Most bathtubs are recessed and designed to fit with three sides hidden by walls and the fourth side an open, finished front. Recessed tubs are 30 to 33 inches wide and can be anywhere from 42 to 72 inches long, but most are 60 inches. Most recessed bathtubs have the space-saving combination tub/shower, but this style is not the safest.

Other bathtub models include the corner tub, a space-efficient way to provide for a whirlpool; a freestanding tub such as the vintage claw-foot style used to create a nostalgic look; and the platform tub with the exposed side covered in tile or other floor-matching material to give a “sunken-tub” effect. This last style is at home both in a very modern bath and in a classical bath inspired by ancient Rome.

Whirlpool Tubs

Whirlpool tubs are about 435 feet, and some are much larger, and are the symbolic in stating luxury in a bathroom. Because of its size though, a safety issue that needs to be addressed is the weight of the tub. Many homes’ structure are not prepared to take the added weight of a whirlpool tub, the volume of water as well as the people using it. Additional shoring up will be necessary especially if the tub is installed on the second floor.


And if you have a bathroom that may be a little skimp on the bathsize footprint, you might want to look for a whirlpool tub/shower combo or, better yet, a corner whirlpool and an angled shower that is much smaller. Whirlpool tubs are usually either cast iron or somewhat less costly acrylic and composites. They are most often recessed or, especially if they\’re large, built into platforms. New models are built a decorative, secure handrail or a higher, wide platform that allows bathers to sit on the edge of the whirlpool and swing their legs in. The design also lets you reach the controls from outside the tub.

Whirlpool amenities include an in-line heater to maintain warmth without “topping off” the water, two-speed motors, touch-pad controls, and more. A handheld shower extension in the whirlpool tub is an option but requires awkward, one-handed hair washing, so most people add a separate shower.


You will need at least a 36340 inch space for a stall shower, built either with a slight slope of the floor toward the drain, thus doing away the need for a shower door, or opt for swing-out doors. Modular shower systems are available that let you customize them with a choice of different shower floors, walls, and fittings. A handheld showerhead with a wall-mounted pole that offers various height stations is great for kids or the disabled.


Typically made of vitreous china, toilets are available in several basic styles. The old-fashioned two-piece style with a round bowl mounted to the floor and a tank very high on the wall is available from a few manufacturers for nostalgic settings. The more familiar, traditional “close-coupled” model has a separate water tank mounted on a round bowl.

The contemporary one-piece model, or “low boy,” features a tank and bowl in one piece. An alternative is an elongated bowl, two inches longer than the standard model in front that is available in either two-piece or one-piece designs is great if you have space. For tall or older people, models with bowls 18 inches from the floor are more comfortable than the standard 14 1/2 to 15 inches.

You may also choose between “gravity-assist” and “pressure-assist” models in any style. Newer toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. (Older models use 3.5 to 10 gallons per flush). Reducing the amount of water used conserves water and eases the burden on sewage-treatment plants. The new gravity-assist models of the two-piece variety are taller and slimmer than in the past and have steeper bowls. This design also helps assist in flushing. 

Steam Showers and Saunas

If you fancy high humidity of steam or the dry heat of a sauna, you can create a health spa at home with one or both of these fixtures. A steam shower can be had easier by installing a self-contained unit, or convert your existing shower into a steam room. Just make sure that the door are sealed entirely before installing a steam generator (which can be tucked away in a vanity), and if you have solid-surfacing or acrylic shower walls, make sure they won\’t be marred by the steam. New shower modules with steam units come with a lighted dome top, a timer, and a seat. 

You will need at least 434 feet space to create an enclosure that houses an electric heater topped with rocks (preferably igneous periodite) if you choose to have a sauna. Water is ladled onto the hot rocks to produce humidity (but not steam), and soft, aromatic woods such as cedar or redwood are used for the walls and benches. Saunas are available in precut and prefab kits.