The next time you remodel your bathroom, if at all possible, put your bath under a window.
Why should a bath be under a window? First, for aesthetic reasons. Positioning the bathtub beneath a window can make the bathroom look more spacious. You can also look at nature as you bathe or shower for the ultimate in serenity. Second, placing a bathtub under a window maximizes the ventilation and can quickly dry off the spot in your bathroom most hospitable to mildew and mold. However, when you put a bathtub beneath a window, you’ll need to adhere to safety codes and take steps to ensure your privacy.
I spoke to Kathleen Stacey Finley, a bathroom designer in Austin, Texas, about what to keep in mind when placing a tub beneath a window.
Considerations When Putting a Bath Under a Window
Many designers like Kathleen opt to place the tub under the window whenever possible for aesthetic as well as practical reasons. “When placing the tub under the window, you need to think about how you’ll keep the wall and window dry,” she tells me. “Also, you need to consider how to maintain privacy.”
Let’s dive into some of the biggest considerations when placing a bath or shower under a window:
1. Spaciousness and Serenity
A tub under a window is like an optical illusion, especially in a small bathroom; it gives the perception that the space extends forever. If there is nature outside the window, whether ocean or gardens, then you’ll experience the natural calm you feel when you spend time outdoors. This is a huge added plus.
And even if the window in the bathroom is merely a frosted pane that cannot be opened, still the natural light pouring in during the day and the darkening sky in the evening align with your body’s biorhythms. This helps you to enjoy an invigorating shower in the morning and a relaxing bath in the evening.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a bathroom window that overlooks natural scenery and ensures privacy. Many homes are in more urban locales. That said, there are plenty of work-arounds.
First, you’ll want to get a good sense of the view into the bathroom from outside. At night, turn on the bathroom light and ask someone to stand in the bathroom under the window. Next, go onto the street and look up. How much of the person in the bathroom can you see? Glance up at the window from a variety of spots, including the sidewalk across the road. Walk down the block a bit and check again.
Call the person in your home on their mobile and ask them to sit on the floor of your bathroom. Again, check the view from various spots outside. Even if you’re only putting in a tub and no shower, remember you will be standing when you get into and out of the bath, so that first check is still relevant.
Now that you have a good sense of what can and can’t be seen from outside, you can plan to position your bathtub beneath the window and block the view from any Peeping Toms.
Blinds, Shutters and Curtains
To do this, you might need to install a waterproof blind that opens from the bottom of your window to the top. There are also blinds that can be encased between two panes of glass. Search for this option if you have a shower/tub combo, or the windows are low, in order to keep the blinds dry. But don’t be discouraged if your search comes up dry (pun intended).
Kathleen tells me:
“It’s hard to find a blind that’s waterproof and functional, looks great, and is affordable. That’s why I often recommend privacy glass rather than blinds.”
Other options to maintain privacy could be plantation shutters or waterproof fabric curtains.
Privacy glass comes in a wide variety of styles including frosted glass. This way, you’ll still get some natural light but no one will be able to see in.
Yet another choice would be to fill in the window with glass bricks. The downside is that you can no longer open and close the window, but glass bricks can be beautiful and allow some fractured sunlight into your tub or shower.
Low Profile Tub
You might also consider getting a low-profile tub if there is a pre-existing window and you don’t want the bathtub to be any higher off the ground than it needs to be. Unlike a clawfoot tub which is raised on feet, or a drop-in tub that might fit into an elevated platform, a low profile tub is designed to rest low to the floor.
Whenever you are putting windows next to a tub, you must take safety into consideration. The last thing you want is a bather to slip and fall through the window.
To prevent such a scenario use tempered glass in the windows, if they are within reach of a bather standing in the tub. Tempered glass is strengthened. When tempered glass is broken, it shatters into small even pieces without jagged edges that are likely to cut skin. This makes tempered glass the much safer choice for a window over a tub.
Additionally, the National Kitchen and Bath Association has a number of guidelines regarding best practices for placing windows by a tub. Here is one of the rules:
“If the tub or shower surround has glass windows or walls, the glazing must be tempered glass or approved equal when the bottom edge of glazing is less than 60″ above any standing or walking surface. (IRC R 308.4.5)”
For the full recommendations, see the National Kitchen and Bath Association Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards. See Section 15 for the safety guidance about windows and bathtubs.
Additionally, Kathleen tells me that it’s important that you check with your designer or contractor to make sure your bathroom plans comply with the building code for the area where you live.
4. Keeping the Bathroom Dry
You’ll want to crack your window to ventilate the space after using the tub and shower. This can help dry the bathroom more quickly and is another advantage to positioning the tub beneath a window. After all, ventilation is key to preventing bathroom mold from taking up residence in your home.
Get a Ceiling Fan
Be sure that your bathroom also has a ceiling ventilator that is adequate for the space. You’ll need to purchase according to the cubic footage of your bathroom. This is a great bathroom fan because it’s energy-efficient, really quiet, and you can get it with a humidity sensor. (Be sure to order the right size for your bathroom.)
Crack the window and turn on the ventilator for 10 minutes after bathing, or until the area is dehumidified.
Dry Blinds With a Cloth
If you’ve installed a blind over the window, and the water has splashed on it, take a second to wipe the blinds dry with a microfiber cloth before you get out of the tub. Also, keep in mind that if you put a window next to the tub, you’ll need to wash it more frequently because it will get splashed and dirty.
Tile to the Base of the Window
Consider tiling from the floor to the base of the window, in order to keep the walls dry and free from mold and mildew, and seal the grout with a mold and mildew protector. And be sure to paint the window frame with waterproof paint. (For more on tiling your bathroom, see our complete guide to choosing the perfect bathroom tile.)
What Kind of Window Should You Put Above Your Tub?
If you are replacing a window above the bathtub, or if you are remodeling the bathroom and creating new windows, you’ll want to be careful both about where you position the windows and what kind of glass you choose. (You also may want to consult 10 Steps to a Successful Bathroom Remodel.)
“Select a window that has a frame that isn’t wood on the inside or has some kind of protective covering,” says Kathleen. “If you choose a window that’s just painted wood, and it repeatedly gets wet, it will start warping sooner than you think.”
Next, consider the position and shape of your bathroom windows. You may want to show off a gorgeous view, try multiple panes or curved windows, or install skylights above the tub.
Show Off Your View
If you’re fortunate enough to have a home by a wooded area, the sea, or a rolling hillside, consider building your bathroom to show off the view.
Try Curved Windows or Multiple Panes
Curved windows placed higher up on the wall above a freestanding tub can prevent a majestic aesthetic.
And consider using multiple smaller windows for a dappled light effect.
One other consideration when placing windows above a tub is the climate outside. In more temperate climates it may not be a problem to put a window lower on the wall. However, in more frigid climates, you’ll want to ensure that the window won’t be drafty and, if this is a concern, it may be better to position windows higher up the wall.
Put in Skylights for a Breathtaking Bath Experience
Finally, even if you can’t get a window onto the wall, consider adding a skylight above the shower or bathtub. What could be better than wishing on a star as you melt into the warm water of your tub.