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The Ultimate Guide To Buying Your First Bathtub - For HDBs

Ever dreamt of having a bathtub in your home, but are absolutely clueless on how to do so?

How do I buy my first bathtub, without stressing too much?

Ever dreamt of having a bathtub in your home, but are absolutely clueless on how to do so?

First-times can be scary. When it comes to an unfamiliar topic, we tend to make the wrong decisions when overwhelmed with a superfluous of options and a large gap in knowledge. We never know the outcome, and might end up full of regret and faced with disappointment.

I for one, am sure, I made the wrong decision to let my stress get to me.

HDB Home, Big Bathtub Dreams – Can It happen?

I had recently bought a new home, and just like any other Singaporean, I struggled with wholly utilising the minimum space in my HDB flat unit during the renovation process.

This was an issue in particular for my bathroom. 

I would not go down without a fight, for I had thoroughly revelled in the wonders of what hotel bathtubs had to offer during my honeymoon, and I just couldn’t shake the idea of NOT having a bathtub.

As impossible as it sounded, I decided to challenge myself and found a few retailers. However as the process became more arduous and deadlines for the renovation completion were nearing, I was faced with an immense amount of stress

Would I be able to get my renovations done on time if I spent more time contemplating about getting the perfect bathtub?

Should I just postpone the idea of getting a bathtub for another time? But if that’s the case won’t I have to renovate my home again?”  

Despite these jumbled thoughts, I still went ahead with my bathtub selection.

I crumbled when it came to the bathtub selection.

I missed out several minor details, like taking note of drainage & pipe placements, and even the different measurements for the bathtub’s dimensions.

It wasn’t until my bathtub was installed that I realised its bathtub drainage hole did not align with the bathroom drain. This meant that used water from the bathtub, would not be able to flow directly to the bathroom drain, and would flood up the entire bathroom.

Imagine having 100 litres of dirty bath water flowing in every direction, without any proper designation, everywhere in your bathroom.

its a no from me

What a disaster that would be !

This only happened because I wasn’t cautious in noticing how the varying inner, outer and rim dimensions of the bathtub would affect its positioning in the bathroom.

The end result…

An unsatisfied bathtub and a whole lot of stress.

What I learnt?

Never fully assume that your contractor or designer will be there to handle ALL aspects of the bathtub, especially when you’re the one making the final decisions.

Sure, they might do the job. However, they might fail to warn you about the drawbacks of your decision, given that their priority is still pleasing the customer and carrying out only what the customer wants, not what may be best for you or your bathroom.

you have failed

If only I had done my research and heeded the advice of reliable sources.

If only I had been more wary about the different aspects of a bathtub to look out for, such as the method of installation, shape, material and weight, the ADA compliance rule and so many more.

If only….

To avoid more If onlys… and the consequences that may follow, I have decided to compile this guide for those who are interested in getting their first bathtub, in hopes that they do not face the same ordeals and stress as I did. This guide will tell you everything you’ll need to know, including problems you might face and how you can countermeasure them.

Size, Dimensions, Depth

The most vital factor which affects the selection of your bathtub would without a doubt be the size of your bathroom, and the spot you would imagine your bathtub to be positioned in.

In my opinion, it becomes an easier and more straightforward task if you were selecting a bathtub to fit into your pre-designed or current bathroom, given that the dimensions have already been set for you.

While preset dimensions are useful in narrowing down bathtub designs, revamping an overhaul or erecting a bathroom from scratch, does give more room for out-of-the-box ideas. Some people even build the concept of their bathroom around their bathtub as the main feature in mind.

Because I had just bought a new house, I had the privilege to be more fussy when it came to selecting the ideal bathtub for my interpretation of a perfect bathroom. Regrettably, as I mentioned that the purpose of this guide is to help warn other fellow bathtub first-timers like myself, I obviously didn’t maximise that benefit to the fullest, and made some silly mistakes.

What Everyone Thinks They Know, But They Don’t

As I mentioned earlier, only when the bathtub was installed did I notice that it was being placed a little off from where I wanted it to be.

So why?

Didn’t I make sure to take the proper measurements of the tub? I checked and even double-checked so why is it still off?

Of course I did.

Everyone knows the general rules of measuring bathtubs; depth, height, width.

But, do they know because of the structure of a bathtub, what we are really measuring isn’t the bathtub, but the Bathtub Shell.

mind blown

The Bathtub Shell usually involves the outer bathtub dimensions, the inner bathtub dimensions, the rim dimensions, the square area or circumference (if the bathtub has more rounded edge) dimensions, and whole lot of other measurements depending on the shape, design and installation method for the bathtub.

The more intricate a bathtub design is, the more complicated its dimensions would be, hence the more difficult it would be to accurately coordinate the bathtub against the bathroom layout.

bathtub dimension

This is why I must warn you, to always get the measurements of your bathtub down to the T, ensuring that it not only fits into the space of your property, but more importantly it has to fit bathroom coordinates like a glove.

Shape & Installations

The next most important factor, following the purpose of your bathtub and its size, would be the method of installation or its shape.

How your bathtub will be installed is highly dependent on the bathroom size. You should definitely give it some thought, taking into account the structure and layout of your bathroom, if your bathtub would be able to fit or not.

a) Alcove Tubs

One of more prevalent types of bathtub installation involve the tubs to be installed against three walls, whilst leaving the fourth side open, to be finished. This installation method is rather popular with bathtub owners, as it is the most affordable choice, and most convenient should the bathtub needs replacing.

alcove bathtub
b) Freestanding Tubs

As its name suggests, these are standalone bathtubs that the do not require any installation between walls. Its base is constructed to hold the pressure from every inch of the tub. You should only consider this if your bathroom has enough space to spare.

freestanding bathtub

  c) Corner Tubs

The corner-tub installation is a preferred way to save a lot of space for bathrooms with small spaces. It is usually structured to be three-sided, two of which are installed against a wall, and the last one done up, but left exposed.

corner bathtub

d) Drop-in Tubs (Platform Tubs)

Drop-in Tubs generally do not have any finished sides. Instead, they represent only what the core of a bathtub is, a tub frame. The frame is then dropped into an existing skeleton, that requires beforehand installation. 

This method is more complicated and costly. Nonetheless, should you prioritise your bathtub to consummately correspond with your bathroom,  you can give this technique a go.

drop in tubs

Jet Installations

If you have chosen to go with a jet-installed bathtub, note that you have to consider the air switch, pump and electric timer. Some pumps fit within the bathtub itself, but if it doesn’t you might have to figure out a storage area to house them.

bathtub jet installation

Drain and Pipe Placement

When deciding on the bathtub’s position, do take note to adjust the tub according to the drain placement. Shifting a drain to accommodate the bathtub may prove to be a more expensive & difficult process. Should you be contemplating on a shower-tub combination, the shower-head’s location is also important.

Again, don’t take for granted that your contractor is a 100% sure your bathtub can fit through your bathroom door. There have been cases where home owners assumed that the so-called pros would have known about the potential complications and a forewarning would be given to them if they made such a choice. In the worst case scenarios, these home owners were face with no choice but to breakdown their door in order for the bathtub to pass through.


Drain & Pipe Placement

Types of Bathtubs

When it comes to an unfamiliar and new topic, sometimes it can get intimidating, especially if a surge of information is being shoved into our faces and we become unsure of which ones are applicable for us.

That is why before focusing on the other details, you have to decide what are the benefits you’d like to enjoy, in order to select the right one.

thinking img
Get to know more about the different types of bathtubs available, before making your choice.

a) Standard Tubs

If you are just looking for a simple tub to soak after a long day, then this is the one to consider. It is the most basic form of a bathtub and is generally one of the more cheaper options.

b) Soaking Tubs

This tub is similar to a standard tub, except that its deeper structure allows for a more in-depth soak and may be more comfortable for some people. This may cost slightly more than the standard tub.

c) Whirlpool Tubs

A step up from the common/basic bathtub would be a whirlpool bathtub. These tubs involve in-built water jets that are strategically placed to target the users’ muscles such that it provides a massage-
like experience to relieve body pains and inflammation in the joints.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 4.15.59 PM

d) Air Tubs

Just like whirlpool tubs, air tubs have in-built jets to ease body stiffness and help the user to relax. The only difference is that the jets propel air instead of water, which accounts for a more dispersed and soothing feeling preferred by some. Air Tubs are pricier than whirlpool tubs.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 4.14.59 PM

e) Combination Tubs

Who says you can’t mix-and-match? According to whatever your needs are, you can always opt to have a tub that offers both types of jet technology, or a tub-and-shower option. Tub customisation is also up for consideration.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 4.16.40 PM

What are the Limitations of My Bathtub?

Next comes the part which you could say is one of the more complicated steps in this process.

As much as we would like to explore the horizons of creativity, indeed we are still bound by limitations.

The fact that we might not be able to alter the bathroom space as we deem, indefinitely contributes to the selection of our bathtub. (what bathtubs types would then able to fit into my bathroom?).

Also realistically speaking, personal ability is another contributing factor as to how one would select their bathtubs, (how much are we willing to pay for the bathtub?).

And what if our bathroom design and layout had already been decided,
(how will my bathtub fit nicely into the concept of my bathroom? Is there anything else missing, that I might require?).

confused math meme

Weight & Material

Here is a list of bathtub materials you may consider.


a) Enamelled Cast Iron/ Cast-Iron

Enamelled Cast Iron (iron moulded with porcelain enamel) and Cast Iron are classic bathtub materials, given its durability and excellent heat retention. Its thick enamel is highly resistant to chipping and scratching, thus allowing it to be resurfaced time and again.

It is shock-resistant and retains heat fairly well. The only cons of this material is its extremely heavy weight, and the possibility that structural reinforcement might be required to hold it up.

cast iron bathtub 1
b) Steel/ Enamelled Steel

Steel is similar to Cast Iron, but given that it is a conductor of heat, water cools quicker. Although this material is cheaper, its more susceptible to chip easily.

steel bathtub

c) Copper

Copper bathtubs are usually more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, given its distinctive texture and colour. Give this a try if you do not mind splurging a little more for that extravagant touch.

copper bathtub

d) Wooden

Bathtubs made of wood, when filled with hot water, releases an amazing natural aroma. Depending on the type of wood, usually Cedar, is a strong material that complements well with water and remains durable as when its dry.

wooden bathtub

e) Cast Polymer – Cultured Marble, Granite, Onyx

This material resembles that of stone (engineered natural stone) and is made by moulding minerals, polymeric materials and resins together. It resembles the solid-surface of countertops (eg; Corian), is finished with a gel-coat, and can preserve heat decently. This material is usually reasonable priced, and is stain-resistant and easy to clean. Although surface scratches can be buffed out, the material itself may prove to be brittle, and once the gel-coat wears off, cracks will then become unrepairable.

(i) Cultured Marble

Cultured Marble provides for a more exquisite and refined touch, but its drawbacks include steep prices and high maintenance.

marble bathtub 1

f)  Fibreglass-Reinforced Plastic (FRP)

Fibreglass is made from polyester resin, fibreglass reinforcement and layers of surface coating. They are generally affordable and less expensive than Acrylic, however are also less durable. They are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to clean and maintain. This material is a great choice for shower-tub combinations. Unfortunately, it is not as durable as other materials given that it is porous in nature, it absorbs water regularly its surface tends to crack and scratch, whilst its colour and finish may fade overtime. The material may have a tendency to ‘flex, hence causing it to warp and feel unstable.

acrylic bathtub

g) Acrylic

Bathtubs made from Acrylic are quite common due to the material’s versatility and durability, stemming from their non- porous aspects. They come in a large variety and are inexpensive, but are slightly costlier than fibreglass. Because the bathtub is made from vacuum-formed acrylic sheets, reinforced with fibreglass, they are lightweight and can replaceable. Unfortunately, if abrasive cleaners are used, the surface is prone to scratches.

acrylic bathtub 2


Cost is another one the top factors on everyone’s list when it comes to deciding what kind of bathtub they would want to purchase. Although a bathtub is not a cheap investment, it is definitely a worthwhile one, That being said, it should still not be something you rake up huge debts for.

money flying away

I’ve heard of friends who have invested so much in their bathroom renovations and bathtubs, that they spend the next couple of years working incessantly, trying to cover the cost of whatever they have splurged on, because they didn’t know any better.

So know better.

When it comes to cost, you are your best finance advisor.

Know full well about your financial abilities and the investment you are getting into.

On the other hand, don’t compromise on its cost since the bathtub is going to be around for the long-run.

one does not simply bathtub meme

You may consider consulting a bathtub specialist if you are unsure of how to work your budget according to the choices available.


a) Style & Color

Essentially, most classic bathtubs are white, but there is still a wide variety of designs and shades to choose from other than the typical. You may want to follow a colour scheme for your bathtub and bathroom to look more cohesive. Or, if you are going for a more modern take, you could choose a pop of colour for your bathtub to be the focal point and accent your bathroom.

Leaf through magazines, portfolios, websites and other means to gain inspiration for your bathroom and picture what kind of bathtub would be best suited. You can also check in with your bathtub specialist for their recommendations and trust their expertise.


b) Finishing Material

The finishing materials for each bathtub can differ from the key material they are built from. Some suggestions would be to decorate the exterior of your bathtub with tiles, or even construct stonework to pair your bathtub.

You may stretch your imagination to however fancy you wish for the exterior of your bathtub to emulate, but be cautious to use high-quality adhesive in an environment subjected to humidity and dampness.

Extras Features & Add-Ons

Supposing that you would like to further differentiate your bathtub from all the other tubs out there and take it to the ‘next level’, there are a lot more options for you to customise and add additional features.

I mean, why have a bathtub if you’re not going to make your own, am I right?

Personalise it, customise it, change it up.

There are so many options out there. You can literally do whatever you want with your bathtub!

shut up and take my moneyu
In other words, here are some ways you can “zhng” your bathtub.

(“zhng” – Hokkien Slang for customise & upgrade, to make something look way cooler than before) 


a) Tub Lighting

There is always the option of adding underwater lighting to your bathtub, known as chromotherapy, which enhances the therapeutic effects the combination of water and lights have on the user.

bathtub lighting 1
b) Speakers

If enjoy listening to music while relaxing in your bathtub, and have the budget for it, you can always tailor-make your bathtub to come with them. Alternatively, you can purchase a separate sound system to be placed into your bathroom to build a more pleasurable bath experience.

c) Faucets & Fixtures

While at it, why not change up the bathtub faucets, knobs, drains and other elements since you are already getting a new bathtub?

faucets and fixtures
d) Shelves & Storage

Think about how much space you would require to place your bath essentials like soaps, oils, candles, speakers etc. If it isn’t adequate, you may have come up with storage ideas or install more shelves.

Or even better, a adjustable bathtub rack to allow you to fully maximise your bathtub experience!

shelves and storage 2

Safety – ADA Compliance

On the condition that your home houses elderly folks, young ones or members with disabilities, your bathtub should be ADA Compliant.

ADA Compliant features provides safety and accessibility to address movability or disability concerns, such as the placement of crucial rails and handles to aid them, and opting for a non-slip bathtub base.

children and elderly


Lastly, everyone wants to be assured that their bathtub can last for a long time, which means they are looking for durability in not only the product itself, but from the source they purchased it from.

A trusted advocate would provide warranty for a project like this. Evidently, check with your bathtub consultant if they provide warranties for their bathtubs.

warranty logo

Editor’s Note

Dear All,

I hope that you have found this guide useful, and are able to benefit from the points I’ve mentioned. Now with all the information at hand, you are armed and ready to take on bathtub planning like a pro!

If you have any problems, share them with me by filling in the contact form.

I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy Bathtub Planning… ?

Cheers !!! ?

bathtub meme 1

Zen Chan

About the Author

Zen has experienced the woes and difficulties of trying to own a Bathtub in a HDB. Now that she successfully figured how to do it easily and effortlessly, she wants to help everyone else savour the goodness of what Bathtubs have to offer.
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