Everything About Showers, Tubs & Whirlpools

Shower Enclosures

Most Americans identify a separate shower as something that they want to include in their next bathroom. Because of this the variety of available shower enclosures has never been larger. Corner showers make a great use of space in smaller bathrooms. Today’s showers are manufactured out of a variety of materials, from plastic to solid surface composites. The base can be surrounded by matching wall panels or a custom option of your choice.


Identical to shower enclosures, there are many choices available to update an existing or to build an all-new alcove. Acrylic shower surround kits are a good choice for existing alcoves. They install easily, are available in a wide variety of colors, and usually include built in soap dishes, shelves, and grab bars.


Basic bathtubs are usually available in both right-hand and left-hand models. To determine the handing, you indicate the location of the drain hole when you’re facing the installed tub. There are four primary types of tubs: Recessed/Alcove, Corner, Drop-In, and Freestanding.

Recessed/Alcove tubs are the most common type and are only finished on the exposed side. These tubs are popular because they are space efficient and come in a variety of styles, colors and materials.

Corner bathtubs are space savers that are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, including triangular. Construction of these tubs range from acrylic to enameled cast iron.

Drop-in tubs are usually installed on a platform or sunk below floor level. They are available in a wide variety of styles and colors, and most are made of acrylic, fiberglass-reinforced plastic or enameled cast iron.

Freestanding bathtubs are a good choice for adding some character to your new bathroom. Claw foot tubs are the most popular but other styles are available. These tubs create a dramatic look and are usually constructed out of cast iron or acrylic. Taking a shower in these tubs is possible but will require a shower kit.


Whirlpool tubs circulate jets of water to create massaging action. Most whirlpool tubs are made of acrylic and are designed for platform installation. While whirlpool tubs can take a up a good portion of your budget, it is important to remember the added benefits of nightly relaxing and soothing spa-like massages.

Whirlpools have either water jets, air jets or both. Water jets provide the most vigorous massaging action while air jets provide a lighter massage. Pumps are an important consideration when choosing a whirlpool. Most have pumps that are built-in and are situated opposite the drain. However, some have pumps that can be remotely located to lower noise and improve service access. To control the tub many models have buttons or knobs that let you adjust the massage action, maintain water temperature, and set massage cycles.

Perhaps the most important whirlpool considerations are the special touches that make the tub your own. Whether you want strategically located jets, an in-line water heater, built-in safety bars, underwater lights, waterproof adjustable pillows, or special suction guards to keep hair from clogging up the works, your Curtis Lumber bath designer will help you pick all the special features to suit your needs.


An important consideration when shopping for a new tub, shower or surround is the type of material of which the unit is made. The most commonly used materials are fiberglass, acrylic, PVC, solid surface materials, steel and cast iron. Each type offers some distinct features compared to the others.

PVC based materials are usually the least expensive and found predominantly in surrounds or a limited selection of tubs and showers.

Fiberglass is considerably less expensive than acrylic, cast iron and solid surface materials and is the most common. Fiberglass does require regular maintenance as it will dull and become porous over time.

In the past, enameled steel was the standard for bathtub construction. However, its use has dropped significantly as fiberglass and acrylic gain popularity. Steel tubs typically have an enameled finish. Because of this finish and the material, available styles, colors and shapes are limited.

Acrylic bath components continue to grow in popularity because of their durability and ease of cleaning. Acrylic is thicker than fiberglass which gives it a more durable feel. The biggest advantage of acrylic is the quality of its glossy finish and the fact that it will not dull over time making for easy maintenance and cleaning. Acrylic is also available in more colors than fiberglass. Acrylic units tend to run twice the price of fiberglass.

Cast iron is another common option for bathtubs. Like steel, cast iron used to be a mainstay in tub material, but its use has decreased dramatically. Cast iron is heavy and costs considerably more than acrylic. Because of its enameled finish, cast iron usually is available in the widest variety of colors. While cast iron is incredibly durable, like steel, its enameled finish can still scratch and dull over time.

Solid surface materials continue to grow in popularity with their many varied colors and styles available and are usually available to match your vanity top. Solid surface materials are easy to clean and most scratches or blemishes can be easily buffed out with a household abrasive pad. Pricing on solid surface materials will usually range between acrylic and cast iron.

Sizes & Configurations

Most showers, enclosures and tubs come in standard sizes with slight variations between models and manufacturers. For instance, most standard tubs are predominantly made to a 5′ length with a few shorter or longer options. However, many whirlpools are offered without the jet system as alternatives to the standard 5′ tub. Commonly referred to as a soaking tub, these are available in a wider range of sizes, colors and configurations. Shower units and bases are offered in standard sizes ranging from 32″ to over 60″ in width. Shower & tub enclosures come in a wide variety of configurations to fit the semi-standard sizes of tubs and showers. Enclosures are available in configurations ranging from 1 to 5 pieces.

When looking at acrylic, fiberglass and some solid surface tub and shower units, many are available as 1, 2 or 3-piece configurations. A one-piece configuration is preferred because the absence of seams naturally makes it the easiest to clean. However, due to the size, these tub units will not fit through most doorways or hallways and must be placed inside the bathroom before all the walls are framed. One-piece units are typically used in new construction. Two and three-piece units are the natural alternative when remodeling and are generally offered in the same sizes and configurations as their one piece counterparts.

Let Us Help You

Our Bath Designers are skilled in helping you select the right tub, shower, or whirlpool for your space. Be sure to stop into our store to get your bathroom project started on the right foot.