot to consider before giving your contractor the go-ahead to install a sunken bathtub in your master bathroom.

1. Consider the Condition of Your Home’s Construction Materials

First and foremost, you’ll want to take into consideration the condition of your home’s construction materials, as building a recessed bathtub into a previous construction can be a massive headache. Not only will you need to tear up the flooring in your bathroom, the underlying support structure in the level below the bathroom will need to be remodeled.

Of course, the alternative is a semi-sunken construction, which lowers the level of the tub slightly and adds a small set of stairs in the surround to provide a submerged feeling to the bath experience.

2. Remember that Bathtubs Lack Built-It Support

Second, most bathtubs aren’t designed to be placed in the flooring and therefore lack built-in support structures to maintain stability in a sunken configuration. Custom construction of a concrete or metallic support frame for the tub may be required depending on which manufacturer you choose. However, if you’ve ever wanted to pony up for a custom bathtub design, now’s a great opportunity to do so. After all, your surround will be custom-made, so why not your tub?

3. Sunken Bathtubs are Difficult to Maintain

Finally, sunken bathtubs are notoriously difficult to maintain. Unless the contractor specifically builds access to the pipes below, the chances of undetectable leaks grows. Furthermore, repairs and maintenance of sunken bathtubs can require removal of the tub from the surround, making repairs costly and messy.

Despite the obvious downsides to getting started, the results that come with a sunken bathtub must be experienced to be believed, but the visual effect is amazing on its own. If you’re considering a bathroom remodel and want to improve the appearance or performance of your existing bathtub, contact Seattle Bathtub Guy for a consultation on your tub’s condition and a quote on the necessary repairs.