Unpopular Opinion: Clawfoot Tubs Are Simply The Worst

You'll feel like Audrey Hepburn...until the first time you look underneath.

clawfoot bathtub cons
Getty Images

Clawfoot bathtubs are beautiful; there's no doubt about it. Reassuringly solid, with lovely antique detailing, it's not hard to see why so many bathroom renovators are wooed by their winsome charms.

In fact, we've reached an interior design moment in which one would be hard-pressed to find a recently remodeled bathroom that isn't designed around a delightfully quirky vintage bathtub — call it the Joanna Gaines effect.

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However, we have a hunch that this what's-old-is-new-again fad is on its way out, for one simple reason: we're starting to remember why "old-fashioned" tubs fell out of common usage in the first place.

Clawfoot tubs became a part of our collective design vocabulary as a luxury item of the Victorian era. By the 1920's, they were de rigeur, but by the midcentury, they were outdated, replaced with the more efficient built-in tubs of the 60s and 70s.

Now, we're not encouraging a return to the shallow rectangular constructions many of us grew up with, but there are a few reasons that the clawfoot tub is not the bathroom design panacea it appears.

Bathroom shelves
William Waldron

Cleaning Difficulties

Clawfoot tubs tend to be raised several inches off the floor. This elevation is part of what makes them appealing — until the first time you have to scrub underneath. The space is often narrow enough to make cleaning difficult. What's more, ; it's important to choose products the won't cause pitting.

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Water Damage

If you plan to install a clawfoot, you need to make sure that the whole room is tiled and water-tight. In older homes, original clawfoot tubs were often installed over hardwood floors. While aesthetically pleasing, that combination is a home maintenance nightmare. Clawfoot tubs are deep, and sloshing is inevitable — especially if there are little ones in the household, according to the Property Brothers. If you splash water onto wooden floorboards below, you'll end up with costly water damage and leaks.

Hidden Costs

Clawfoot tubs don't come cheap. If you happen to luck into a home that comes with a clawfoot, you might need to renovate to make the bathroom water-tight. If you decide to purchase the tub, — particularly if you want your tub in the center of the room, not to the side. It's also worth noting that these tubs are often cast-iron and very heavy; you might have to pay to have before installation.

art deco apartment Steven Gambrel
Douglas Friedman

The upshot? Clawfoot tubs can be a huge pain. If you absolutely love the look and are ready to commit to the upkeep, it might be totally worth it for your home. But if you aren't sold on the idea, you might be better served to stick with something more modern.

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