Whirlpool Tubs: Designs and Options

Before you buy a whirlpool bathtub, take these important considerations into account to be sure it's the right fit for your lifestyle and budget.
Beige Transitional Master Bathroom with Dome Ceiling

Beige Transitional Master Bathroom with Dome Ceiling

A circular whirlpool tub with a custom wood and marble base echoes the domed ceiling above it in this elegant master bathroom. Marble tile floors, his-and-hers vanities, a spacious tiled shower and a separate steam room provide the ultimate in luxury.

©2009 Alan Goldstein Photography

2009 Alan Goldstein Photography

By: Kirsten Efird

Whirlpool tub designs and options give your bathroom a "wow" factor, and they're great for providing relaxing, targeted massage to areas that need stress relief. But committing to a whirlpool tub is a big decision, so know the pros and cons of these luxury jetted bathtubs before you take the plunge.

25 Dreamy Spa-Inspired Bathrooms

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Elegant Symmetry

Centered in a bay window, the freestanding tub in this beautiful master bath is as sculptural as it is inviting. Designer Liz Williams chose this symmetrical arrangement to play up the classic architecture of the space, and to create a focal point in the large bath.

Serenity Now

With a guiding principal of tranquility for this master bathroom design, designer Catherine Frank recommended an open layout to create a flexible, curated quality for the space. "The focal point of this linear, rectangular room is a freestanding acrylic bathtub by WetStyle; its sleek curvature and monolithic form create a sculptural vista seen immediately upon entering the room," she says. "We specified a neutral palette to further simplify the environment, using only three materials: rift-sawn white oak, striped marble slabs and textured white marble tiles on the accent wall behind bathtub."

Photo By: Emily Minton Redfield; emrphotography.com

Shining Example

A wall of onyx is undeniably the star of the show in this spectacular walk-in master shower, so lighting designer Gregg Mackell took care to illuminate the natural artwork (as well as the entire space) well. He says, "Square aperture shower lights provide a strong downlighting component, while hidden LED strips in the niche and under the bench provide a soft indirect floating effect. By using metallic trim finishes, the shower downlights visually become just another piece of shower hardware."

Natural Elegance

In this contemporary master bath, the warmth of natural wood balances the stark elegance of the freestanding tub, for a look that's sleek and sophisticated. "The simplicity of the materials and layout gives the occupant a calming sense when in the space," says architect Steve Besch. "The clean cedar wall is a relaxing backdrop to the freestanding tub and decorative light fixture."

Photo By: Peter Nilson, Peter Nilson Photography; peternilsonphotography.com

All the Amenities

The renovation of a 10,000 square-foot Colorado home included a complete revamp of the master bath. The new space includes a huge walk-in shower outfitted with all the bells and whistles — a rainshower-style shower head, a hand-shower, steam function — and is fitted with gorgeous blue Moroccan tile. Favorite feature: "The built-in cabinetry beside the shower not only houses the bath linens, it has a warming drawer to keep them toasty," says designer Andrea Schumacher.

Photo By: Emily Minton Redfield; emrphotography.com

Perfect Combination

Even the most well-appointed, high-end bath must offer practical features. To help this one serve the dual masters of style and substance, designer Wendy Ann Miller created dual vanities with a mix of closed and open storage, topped with sculptural vessel-style lavatories. The result, says the designer, is "a sophisticated space with timeless appeal, that suits the homeowners' needs for both function and luxury."

Modern Glamour

To give this remodeled master bath its look of soothing sophistication, designer Liz Williams played cool tones of taupe and blue against the rich textures of the antique ceiling beams and doors. "To lend some unexpected edge to the design we laid Helsinki marble from Walker Zanger in a chevron pattern on the floor," says Williams. The cabinets were custom finished by artist Judy Neukrug in a striated look that mimics wood grain.

Personal Retreat

"This bath is part of one of my all time favorite projects," says designer Jamie Herzlinger. "I designed it to be a true spa — an oasis in the home." The feature-filled shower boasts steam, two shower heads, a hand-held sprayer, a bench and even a stereo system. Cove lighting in the ceiling is "the perfect way to set the mood for a relaxing steam while listening to music," says the designer.

Small Wonder

Not every house has room for a sprawling master bath, but luxury comes in small packages, too. Case in point: this compact master bath, which boasts a light-as-air look and pampering shower accessories. "The space had good bones to start with, but I wanted to give it a dose of personality and a larger appearance," says designer Yanic Simard. "The clear glass fixed shower panel, frosted inset cabinet door, floating vanity and airy porcelain tiles visually open up the space, while the mosaic-tiled shower niche adds pleasing variety without appearing busy. The deep toned vanity adds a rich counterpoint without adding too much weight, for a perfect balance of materials."

Photo By: Brandon Barre; brandonbarre.com

Steamy Dream

In a personal steam room, designer and architect Peter Rose created sculpted body recliners to provide a truly relaxing experience. "The undulating forms of the recliners are tied to the rectilinear forms of the wall through the integration of mosaic tile on both. Glazed porcelain wall tiles provide an elegant and immaculate spa counterpoint," says Rose.

Photo By: Ed White; edwhitephotography.com

Waterfront Retreat

For a beach house with spectacular ocean views, designer Molly Frey created a master bath oasis influenced by the watery tones of its setting. Spa-like amenities include a large shower with a combination of marble and glass tile, multiple shower heads and body sprays, a large soaking tub, radiant heated marble floors and custom-built vanities with frosted-glass detailing. "We even added a shelf to hold an iPad at the vanity, a heated towel rack and linen storage built into the eave," says Frey.

Photo By: Molly Frey, Molly Frey Design; www.mollyfreydesign.com

Old World Elegance

In some projects, the bath is the last space to get the designer's magic touch. But in this renovation, the master bathroom was the first priority. Designer Andrea Schumacher created a rich, classic look by pairing khaki-colored grasscloth wallcoverings with blue-and-white Suzani-style draperies that perfectly frame the piece-de-resistance: The freestanding cast iron tub. "The mother-of-pearl fireplace surround lends a hint of glam to the room," says Schumacher.

Green and Gorgeous

Not only overflowing with pampering amenities — multiple shower heads, a built-in bench, integrated storage niches — this walk-in spa shower boasts green cred, to boot: "The luxe-looking limestone wall tile is actually Lithoverde, the only natural stone comprised of 99-percent post-industrial recycled and reclaimed material," says architect Kevin Yoder. A skylight floods the shower with sunshine, a feature the owners cite as one of their favorites.

Grand Impact

A mix of gleaming glass and warm natural materials give this enormous master bath a look that is at once airy and grounded. Designer Magued Barsoum created a focal point in the large space by nestling the freestanding tub in the semi-surround of the bay window; a large walk-in shower features Rainforest Green granite trim and a heated towel rack.

Fit for Two

Designed with the needs of a couple in mind, this master bath features dual vanities joined by a show-stopping two-person whirlpool tub. The tub's square shape plays up the room's linear theme: Designer Carla Aston chose to repeat rectangular elements throughout the space to create a clean, modern look.

The first issue you want to address is if a whirlpool bath will fit in your bathroom. Whirlpools come in three standard sizes — five feet, five-and-a-half feet, and six feet — but they are designed to be dropped into a deck, so additional space will be required. You may have to reconfigure the layout of your bathroom to accommodate the size of these jetted tubs, and that can get expensive.

Plumbing needs to be taken into consideration, as whirlpool tubs require extra tubing for all those jets. And don't forget about the electrical considerations. Be sure the outlet for the whirlpool can supply the required voltage. If not, an electrician may be needed to do some rewiring. Your contractor can help you figure out these details, too, so don't be afraid to ask.

Be sure the whirlpool tub you choose fits your lifestyle. If you love to soak several times a week, it may be worth it to spend a bit more to get some added features, such as inline heating or aromatherapy options. But if you're only going to use it a few times a month, you may want to go with a less expensive option. Consider an air-jetted tub rather than water jets for a tub that will see less frequent use. The air jets are quieter than the water jets, and can dry out the tub more thoroughly after bathing, helping ensure bacteria doesn't grow in the pipes.

You'll want to be sure the jets have adjustable speeds, so that you can get the level of massage that you want. Ask a salesperson to show you how to adjust the flow rate. Whirlpool bathtubs typically have between 30 and 70 jets, so you can decide if you want to float on gentle bubbles or have a vigorous massage.

Finally, don't be shy — grab your swimsuit and towel and go down to the showroom and try out several whirlpool models before settling on one. You'll spend between $1,500 and $5,000 or more for one of these jetted tubs, so you want to be sure you know exactly what you're getting and that it fits your lifestyle.

Installing a whirlpool tub is a big commitment, both in time and money, but being armed with information and answers will help it be a smooth process.

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