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Few bathroom upgrades have the old-fashioned charm of a claw-foot tub with its lovely porcelain feet. Sure enough, a claw-foot tub was at the top of my bathroom wish list as the perfect vessel for me to spend many a relaxing soak within.
Yet, at the risk of alienating the legions of claw-foot tub fans, I have to say it: This trendy upgrade is not all it’s cracked up to be—and I’m not alone in this assessment.
“Claw-foot tubs are beautiful and can add elegance and ambiance to a bathroom, but there are several drawbacks to consider—regardless of whether yours is new, antique, cast iron, or acrylic,” says Cristina Miguelez, a home blogger at Fixr.
So before you decide to install one in your home, allow me to share all that will annoy you about this oh, so pretty upgrade once you use it in real life.
1. It’s a pain to clean around it
A claw-foot tub sits low to the ground and hugs the wall next to it, which means sweeping up dust and hair underneath is a pain in the rear. You basically need to be on your belly to swab the floor below, and it takes a skinny mop to slide near the wall to clean behind it.
2. Water gets everywhere
In addition to dropping hair behind your tub, you will no doubt splash water back there as well, which should be wiped up. Even worse, my big soaker isn’t surrounded by tile as is the norm. It’s flanked by wooden floorboards, and I’m constantly trying to avoid dripping on it when I exit the tub or reach for something outside it (like soap or shampoo, since another downside is there’s no place for these items in a claw-foot tub).
All in all, the added stress about staining or damaging the floor negates the calm I’m supposed to be achieving with this dang tub in the first place.
You’ll have to think twice if you want to create a tub-shower combo.
“While you can install plumbing to make a claw-foot into a shower, this isn’t always necessarily practical,” points out Miguelez.
If you’ve ever stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, you’ll understand. Some inns try to rig a shower curtain around the claw-foot tub so both options are possible, but it’s awkward at best trying to enter it from the middle of the tub and figure out which nozzle is which.
Some of these tubs are monstrous, but, per Miguelez, “most don’t hold as much water as people assume they do. So if you really want a soaking tub, a claw-foot isn’t that comfortable—modern tubs are deeper and better to soak in.”
As for the water temperature, a free-standing tub is exposed to more air than one that’s enclosed behind shower doors or a curtain. And an acrylic tub won’t keep water warm for very long. (Cast iron does a better job, though.) Of course, you can always keep adding more hot water, which leads to the next problem.
5. You’ll feel guilty filling it
Even a shallow claw-foot tub takes a ton of water to fill and cover your body when you get in. My personal tub is bigger than most, so I feel very conflicted when I use it several times a week. I tell myself that the composting we do plus driving a hybrid car will offset the damage I’m inflicting on the planet, but that could also be a big, fat lie.
6. Installation is a small nightmare
If your tub resides on the second floor or higher, you might need to shore up your floors to support its weight. You really need an ace contractor to put in a megatub, says Kara Harms, a lifestyle blogger at Whimsy Soul, as poor installation is a common issue.
Be sure a home inspector checks the tub in your potential new home before signing off.
7. It might never fully drain
Folks with old houses love to install old things, of course, but this practice isn’t without its problems. Our home is more than 100 years old, and the floors slope on every level. So when our old-timey tub was put in, that tiny incline meant the water doesn’t reach the center drain. As a result, there’s always some old bathwater just sitting off to the side, mocking me.
8. Claw-foot tubs are high-maintenance
Iron tubs will rust—and their acrylic counterparts tend to scratch and stain over time, says Miguelez.
“The rust problem is particularly true if the porcelain on the interior or the paint on the exterior chips off,” she adds.
Be ready to reglaze your soaker, people!