What To Know About Slipper Tubs
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Discover why the appeal of these bathing beauties goes much deeper than their curvaceous shape.
We can thank the Victorian Era’s interest in cleanliness for this elegant bathing option. The public bathhouses of that time featured freestanding tubs, including traditional-style slipper tubs. The name comes from their shape: With one higher end, they look sort of like a woman’s high-heeled shoe. Their design provided some privacy.
Freestanding tubs, including slipper tubs, were popular in the U.S. until alcove tubs became a bathroom standard in the 1920s. The ruled for decades. But in recent years, as interest has grown in making bathrooms more elegant and spa-like, slipper tubs have slipped back into popularity.
What Is a Slipper Tub?
Simply stated, it’s a freestanding tub. The classic version is sloped and higher at one end. That distinguishes it from other freestanding tubs where the sides are equal. You rest your back against the higher sloped side for ultimate comfort.
“It’s that lounge angle that makes bathing in them such an enjoyable experience,” says Brandon Ewers, a sales consultant with Pirch, a product showroom for bathroom, kitchen and outdoor spaces in La Jolla, California.
Plumbing for the tub goes in opposite the sloped side and can be floor-, wall- or deck-mounted. Slipper tubs lack showers but can be retrofitted with a circular rod and shower curtain.
Types and Styles of Slipper Tubs
The curvy profile of the slipper tub distinguishes it from other tubs. There are various options to consider when choosing one:
- Single or double: While the single slipper tub is traditional, you can also opt for a double that’s sloped at both ends. Besides a graceful and symmetrical look, it allows two people to soak at the same time. Plumbing for a double is in the middle rather than an end.
- Footed or pedestal: Feet support slipper tubs, including traditional claw feet, a pedestal called a “plinth” or an outer shell.
- Jetted: Dial up the spa experience with a jetted slipper tub. These are less common, and pricier, but they’re out there.
- Various materials: Your options range from iconic (cast iron) to contemporary (acrylic, resin) to upscale (copper, solid surface, nickel, stone). Heat retention is important. The best bathtub material option for that? “Resin that’s made with volcanic ash and other materials,” says Ewers. “But you can also add thermal layers to slipper tubs to help retain heat. They work like a heating blanket, so the bottom of the tub gets warm in certain areas.”
- Size: According to Quality Bath, a tub retailer, slipper tubs lengths range widely but can be up to 80 inches. Width varies too, up to 67 inches. Depth can be as much as 36 inches.
- Fixtures: “There are many types and styles of tub plumbing fixtures,” says Gregg Cantor, CEO of Murray Lampert contractors in San Diego. “Some manufacturers offer accessories, too, like caddies for wine glasses and reading materials, cushions and so on.”
How To Install a Slipper Tub
Installation is essentially the same as any freestanding tub. If you’re replacing an existing alcove tub, you’ll most likely need to move the plumbing. Then there’s the weight. “Some slipper tubs can be very heavy, like a stone tub.” says Ewers, “like a stone tub. So you have to reinforce the flooring.”
Another consideration? The tub faucet. “If it will come from the wall, you have to make sure the spout is long enough to reach the tub and be at the proper angle to control the splash,” Ewers says.
Best Slipper Tubs
Ewers recommends these slipper tubs manufacturers in three price categories. “They all make very good tubs,” he says.
- Budget: “Barclay makes the best budget value tubs, and the quality is very good,” Ewers says. Prices range from about $1,000 to $3,000.
- Average: “Hydro Systems make semi-customized tubs, like being able to choose an exterior finish,” Ewers says. “They have a huge selection, and customization and price is what makes these a great choice.” Prices run from $3,000 to $5,000.
- Splurge: “MTI Baths are fully customizable tubs and you have multiple options,” says Ewers. “Also look at Victoria + Albert, BainUltra and Wetstyle.” Prices range from $5,000 to $8,000.