|Materials for baths: There are four main types of material used to manufacture baths in the UK. These are cast iron, pressed-steel, glass reinforced plastic (GRP) and acrylic. |
Cast iron is the material from which most baths used to be made and is now most commonly used for free standing styles. There are two commonly held misconceptions concerning cast iron baths. The first is that they are too heavy. The weight of a standard cast iron bath filled with water is in the region of 25 stones. The bath is usually fitted with four legs which means that the weight on each leg on the floor is approximately 6.25 stones. As we walk across the floor foot to foot we actually weigh more that this.
The second misconception is that cast iron baths are cold. This is because years ago when we all used cast iron baths the houses did not have central heating. The bath can only reflect the temperature of the room that it is in. If the room is warm the bath is therefore warm. There is, however, one possible exception. If the bath is fitted in with a panel as apposed to free standing it may be that the air temperature under the bath is cooler due to the holes left by the plumber. If this is the case, insulation under the bath will solve the problem.
This is where a layer of steel several millimetres thick is coated with a stove-enamelled surface. Pressed steel baths are most commonly used in hotels and commercial premises. As the material of the bath is very thin they tend to cool down very quickly. They also tend to be very plain in shape due to the manufacturing restrictions of the material.
Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP)
This was the first type of plastic material used to produce baths and was used by almost everyone until the invention of Acrylic. It has very good insulation properties and enables many shapes and styles to be easily produced.
The two main difficulties with this material are as follows:
1. As the colour for the bath is produced in batches there can sometimes be problems with the match to the pottery.
2. If the bath is fitted in direct sunlight they are prone to the
plasticiser leaking out of the surface and crazing of the surface texture occurring
WHIRLPOOL AND AIRSPA BATHS
There are two type of hydro massage bathing systems:
1. Whirlpools, more commonly known by the brand name Jacuzzi.
2. Airspas, more commonly known by the brand name Airbath.
Whirlpool baths are characterised by having jets on the side of the bath about halfway up and a suction point (similar to a colander) in one of the bottom corners. This type of system produces hydro-massage by sucking water from the bath and pumping it out of the jets on the side under pressure. To increase the pressure of the jets most whirlpools have a control on the top of the bath which allows air to be sucked in to the jet of water.
The main difference between a whirlpool and a Jacuzzi is that the size of the jets is bigger on the Jacuzzi and the air and water mix is different. This difference produces a more powerful jet of water with the Jacuzzi (whether this amount of power is necessary with a standard domestic sized bath is a matter of opinion).
The difficulty with all whirlpool baths is that they hold a small amount of water in the jets and pipe work when emptied. Depending on who fits the system this amount can vary between an egg cup full and several pints.
The second difficulty with some is that not all are designed to have them fitted. This can result in the jets being sited very high up the sides of the bath, with the effect that when you lay in the bath the jets of water do not hit you but spray over the top of you and only agitate the top one inch of water. This will result in a longer bathing period required to achieve the hydro-massage effect.
Where the jet positions are moulded into the side allows the jets to sit lower and so intensify the massage. With this type of system it is not advisable that small children or older people are left unattended whilst in the bath.
The third difficulty with whirlpools of all types is that they do not have the ability to maintain the water temperature. The result of this is that the average length of time a bath stays warm is approximately 30 minutes. That is unless you add more hot water. Dependant on the type of whirlpool system you choose it may take between 10 minutes and 25 minutes to achieve the hydro-massage effect on the body.
Airspa baths are characterised by having a series of jets or holes fitted/drilled into the base of the bath. They produce air through the jets under pressure to fill the bath with bubbling water. This agitation of the water is what causes the hydro-massage effect. The difficulty of this type of system is that it has a tendency to cool the water in the bath. It is possible with this type of system to have any level of water in the bath whilst the system is in use and so makes it ideal for children and older people. However due to the reduced pressure of the air jets over the whirlpool jets it can take longer to produce the hydro-massage effect. The Airbath system has a device called a Warm Air Injection which allows a small amount of hot water to heat the air stream as the air is pumped through the jets. The result of this is that Airbath claim that the system will maintain the bath water temperature. This then allows a person to stay in the bath for longer and so gain the full benefit of the hydro-massage.
One difficulty experienced by all massage systems to a greater or lesser extent is that of hygiene. There is a commonly held belief that this type of system is unhygienic. This is both true and untrue! I will explain. All massage systems require cleaning from time to time. Because of the design some systems may need to be cleaned every 3 months. All good manufacturers will supply a cleaner designed for their type of system and advice on how to use it. The main problem is that people do not follow the cleaning regime and as such problems then ensue. The system is as hygienic as the user. You would never dream of not cleaning the toilet or basin so why assume that the massage bath has the ability to clean itself.
Shopping for a suitable bath for your bathroom will largely depend on how often you use the bath and what for. A lot of people jump in the bath quickly and get out again, using it purely for practical purposes. Others like to soak for hours, enjoying the time they have to themselves as well as the soothing properties of hot water and bath salts.
For those who like a practical bath, the best tubs are probably those that take up least space. If you can spirit your bath away into the corner or onto one side of your room, then you will probably be happy enough. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't go to town on your design, but there is no need to make your bath a central feature.
However, for those who actually look forward to having a bath and really take great pleasure in it, it could well be worth investing in a freestanding bath. These provide extra comfort in that they are large and situated away from the walls of your bathroom and items of bathroom furniture, giving you space to relax properly. They also draw attention and look absolutely stunning as a central focal point.