Home Improvement--General/jet or whirlpool tub?


Hi Diane, Sue in Saskatoon again!
We have a small bath downstairs we are slowly renovating.I would like to replace the existing standard tub with a jetted or whirlpool tub? Don't know the difference. I visit the neighbourhood civic leisure centre once a week just to sit in the hot tub and enjoy the jets to relax my aching muscles. Would a smaller home tub serve the same purpose? Any suggestions on models or brands? I realise it might be better suited for a bigger bathroom, but our main bath already has a nice big tub we are happy with, and recently installed grab bars on the walls. Thanks!

Hi, Sue.

Hope you're enjoying a nice summer!

First, here's the answer to your question: There are whirlpool tubs that stir the water with four jets or more. Usually, the motor is minimal. The next level is a true hydrotherapy tub, where the jets are placed for specific hydro-massage, and usually have adjustable jets for maximum comfort. There are also air jets, that usually have a hundred or more small holes in the bottom of the tub. These "bubblers" can make the water feel like champagne. Here's a link to an article that explains jetted tubs: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/jetted-bathtubs-water-jets-vs-air-jets#.U83TCLG

There are several materials used to make jetted tubs, including cast iron (very heavy), solid acrylic, and fiberglass with gel-coat (inexpensive, easily damaged). I always recommend acrylic tubs from a major manufacturer for quality and value.

You can replace a "standard" tub with a jetted tub. You need to know the exact dimensions of the existing tub. Most standad tubs are 60" x 32" x 14". You'll want to get a deeper tub, so you can be covered (except your knees, if you're more than 5' tall). 18" - 20" is a good depth for jetted tubs.

Here are some things to consider when you're shopping:

Standard tubs are either left- or right-hand, depending on where the drain is located. Make sure you get the same type.

If you're replacing a standard tub with a jetted tub, you'll need a dedicated circuit for the motor. The tub manufacturer will tell you how much electricity is needed for the tub. If your new tub is surrounded by walls on three sides, it's a good idea to get one that has integral flanges that go against the studs, under the drywall and backerboard. This will assure that drywall won't disintegrate. Also, it's a good idea to use a factory-finished drywall edge at the bottom, not a cut edge.

You'll need to get a permit, because you're changing electrical wiring. Codes also require an access door of a certain size adjacent to the motor, to repair or replace it. The Building Codes in Canada may differ from those in the U.S., so it's wise to verify what's needed for permits from your local Building Department. You'll probably have to provide a schematic drawing for the permits.

Don't forget grab bars! Some tubs come with built-in grab bars, which help you sit and stand, but a wall-mounted grab bar (installed with bracing or blocking inside the wall) insures more safety.

Here are very good step-by-step instructions that I found on Wikipedia: http://www.wikihow.com/Install-a-Bathtub

Final words of advice about the tub installation, based on personal experience:

Protect your tub with a soft blanket, held in place with blue painter's tape, then cover the tub with 3/4" plywood, to create a platform, so you can install tile more easily, or paint the walls and ceiling. Don't let anything sharp fall into the tub that could scratch or puncture it. Somehow, after our new acrylic tub was installed, the electrician removed the platform and put his tall ladder into the tub, and punctured the tub. Fortunately, we were able to repair it, but it wasn't cheap!

Again, I hope this information helps you. Good luck in your search to find the right tub for your bathroom!

Warmest regards,

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design  

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Diane Plesset


I will answer questions about anything to do with bathroom remodeling: design considerations, safety, function, materials (cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures and fittings, lighting/switching, heating and ventilation, tile, stone, concrete, tub and shower enclosures, flooring, etc.), saving water, trends, ROI, and appearance.


25+ years as a bath-kitchen design specialist, hundreds of completed bathroom projects (all styles, all investment ranges). Author of "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling," co-host of a home improvement program on a local radio station for over three years. Currently hosting "Today's Home" on Lifestyle WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (http://www.todays-home.com).

NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association), NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization), IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council).

"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (my book, published in 2003), Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Gentry Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Business Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Design News Magazine,Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Statesman Journal, Portland Tribune, Oregonian.

Multiple degrees: Bathroom Design, Residential Interior Design, Kitchen Design, and Lighting Design. Regularly attend classes and seminars to maintain current knowledge about codes, trends, sustainability, new products, etc.

Awards and Honors
Awards: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Best of the Best, Chrysalis, Excellence (best home in its category), and NABE (best how-to book, 2003). "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" received #1 listing in the City of Chicago publication, "Hiring The Pros".

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, visit my website: http://www.dp-design.com/portfolio

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