Bathrooms come in all shapes and sizes, and over time, the fixtures for these special rooms have changed quite a bit. One fixture that has remained attractive over the years is a clawfoot tub. Many older homes in Boston have a clawfoot tub, but you can also find these unique fixtures in brand new construction.
The plumbing for a clawfoot tub is a little different than today’s standard tub. So, if you’re considering adding one, or you have one already installed in your home and need to repair or replace it, here are a few facts you should know about the plumbing for a clawfoot tub.
Source and drain lines come through the floor. In a typical clawfoot tub installation, both the water source pipes and the drain pipe enter the bathroom through the floor. For a new installation, you’ll need to have enough space at the drain end of the tub to make these floor connections, and you’ll need to plan for plumbing underneath the tub. Consult with a licensed plumber if you intend to install a clawfoot tub on the second floor of your home! Insulate the pipes well during the installation process, if your supply and drain pipes will run through an unheated (or under-heated) space in your home.
Consider your water heater! Clawfoot tubs can hold anywhere between 40-60 gallons of water. That means one good soak could completely drain your 40-gallon water heater. That may not be a consideration for you, but the rest of your busy household might be inconvenienced when someone is using the tub. (Or worse, you could end up with a cold bath if your tub is competing with the dishwasher and the washing machine!) Make sure your water heater can support the tub in addition to other hot water fixtures in your home. If not, consider an upgrade to your water heater when you install a clawfoot tub.
Tubs are heavy! Bathtubs of all kinds are heavy. A clawfoot tub can be made from acrylic, but a classic clawfoot tub is made of cast iron with a porcelain finish. An empty cast iron tub can weigh between 200 and 400 pounds. Add water and the weight on the floor will increase to between 500 and 900 pounds. And that doesn’t include the bather! Before you install a clawfoot tub, make certain that your floor is in very good shape, and can tolerate a regular load of about 1,000 pounds. If you’re not certain, you may need to have the bathroom floor reinforced before installing the tub.
More than meets the eye. A clawfoot tub is essentially a stand-alone fixture, so the plumbing for the tub will be exposed for all to see. While some people consider this a disadvantage, you can find special fixtures with decorative finishes that greatly improve the visual appeal of the tub. The inner material for clawfoot plumbing is made from the same materials that standard plumbing fixtures are, but clawfoot plumbing fixtures typically have decorative finishes of brushed nickel, chrome or polished brass. Although not technically a “fixture,” the feet on each tub are unique. If you have one foot that needs to be replaced, a new one can be created by making a mold from one of the remaining feet, or you can have four new feet created.
Install shut-off valves on your supply lines. Like any other plumbing fixture in your home, you want supply line shut-off valves on your clawfoot tub. Make sure the stops are easily accessible!
If you’re considering the addition of a clawfoot tub, but would like help with the process, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a quote on installation. We can help you determine if your bathroom will accommodate a clawfoot tub, and we can also help with the sizing, plumbing and installation of this unique bathroom fixture.