We answer a lot of calls here at Hippo with questions concerning Claw foot tubs, and they usually lead to more questions. So, here’s my little clawfoot tub primer of do’s and don’ts if you are considering upgrading to one of these irresistible beauties. They can that be picture perfect luxurious soak you’ve been dreaming about.
#1: While it’s not impossible to find feet for antique tubs, it may be impossible to find the exact four feet, or missing foot, that connects to your tubs unique bracket and profile. Each maker had their own unique casting. We estimate there are somewhere around 400 different castings. On some tubs, the back two feet are be a little taller for proper tilt for drainage. So, rule number one, buy your tub with all four of its feet. However, if you already bought a footless tub, all hope is not lost. The best way to find out if we have feet for your tub is to bring your tub in. We realize that's prohibitive for some folks so a good second option is to press some soft modeling clay over the entire surface of the leg mount and make a mold.
#2: Weather and harsh chemical cleaners are not your tubs best friend. Storing a tub outdoors in the elements is a bad idea, buying a tub sitting in someone’s yard an even worse idea. That beautiful pristine porcelain finish is thin and porous at a microscopic level. The harsh environment of rain and winter degrades the surface, and you may be left with stains that have permanently damaged its originally glossy appearance. Additionally the iron may be brittle from the extreme temperature changes and humidity.
#3: Once you have your dream tub, make sure it stays dreamy with proper care. Harsh chemicals can damage the porcelain and end up causing more harm than good. Here’s a great resource from Apartment Therapy on the care and cleaning of your antique tub or sink.
#4: If you need to restore your tub's surface, leave it to the professionals. Home kits often leave a less then stellar surface, that becomes even more problematic over time. The biggest key to a successful refinish is a totally sterile environment. Any dust or particles will keep the chemicals from bonding with your tub's surface. Be aware that if you buy a tub that has a failing re-finish, it will cost a little more to have it stripped and re-surfaced professionally, but well worth the money.
Those wonderful claw feet that we all fell in love with, can also be given a new lease on life in the hands of professionals. Remember there’s no shame in having a love affair with your well-worn tub either, with their numerous coats of paint on the outside, scratches, rusty feet and all. After all who’s perfect?
#5: Another thing to consider is the space your working with, I’ve seen many regrets over the years, from people who could have had a larger soaking tub, but went smaller. Sizes on tubs range from 54” all the way up to generally 6’. As a rule, we recommend you buy the biggest tub you can comfortably fit in your space, your aching bones will thank you!
#6: Let's talk about valve placement: there are few standards in plumbing, and tubs generally come a few different ways to fill with water. By far the most common style has the valve mounts to the inside surface of the tub with the drain directly below on one end of the tub. There are a few other unusual styles as well such as valve holes are in the of the rim or in the center of the tub. Most tubs have a mounting hole distance of 3 3\8ths. The valves we sell range from cool old antique tub fillers, to basic reproduction valves with a diverter, to fun valves with porcelain levers and a built in hand shower. So many options!
#7: Wanting to re-tile your bathroom? Thinking about adding some tub coasters? Make sure your plumbing drain and supply lines will fit the new height! Although needing to go shorter may add some time, ensure you include that in your schedule. If you'll need a longer drain or supply lines, definitely factor in replacement parts as part of your costs.
Are you ready to dive in now? We have many antique claw foot tubs in the store to choose from. Or maybe you just need to accessorize your little gem with some porcelain tub coasters, or an over the rim soap holder (or maybe two)? Let us know how to get your clawfoot tub dreams up and running!