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Freestanding bath with foliage in the background and grey bathroom tiles
They’re often the star of a bathroom – here’s how to find a tub that fills the role perfectly.

Soaking hot

Baths are often the centrepiece of many bathrooms. They need to look good, as well as being functional and practical. With a variety of shapes, styles and materials available, there’s a lot to consider before buying a bathtub to suit your space. Our guide to baths is full of helpful tips on how to choose the right tub for your bathroom.

Types of bathtubs

There are three main bath styles to choose from, each with their own advantages.

Freestanding baths: These deep, freestanding baths in striking shapes – rectangular, oval and slipper-style – have grown increasingly popular because they make a strong design statement. (For example, the Caroma ‘Contura’ creates a striking focal point.) However, due to this type of bathtub’s generous dimensions, they need plenty of room, says Luke Di Michiel, industrial designer at Caroma. “Bear in mind freestanding baths need space around them so you can fit a mop or vacuum cleaner,” he says.

Freestanding bath with foliage in the background

Inset baths: Also known as built-in baths, these are fitted flush against a wall, enclosed by a customised surround. “If you’re restricted when it comes to space then it is better to go with this because they take up less room,” says interior designer Shannon Pepper of Shannon Pepper Design (spdesign.co.nz), who specialises in bathroom design. Baths like the Estilo acrylic bathtub are great if you don’t have enough room for a separate shower and bath. Its edge is designed to redirect water spray run-off from the shower back into the bath.

Inset bath with grey tiling

Back-to-wall (D-shaped) baths: These models are a blend of inset and freestanding baths. “For those who love the look of a freestanding bath, but don’t have the space in the bathroom, a solution is a D-shaped tub that looks like it is freestanding from the front but actually sits flush against the wall,” says Luke. “This saves space and also means you don’t need to clean behind it.” In addition, this bathtub design means they can be easier to plumb when it’s time to install.

Cube shaped bath with black tapware

Tip: “Don’t be shy about testing out the tub you’re thinking about buying,” says Luke. “Climbing inside and lying down will show you how comfortable it is, and also if there are any issues getting in and out of it.”

Space considerations

You may love the idea of a luxurious spa-like freestanding bath in your family bathroom or ensuite, but this may not be the tub for you if your space is compact. “A back-to-wall bath or an inset bath would be a better option in that case,” advises Shannon.

Luke agrees it’s important to balance the size of your bathroom with your choice of bath. “That will mean less chance of the bathtub impacting the traffic and flow to the basin, shower or toilet,” he says.

Soaking style

If you love indulgent soaks and space is not an issue, a freestanding bath could be the best style for you. Alternatively, check out the Caroma Newbury inset bath that comes with an optional head and backrest. If your tub is primarily practical – it’s used to bathe your kids, for example – an inset bath fits the bill. Their design means they have a ledge that’s ideal for keeping shampoos and soaps handy, which freestanding baths don’t have.

For freestanding baths, you’ll need either a removable shelf or caddy that sits across the tub to place accessories on, or room for a stool or table within easy reach. “The other option is putting shelves on the wall that can be reached from the bath, or a niche into the wall,” suggests Shannon. “But there can be issues – for example, if you are renovating an old home, you may not be able to put a recess in the wall because plumbing is there, or there’s a lintel under a window.”

If your bath is likely to be used by more than one person at a time, choose a model with a central wastewater outlet, so one person doesn’t end up perched on the plug.

Plumbing options

This is crucial if you are renovating a bathroom – your existing plumbing may not be easily compatible with the type of bath you want. Inset baths are much easier to plumb in as they sit against the wall and their pipework is hidden behind the surround. For freestanding baths, you need to consider the tapware and wastewater location.

“Freestanding baths generally require the installation of a freestanding bath filler, which needs specialised floor mounting and water supply access via the floor,” says Luke. “This might not be possible for all installations.”

Best bathtub materials

Most baths tend to be made from acrylic, which Luke notes is usually cheaper and lighter than alternative materials and has good heat-retention properties of the water. Solid surface baths – with a smooth, seamless, non-porous finish made from engineered composite materials such as natural minerals and resin – are also popular. These have a matte finish and are often thinner, says Shannon. “They might only be 12mm thick all round whereas acrylic is generally a lot thicker.”

Keep in mind…

• All professional plumbing work must be carried out by a licensed tradesperson.

• Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered

Ready to design the rest of your bathroom?

Check out our essential guide to choosing the right vanity unit.


Photo Credit: Caroma; Clearlite Bathrooms; Larnie Nicolson

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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