Clawfoot tubs originated in 18th century Holland and then moved across Europe to the US. I have hope that the clawfoot tub will usher in world peace by immersing one bather at a time in a state of luxurious relaxation.
In all seriousness, buying a clawfoot tub is a big purchase, and unless you know the details about what to look out for, your fantasy could quickly become a nightmare. You don’t want to get your tub home only to find it’s too heavy for your floor or too wide to fit through your door.
Not to worry. Here at The Bathtubber, we’ve put together Clawfoot Tubs: The Ultimate Buying Guide. It will help you make the best buying decisions.
In this ultimate guide, we answer your most pressing questions about clawfoot tubs, including:
- What is a clawfoot tub made of?
- How much does a clawfoot tub cost?
- Should you get a vintage clawfoot or a new one?
- How much does a clawfoot tub weigh?
- How many gallons does a clawfoot tub hold?
- What are the dimensions of a clawfoot tub?
- How many styles do clawfoot bathtubs come in?
- And what about the styles of the feet?
- Are there different options for faucets?
- How do you install a clawfoot tub?
- Can you add a shower?
- How do you refinish a vintage clawfoot tub?
- How do you clean a clawfoot tub?
- What are the trends in clawfoot tubs?
- Will a clawfoot tub add value to your home?
If the extra soaking depth afforded by the clawfoot tub is alluring to you, read on and realize your clawfoot dreams!
What is a Clawfoot Tub Made Of?
When considering the purchase of a clawfoot tub, you first need to decide what material you’d like your bathtub to be made from. You can find clawfoot tubs in a variety of materials, but by far the most common are porcelain-enameled cast iron and acrylic. Antique clawfoot tubs are porcelain-enameled cast iron. The porcelain is powdered glass that is layered on the inside of the bathtub.
Cast Iron v. Acrylic Clawfoot Tub: Pros and Cons
The biggest selling points for cast iron are how well it retains heat and how difficult it is to chip. The biggest cons are the sheer weight of this material and the expense.
On the other hand, the acrylic clawfoot is beloved for its much lighter weight as well as its relatively inexpensive price point. However, acrylic is less sturdy, loses heat faster, and more likely to scratch.
Other Clawfoot Tub Materials
Porcelain-enameled cast iron and acrylic are by far the most common clawfoot tub materials. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get a clawfoot made of copper or stone resin. As long as you’re willing to pay more, you can get a hand-hammered copper clawfoot. Truly a work of art, these showstoppers make a statement in any home. Plus copper is naturally anti-bacterial. Often you can choose the exact hue of the copper-toned finish. Copper retains heat well, especially if double-walled, and it also resists mildew.
For a hefty price, you can even find a stone-resin clawfoot tub. Stone-resin is a man-made stone material. Among its selling points, stone resin is often 100% recyclable and it retains heat well. Also, it can provide you with a modern twist on a classic clawfoot look. Like cast-iron, though, stone resin tends to be quite heavy.
To learn more about popular bathtub materials, read 8 Best Bathtub Materials: Pros and Cons.
How Much Does a Clawfoot Tub Cost?
Even if you buy a vintage clawfoot tub for $500 with the intention of restoring it yourself, once installed, you may end up paying more than you would for a new clawfoot from the store. When buying a clawfoot tub—antique or new—you need to consider not only the cost of the bathtub itself, but also any moving or delivery costs, as well as how much you’ll pay for installation. Find out a lot more in The Hidden Costs of a Clawfoot Tub.
You can find vintage clawfoot tubs in the range of $500 to $1,500. The price will depend on what kind of shape the tub is in and how much work is left to do on it.
New acrylic clawfoot tubs generally range from $700 to $2,000.
And a new cast iron clawfoot can cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. Price is affected by style (with the double slippered variety being most rare and expensive), the length and depth of the tub, and the material of the clawed feet.
Allow an average of $1,100 to install a cast iron tub and $500 to install an acrylic clawfoot.
And if you do need to add floor supports, you’re looking at $100-$300 per joist.
Should I Get a Brand New Clawfoot or an Antique?
These are two different beasts, although they may look the same after you’ve restored an antique clawfoot.
Most vintage clawfoot tubs are made from porcelain-enameled cast iron. You can find modern clawfoot tubs that are made from the same material. But you can also find new clawfoot bathtubs made out of acrylic or fiberglass.
Here’s the bottom line: If you love the idea of having a tub that’s super sturdy—if you just swoon when thinking about having a piece of history in your home—go vintage. But if you want the look without having to lug 400 pounds and without breaking the bank quite so much, buy a new acrylic tub.
Who Are The Leading Manufacturers of New Clawfoot Tubs?
- A&E Bath and Shower
- Pelham & White
- Randolph Morris
- Restoria Bathtub
- Strom Plumbing
- The Tub Connection
Where Can I Find a Vintage Clawfoot Tub?
A great place to look for a vintage clawfoot bathtub is at an architectural salvage store. These stores sell recovered pieces and parts from old homes, and they exist all over the US. Some have described the architectural salvage store like a Hollywood props department. To find one near you, check this invaluable directory.
Other ways to locate a vintage clawfoot tub, include checking sites like these:
How Much Does a Clawfoot Tub Weigh and Why Should I Care?
If you’re getting a cast iron, stone resin or copper tub, you’ll want to figure out the total weight of your bathtub in use before you purchase it. This will determine if your floor is adequate as is or will need additional supports added. (And knowing the weight of the empty tub will help you figure out how many people you’ll need to carry your tub up the stairs!)
Time for Some Bath Math!
You’d be wise to figure out how much a clawfoot tub weighs when full of water and a person. This will tell you the total weight that your floor must support. To do this calculation, you’ll need to solve for this equation:
Total Weight on Floor =Weight of the empty tub + (Gallons of full tub x 8.34) + The weight of your heaviest bather
How Much Does a Clawfoot Tub Weigh When It’s Empty?
Of course, the material that your clawfoot tub is constructed from will vastly impact the weight. And a tub made from cast iron will far outweigh a clawfoot made of acrylic.
A cast-iron clawfoot typically weighs 200-400 pounds, while an empty acrylic clawfoot tub weighs about 120 pounds.
How Many Gallons Does a Clawfoot Tub Hold?
An average clawfoot that’s 60 inches long will hold about 44 gallons of water, though a longer and wider clawfoot can hold up to 90 gallons.
How Much Does a Clawfoot Tub Weigh with Water and a Person in It?
The weight of your empty tub will depend upon the material and the size.
One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, so you’ll multiply the number of gallons your tub holds (beneath the overflow drain) by 8.34. This will give you the total weight of the water in your tub.
Then you need to add the weight of the heaviest bather who will use the clawfoot.
Let’s suppose I want to buy a 60-gallon vintage clawfoot that will be used by my family. The heaviest person in my family is 220 pounds.
Here’s our bath math:
Weight of empty tub = 350 lbs
Gallons in filled tub = 60 lbs
Heaviest bather = 220 lbs
350 + (60 x 8.34) + 220 = 1,070 pounds
When I call my contractor, I’m going to say: “I’m planning to get a vintage clawfoot. I’m going to need the bathroom floor on the second level of the house to hold 1,070 pounds. Can you please come over to assess if we need additional floor supports?”
What Are the Dimensions of a Clawfoot Tub?
An average size vintage clawfoot tub is 60 inches long. That said, you can find smaller tubs that are 53 inches long and larger ones that are 72 inches long.
The most common widths are 20-30 inches. It is possible, though, to buy a clawfoot tub that is 38 inches wide.
With the claw feet, you are typically looking at a height of 20-30 inches. The raised end of a slippered tub will measure higher than the non-raised end.
The average soaking depth is about 15 inches. That said, you can find clawfoot tubs with a 12-inch depth up to 20 inches or more.
So What Size Clawfoot Tub Should I Buy?
When thinking about what size clawfoot to buy, there’s more to consider than meets the eye.
How will you get the clawfoot into the bathroom?
You’re going to want to measure doorways and halls to be sure your new purchase will fit. Be sure to allow several inches of extra space on either side. The last thing you want to do is have to knock down a wall or return your tub.
Where will you place the clawfoot inside the bathroom?
Keep in mind that a clawfoot tub is freestanding. You may want to be able to walk around it, or you may want to place it next to a wall. Either way, you don’t want to feel cramped in by the toilet or any cabinets.
Don’t just think about the footprint of the tub. Remember to consider the area around the tub that you need free from clutter for unobstructed movement. Will you need a step stool to help children get in and out of the tub? If so, plan for the footprint of the step stool.
Also, think about putting the clawfoot tub in a place that will allow you to clean it more easily. A clawfoot that’s flush against the wall is harder to clean, and it will be harder to wipe up any water that spills over the wall-side edge.
What kind of tub filler will you use?
Some bathtub fillers are freestanding and others are mounted into the wall or a shelf on tub. (More on this soon.) No matter what type you get, you should allot space for the filler.
How will you store bath products?
Don’t forget to think about where you’ll keep shampoo, soap, and other bath products. The clawfoot tub, being freestanding, doesn’t have a shelf so perhaps you would like one nearby.
Or maybe you want a bathtub caddy that lays across the horizon of the tub and allows you to store things.
The point is to think this through now, as it all affects the size of the tub you should buy and where you’ll wanat to place it in your bathroom.
How Many Styles Do Clawfoot Bathtubs Come In?
Now that you’ve decided whether you’ll go with vintage or new, and cast iron or acrylic, it’s time to consider the different styles of clawfoot tubs. There are three main styles:
Single Slippered Clawfoot – One end of the bathtub is raised, providing a comfortable backrest. Drain and faucet are at the foot of the tub.
Double Slippered Clawfoot – Both ends of the bathtub are raised, potentially accommodating two bathers. The drain and faucet are in the center of the tub.
Rolltop Clawfoot – This is the classic style. It’s level around the top and the material is rolled over like a made bed. The tub is round at one end and squared off at the other. Drain and faucet can be found either at the one end of the tub.
Double Ended – This tub is similar to the rolltop. However, the drain is in the center and both ends are rounded.
And What About the Styles of the Feet?
The clawed feet also come in several styles, including:
Ball & Claw – Either a lion’s claw or an eagle talon clutching a pearl. Often the pearl is made of glass. When there is a fancy flourish at the top that attaches to the tub, it’s often called an Imperial Ball & Claw.
Paw – This is an animal paw, usually ornate.
Cannonball – A plain and simple ball shape.
While vintage claw feet are usually cast iron or brass, today’s modern versions come in acrylic, oil rubbed bronze, polished brass and other materials.
Are There Different Options for the Clawfoot Bathtub Faucet?
Clawfoot tub faucets come in three installation types: floor-mounted, deck-mounted and wall-mounted fillers.
Floor-Mounted Fillers -These tall metal fillers stand beside the bathtub and empty water into the tub. They are as much a part of the statement as the bathtub itself.
Wall-Mounted Fillers – Typically you use this type of faucet when a freestanding bathtub is up against a wall. The wall-mounted filler a spout and two handles. With a clawfoot tub, you can install this type of filler into the wall of the bathtub.
Deck-Mounted Fillers– You can build a shelf near the tub or on the tub and then use a deck-mounted filler that is built onto this shelf. Or some clawfoots have a shelf built into the rim and the deck-mounted filler is installed on top of that shelf.
Also, don’t feel that you must get a vintage style faucet if you buy an antique clawfoot. It’s quite common to get a modern filler to go with an antique clawfoot tub.
The price of the hardware is determined by the design and the quality of the inner workings of the faucet. Ceramic cartridges and heavier-duty metals will last way longer; cheaper models have plastic cartridges that will wear down sooner. Believe it or not, a high-quality tub filler can sometimes cost more than the bathtub.
If you think you’d like to add a regular shower to your clawfoot, look for a filler that allows you to divert the water to the overhead shower pipe.
In terms of hardware, you’ll also need a clawfoot tub drain pipe kit.
Many of the faucets come with a handheld shower or handheld shower wand. Check out The Bathtubber’s guide to bathtub faucets. And if you want to add a Zen-like feel to your bathroom, consider installing a waterfall bathtub filler.
How Do You Install a Clawfoot Tub?
Is your floor ready for a clawfoot tub? If so, you are ready for a plumber. That is, unless you’re quite handy and can do the installation yourself. If you’re leaning toward this, watch the video just above and then make up your mind.
You’ll see that installing the clawfoot tub mainly requires putting in the drainpipe kit and setting up the tub filler. But, if you ask me, it sounds easier than it looks. What do you think?
Can You Add a Shower to a Clawfoot Tub?
Many clawfoot tub fillers come with a hand-held shower. However, if you want to install a regular showerhead, this is possible.
It’s best if you can think about this before you buy your tub filler, as you’ll want a valve that can divert the water to the shower line. Then you’ll add a metal 0-ring above the bathtub to hold the shower curtain. The ring will either hang from the ceiling or, if your tub is beside a wall, you can attach the ring there.
You can find a clawfoot tub shower kit online and then either call a plumber or attempt to do it yourself. Either way, take a look at the video just above to see what’s involved with installing a shower on your clawfoot tub and how it will look when you’re done.
How Do You Refinish a Vintage Clawfoot Tub?
Follow these steps to refinish your vintage clawfoot bathtub:
1. Clean the Tub
If you find an old clawfoot tub, first clean it well. How you clean your tub will depend on the material it’s made from. (See section just below.) Once the bathtub is clean, you’ll be able to see how much restoration is required to get it in working order.
2. Evaluate the Work Needed
Ask yourself these questions: Is the interior paint or porcelain chipped or scratched? Does the exterior need sandblasting? What is the condition of the claw feet?
3. Find a Professional or DIY at Your Own Risk
Consider finding a pro to do the refinishing, as it requires working with very harsh chemicals and you really need to understand what you’re doing to prevent serious injury.
That said, the refinishing process, involves these steps:
- Stripping the paint from the exterior of the tub
- Applying an acid-etch so the paint will adhere to the interior
- Filling in chips
- Applying epoxy primer on the interior (3 coats)
- Adding a top-coat of epoxy.
Also, you’ll need to clean and fix any problems with the feet. For more detail see The Hidden Costs of a Clawfoot Tub.
How Do You Clean a Clawfoot Tub?
As previously mentioned, the method you’ll use to clean your clawfoot bathtub will depend on the tub’s material. Here are directions for cleaning a porcelain-enameled cast iron tub and an acrylic clawfoot tub.
Cleaning Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron
For a porcelain-enameled cast-iron tub, you want to be gentle. Never use a brillo pad. Instead, try a Magic Eraser or a generic version of that. It will work wonders.
- Make a paste by combining a quarter cup of degreasing dish soap, a half cup of baking soda and two cups of water.
- Mix well and spread over the surface of the tub.
- Leave the solution on for 10-15 minutes and then wipe with your Magic Eraser.
- Dry with a soft microfiber cloth.
For really stubborn stains on a porcelain-enameled cast iron tub, try hydrogen peroxide.
- Spray hydrogen peroxide across bathtub surface.
- Let sit 15 minutes to an hour.
- Rinse with water and dry.
Making an Acrylic Clawfoot Shine
If your clawfoot tub is made of acrylic, follow these directions:
- Mix equal parts degreasing dish soap and warm water. (No baking soda for acrylic.)
- Spray on the surface and let sit 10-15 minutes.
- Wipe with a Magic Eraser.
- Dry with a soft microfiber cloth.
If you have a clawfoot made of another material, see Tricks to Make Your Bathtub Gleam Like New.
What Are the Trends with Clawfoot Tubs?
In our digital age, with people reacting to every ping and beep, the bathtub is one of the last refuges away from technology. Here, in the bathroom, peace and quiet reign. Maybe this is the reason why bathing is seeing a resurgence, and why the clawfoot tub is once again rising in popularity.
It’s quite exciting that these days, manufacturers are introducing modern twists on this old classic. Companies now offer clawfoot tubs painted in bright, contemporary colors.
Modern claw feet come in materials like aluminum or gold.
And some soakers are even transforming their classic clawfoot bathtubs with jets. (Whether you have a clawfoot or another tub type, you can most definitely Turn Your Bathtub into a Jacuzzi.)
Will a Clawfoot Tub Add Value to My Home?
Real estate agents report that at higher price points, buyers are more likely to want a statement tub in the master bath. The Cost vs. Value Report reports on the resale value on the homes of sellers who completed upscale bathroom remodels prior to sale. In these projects studied by the report, sellers added freestanding soaking tubs with high-end faucets. At resale, they recouped an average of 60% of what they put into the bathroom remodel.
For more details about how a bathtub can enhance resale value, see our post Will a Tub Add Value to My Home?
What Else Do I Need to Know About Buying a Clawfoot Tub?
A clawfoot tub isn’t for everyone. Because of the extra height and depth, it may not be ideal for bathing small children.
Although you can add a shower, you may have a hard time containing the water from sloshing over the edges. Your shower curtain will be made of material rather than sliding glass shower doors, making it easier to splash.
If you place the tub beside a wall, it may be hard to clean the side against the wall, since it’s probably too heavy to move.
And finally, once you’ve factored in the hardware, a clawfoot tub might be beyond your budget.
If you’ve considered all of these negatives and you’re still all in, then I have great news: You are destined to be the proud owner of a clawfoot! In fact, I’m quite confident that one day soon, your bathtub fantasies will appear before your eyes like steam rising off the surface of a gorgeous soaking tub. And your vision will finally become a reality.