The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before Buying an Antique Clawfoot Tub
We know they’re beautiful, but there is a reason bathtubs aren’t made this way anymore.
In all our Pinterest-worthy, Insta-famous, spa-inspired dream bathrooms, there’s one common element: a clawfoot tub. (You’re nodding your head yes right now, aren’t you?) Something about a clawfoot tub is the ultimate combination of glamour and relaxation. In the past couple decades, they’ve regained popularity—an ode to the past in a room often regaled for its modern finishes. And we’d all be lying to ourselves if we said we didn’t want one. Those episodes of House Hunters where the couple featured views one home that’s missing literally everything on their wish list, but they get tunnel vision when they realize the home comes with an original clawfoot tub—that’s us.
When freestanding clawfoot tubs originated in the 19th century, they were made out of cast iron and lined with porcelain, which made them perfect for long soaks (the iron retains heat really well) but also very heavy (like upwards of 400 pounds). Today, replicas of the classic tubs are made out of acrylic or fiberglass, which are not nearly as heavy and require relatively less maintenance.
The one downside to a clawfoot tub if your home doesn’t conveniently come with a well-maintained original? They’re expensive. Like, can average well over $1,500. At least that’s what you’re likely to pay for a new clawfoot tub, whether it’s cast iron or acrylic. However, if you’re able to find a refurbished (or ready-to-be refurbished) antique clawfoot tub, you’re going to save a large chunk of change. That said, as with all highly valued antiques, it can require some hunting to find one in good enough shape to invest in. And with something that weighs as much as a clawfoot tub does, you’ll certainly want to consider how far from home you’re willing to look.
Experts and DIY bloggers alike agree that if you can find a tub that only needs a serious deep cleaning, and maybe refinishing or painting of the tub’s exterior, you’ve found a winner. If the tub’s porcelain interior has been compromised, you’re looking at a professional-level fix. Which, depending on how much you paid for the tub, could still cost you less than a brand new one, with professional refinishing costing around $400 - $800, according to Houzz.
WATCH: The One Mistake You Make When Cleaning the Tub
Other costs to think about in addition to the actual tub and any refurbishing costs are transportation and installation (400 pounds, remember), new faucets and hardware, and configuring the plumbing in your bathroom for a freestanding tub. So before you click purchase on your dream “just needs TLC” tub you found on Craigslist for $200, definitely weigh all the potential costs. It’s possible a new tub could be a more logical purchase in the end.