28 January 2021 | Updated: 14 February 2022

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The how and why of the freestanding bath in a small bathroom

Here below we look at how to fit a freestanding bath in a small bathroom without compromising the space or your budget.

Whether your home has an average or small size bathroom its potential as a space of rest and relaxation should never be underestimated. Generally speaking, we want bathrooms to feel spacious, light and generous to realise their full potential. Selecting the right fixtures and fittings as part of an overall design strategy can optimise the layout and décor of a small space. Click here for some ingenious small bathroom ideas.


The freestandning bath

One of the key pieces of sanitary ware that lends the small bathroom character and practicality is the bathtub. And somewhat counter-intuitively a freestanding bath can in fact add to the perception of space in a small bathroom. The freestanding bath in a small bathroom becomes a focal point, with the right lighting and colour scheme space can look and feel bigger. The reason is that unlike a built-in bath no space whatsoever is hidden with a freestanding bath.

Types of bathtubs

The bath is the quintessential element of bathroom architecture; it is the largest item of sanitary ware in the space. Bathtubs are either built-in or freestanding within the bathroom.

  • Built-in tubs can be surrounded on one, two or three sides with the wall treatment ensuring that any water or condensation is directed into the tub.
  • The freestanding bath is pulled away from the envelope of the bathroom walls. Even if the gap is only a few inches (or centimetres) the effect is striking. The bath sits proud of the walls and therefore only comes into contact with the flooring. Opting for a freestanding bath in a small bathroom takes us back to the origins of home bathing when a metal tub was filled with warm water, heated over the open fire. They are becoming increasingly popular because of the aesthetic and practical advantages they offer.



Practical considerations for the freestanding bath in a small bathroom

With regard to the plumbing of a freestanding bath the faucets and the waste, drain determine its positioning. Typically the freestanding bath has a raised bottom and drains like a normal built-in bath.

The taps and showerhead can be plumbed into an adjacent wall and flow into the bathtub or be freestanding like a self-supporting structural column. For a small bathroom, it is recommended to plumb the taps and shower head into the walls. This both saves space and looks elegant. Adding a shower head with a surrounding curtain offers another bathing option for the freestanding bath.




Freestanding bathtub designs

The evolution of the bathtub reflects how industrial designers cracked the problem of mass manufacturing a substantial bathroom artefact, one with very specific requirements. The Victorians favoured the bath held off the floor with claw and ball type feet.

The enamelled cast iron tub would thus drain from directly underneath and be plumbed into the waste pipes. This style is still popular today for a vintage and antique-style décor. The Art Deco style bathtub was typically made of porcelain cast iron defined by geometry softened around its edges.

While from the 50s onwards the built-in bathtub was more popular, often in fashionable colours. This coincides with the emergence of the acrylic bath, a synthetic plastic that is hardwearing and scratch-resistant.

Nowadays we have reassessed the importance of the bathroom in the home, the freestanding tub reflects our appreciation of its potential as a family Spa. Materials for baths have evolved greatly, the acrylic bath is almost indestructible.




Positioning the bathtub in the space

To fit the freestanding bath in a small bathroom it’s advisable to place it near an external wall, where the waste pipes are located. This also helps to maximise the rest of the available space within the bathroom.

If there is a window then strategically place the tub so as to take advantage of the views and/or the natural daylight. Alternatively, space allowing place potted plants or a practical shelf between the bath and the wall.

The other determining factor is the location of the waste drain and the water pipes. Avoid unnecessary lengths of pipes and drains where possible.




The critical dimensions to consider when choosing a freestanding bath

With regard to how to measure the bathroom accurately for redecoration, planning is everything. When measuring your bathroom make a minimum allowance of 4 inches or 10 cm between the perimeter of the tub and the wall finish. This is important in order to allow for cleaning, maintenance access etc.

The dimensions of the bathroom doors, stairs (where applicable) and front door must also be considered. The standard bath is typically 170 cm in length and 70 cm in width. The freestanding bath is available in non-standard sizes and consulting a showroom assistant is recommended before deciding on a particular model.




FAQs regarding fitting a freestanding bath in a small bathroom

Not necessarily but they can be if required. Remember the bath should not be considered a moveable item. For maintenance purposes it is recommended to lightly fix the bath in place.

The freestanding bathtub is a substantial item of sanitary ware in terms of weight. To fix the bath to the floor caulk (or silicone) the bottom of the tub before positioning it in place. Then caulk around its base once it is in the correct position and wipe the excess sealant with a damp cloth. Fixing the bath helps restrict movement and prevent displacement in relation to the taps.

A freestanding bath is one that is positioned independently in a space without being attached or built-into the surrounding walls.

Yes. In addition to helping to visually extend the bathroom the sculptural silhouette and taps of the freestanding bath can become a designer feature. If plumbed correctly water staining and mould can be avoided with the freestanding bath. And they are easier to clean.

There are two practical ways that a shower can be added to the freestanding bath. A shower curtain rail can be installed within the perimeter of the tub. Or the area surrounding the bath can be considered as a wet room with a partition or screen protecting the rest of the bathroom from splashes. This approach will require special plumbing arrangements for drainage purposes.

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