When redesigning a bathroom, choosing between a bathtub and a shower will greatly affect your budget and fixture arrangements as well as affect labor costs. It will also inform how your bathroom will be used by both you and any potential buyers of your home down the road.
As such, it’s important that you balance your wants against functionality and choose a bathing apparatus that suits your lifestyle and long-term goals.
Bathtub vs. Shower: What Are the Differences?
Before going into the pros and cons of each of the two, let’s take a look at the major differences between them.
Standard bathtubs take up about 13 square feet of space. Showers take up an average of 9 square feet of floor space. Bathtubs need additional room so you can get in and out of them.
Tubs can be a standard built-in, claw-foot, freestanding or whirlpool model. They can also be designed for walk-in, or as a large soaking basin.
Showers are a compartment with curtains or doors, though some are also walk-in and have neither. They can be compacted to fit available square footage, and the materials used generally do not affect space consumption.
Materials to Consider
Tubs are crafted from acrylic when on a budget and can get as intricate as enamel-coated cast iron. Showers generally are constructed from fiberglass but also come in more expensive materials, like natural stone.
Waterflow and Usage
There are sanative water delivery options, such as built-in jets found in whirlpool tubs or showers created with waterfall and rainfall showerheads.
Short showers use about 2.1 gallons of water per minute, which averages to about 17 gallons consumed during an 8-minute shower. Conversely, standard bathtubs use between 25 to 40 gallons of water per use and it increases from there; whirlpool tubs average 80 to 100 gallons of water per use.
In turn, a tub will require a larger water heater in the home than a shower.
Tubs are cheaper to install and generally set you back around 400 dollars, although this can increase to as much as 8,000 dollars if you’ve picked a fancier model. Showers generally cost somewhere between 450 dollars to 10,000 dollars to install.
A whirlpool tub’s installation averages 4,500 dollars while a walk-in shower will set you back about 6,000 dollars, so even as amenities increase, tubs remain the cheaper option.
Tubs need to be installed by professionals because it’s easy for you to ding or crack the tub or your flooring during installation. They’re extremely heavy and cumbersome. Prefabricated showers come in kits that are lightweight and easier to install. However, custom showers may still require you to call a professional.
The Pros and Cons of Bathtubs
Tubs are more relaxing because you can soak sore muscles while mixing aromatherapy items into the bathwater. If using your bathing time for self-soothing purposes is important, I recommend a bathtub.
On the other hand, they are hard to climb in and out of which can prove problematic to those with mobility issues. Installing a walk-in tub, which allows the user to step into the bath, is expensive compared to a standard shower that provides the same ease of use. You should get a freestanding shower if you have elderly or disabled people in your home.
Children are easier to bathe in bathtubs which is important if you have or are thinking of having children. It’s almost impossible to wrangle children into a shower and to wash them down without soaking yourself.
When selling your home, buyers will want a tub in the master bath. For a bathroom to be considered a “full bath,” there has to be a bathtub. This can affect the value of your home.
Bathtubs take up valuable real estate beyond their physical size. You’ll need to leave approximately 60 x 30 inches in front of the tub for ease of accessibility, with the longest measurement running the length of the tub. The toilet and sinks will need at least 12 inches of space from the tub.
The Pros and Cons of Showers
Showers take up less space, so if your bathroom is smaller, a shower is more accommodating as you still have space for storage and vanities.
They are also easier to access than most bathtubs, which is important for wheelchair accessibility. It’s easy to install grab bars and benches in showers to keep them more serviceable for your household.
On the other hand, shower doors have to be cleaned much more often than tubs to look hygienic. This is problematic for people who are meticulous about cleanliness.
Fixing a broken shower also means you have to make sure it’s not leaking, possibly open a wall, and allow it to dry before you can use it again. This may leave you without a way to bathe for extended periods.
Which of the Two Should You Get?
If you’re looking to save money on your water bill each month, I recommend installing a shower instead of a bathtub due to the difference in water consumption between the two designs. Showers are more conservation-friendly.
Tubs stand out more than showers, and it is important to consider their aesthetics. While a nice-looking shower is an option, visually it isn’t as grabbing. If you can’t afford eye-catching fixtures, I recommend you opt for a shower too.
Taking a shower is much quicker than filling a bathtub. You need to carefully consider your lifestyle when deciding between the two.
Freestanding tubs can be installed anywhere, whereas showers need wall space. Freeing up room for a shower can be impossible if you have limited access to walls.
While tubs take up more space, it’s easy to install a showerhead above a tub and reap the benefits of both styles of bathing. If you have room for a tub, and mobility concerns are not an issue, I’d recommend considering a combo tub/shower for your space.
If you’re able to fit a freestanding shower with a separate tub into your layout, I recommend you do that. However, if you can’t, you need to consider ease of use, installation costs, and your available floor space.
I recommend a shower/tub combination in bathrooms that require a choice and opting for a freestanding shower in homes with mobility concerns. If resale value is important to you, make sure there is at least one tub in the home.