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Clawfoot Bathtubs – A Quick And Easy Buyer’s Guide

Clawfoot bathtubs are a popular choice for luxury bathroom remodels, and not just period-inspired ones. The simple silhouette of a clawfoot bathtub is so iconic that it adds an instant sense of class and sophistication to your bathroom, whether you have a vintage, cottage style bathroom or a more modern design. But not all clawfoot bathtubs are created equal, and there are a few things you should consider before you buy – not least of which is what kind of clawfoot you want.

Classic Roll Top Tubs

Cast Iron Roll Top Clawfoot Tub From Barclay
Cast Iron Roll Top Clawfoot Tub From Barclay

This is the most iconic and most common type of clawfoot bathtub, and probably what comes to mind when you hear the phrase. Rounded on one and and flattened to accommodate the plumbing on the other, tubs like this Cast Iron Roll Top from Barclay work equally well installed up against a wall or in the middle of the floor, and tend to take up a little less space than other types of tubs. One thing you want to be aware of, though, is that some roll top clawfoot tubs have a friendlier slope than others. If the back is too steep (as many original vintage cast iron tubs can be) the rolled top can hit the back of your neck uncomfortably. So if you like to soak, look for a tub with a wide, gradually sloping back.

Slipper Tubs

Reminiscence Slipper Soaking Bathtub From American Standard
Reminiscence Slipper Soaking Bathtub From American Standard

Slipper tubs are the more modern answer to the neck-discomfort problem common among older roll top clawfoot bathtubs. These have much larger, wider brims on one side that allow you to soak with a little extra back support. Many, like this Reminiscence Tub from American Standard, are even designed so you can rest your arms comfortably on the lip of the tub for a more luxurious, relaxed bath as well as a shape with a little more visual flair.

Clawfoot Tubs For Two

Lion Paw Double Slipper Clawfoot Bathtub From Barclay
Lion Paw Double Slipper Clawfoot Bathtub From Barclay

Both classic roll top tubs and slipper tubs are available in double-ended versions: double ended and double slipper clawfoot bathtubs, respectively.  These tend to be a little bit bigger (both longer and a little wider) than one-sided tubs, but are designed specifically to be able to accommodate two, with comfy cozy back support on either end, and side-mounted (or floor-mounted) tub fillers so no one will have to rest their head on a faucet! Depending on the type of bathroom you have, either tub works well, but double-ended roll top tubs are ideal for a more authentic vintage style, whereas the curvier, more shapely double shipper clawfoot bathtubs like this Lion Paw Slipper are great for an elegant twist on a modern design.

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The Feet Are Important

Walnut Leg Tub From Belle Foret
Walnut Leg Tub From Belle Foret

Now, when you think of a clawfoot bathtub, you think of a tub with claw feet, right? Obviously – it’s right there in the name. But if you’re aiming for a more modern bathroom (but like the vintage style or the comfort and elegance of a freestanding bathtub), you don’t necessarily have to stick with the same old same old clawed-foot design. These days, there are tons of unique freestanding tubs on the market, and “claw” feet come in everything from wood blocks (like those on this Walnut Leg Tub from Belle Foret) to simple geometric metal feet, giving you the same sleek tub body but with a slightly different, more modern flair.

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…Even If There Aren’t Any

Vintage Pedestal Tub From Kohler
Vintage Pedestal Tub From Kohler

While not technically clawfoot bathtubs, I think it’s important to note Victorian-inspired pedestal tubs. These come in similar shapes but set on a base (or built into a solid piece) rather than on claw feet, which can give them a more solid appearance. Pedestal tubs like this Vintage Tub from Kohler also tend to have a little hint of neoclassical, romanesque influence, from column-style pedestals to bit beautiful Victorian style copper tubs, which can ultimately make them seem even more grand and impressive than a conventional clawfoot bathtub.

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And What’s It Made Of?

Medicis Copper Freestanding Soaking Tub From Herbeau
Medicis Copper Freestanding Soaking Tub From Herbeau

Even once you’ve picked out your absolute favorite style, the most beautiful comfortable clawfoot bathtub you can imagine, you still aren’t done. Maybe one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make when it comes to buying a new clawfoot bathtub is actually: what material is it made of? Authentic, vintage clawfoot bathtubs (the kinds you only find in really old homes, flea markets, or scrap yards) are almost always made out of cast iron, and many clawfoot bathtubs are still made this way, but while cast iron retains heat well, it’s also extremely heavy and a little more prone to show wear and tear. Consequently, many more modern clawfoot bathtubs are made of acrylic or fiberglass, which is lighter weight, and warm to the touch, but doesn’t hold heat as well. If you’re feeling especially bold, you can even find tubs (usually pedestal, not clawfoot) like this Medicis tub from Herbeau that are made of solid copper, if you’re feeling especially Victorian/Steampunk/Sherlock Holmsey.

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So if you’re in the market for a clawfoot bathtub, don’t assume that the choice is necessarily a simple one. The more thought you give the tub you choose, the more likely you are to enjoy it – and the more likely it is that you’ll get the right one for your bathroom. What’s your favorite kind of clawfoot bathtub? Let me know in the comments!