Tub Or Shower? Here's Which Bathroom Upgrade Is Actually Worthwhile

Including the trendy reno that's totally not worth it.

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Courtesy of Tessa Neustadt

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at home decor photos on Instagram or , you’ve surely slowed your scroll to double-tap or save a photo of a beautiful bathtub. Whether it’s a charming clawfoot tub, a freestanding tub in front of a window with incredible views, or just a really enviable bubble bath setup with candles setting the mood, a good tub pic has become the matcha latte of home design on social media. In the moment, you may be thinking need that, but do you really?

And, if you're going to shell out the cash to renovate your bathroom—which costs the average person $9,724—it's worth doing a little cost-benefit analysis. How much joy will you get out of it, versus what will it do for your home's overall value? Is a bathtub more desirable than a large, open shower? What are my options, honestly?!

When it comes to bathing, you’ve got three options: a standalone shower, a freestanding tub, or a shower-tub combo. Which of these options is most popular and desirable has evolved over time and has been influenced by different design trends: 25 years ago, big whirlpool tubs were super popular, often paired with a smaller shower stall. Since then, more homeowners opted for a shower-tub combo to save space and create a more efficient bathroom that still had both options. Now, “a separate shower and soaking tub are much more desirable for today's buyer,” says Staci Donegan of Sotheby’s International Realty in Savannah, Georgia.

Part of the reason jetted tubs fell out of popularity after the ‘90s is that people realized they weren’t using them as much as they’d imagined (obviously Instagram wasn’t around then to inspire them), and the hassle of cleaning that large of a tub turned people off.

Keep This In Mind Before You Go All #DemoDay.

Supersized, ultra-luxe tubs may be out of fashion, but there is a prevailing mindset that homes ought to have at least one tub—primarily because they are a requirement for a lot of families with small children and pets. And if you’re taking on a bathroom renovation that might eliminate your home’s only existing tub, it’s important to recognize that although going tub-less might not directly lower your home’s value, you will end up alienating a ton of potential buyers whenever you do decide to sell. Which means you may be forced to take a lower offer.

glowing bathroom
Jonny Valiant

If you really aren’t interested in having a tub for yourself but are concerned about resale value, Staci suggests at least putting the plumbing in place for a tub, even if it’s hidden behind the wall, so that a buyer who wants one can easily add it into the design. And, if that's the case, spring for a large, open-glass shower for yourself.

If You're Team Shower, Go Big Or Go Home.

Staci says it's far more in-demand than a traditional, closed-in shower. As an added , large open showers (especially those with a built-in bench) are much more accommodating for people using a wheelchair or those who may have difficulty stepping over the edge of a tub to take a shower.

shower niche
Trevor Tondro

If your home has at least two bathrooms, you’ve got the luxury of customizing master and guest bathrooms while still maintaining the one-tub rule of thumb (you know, provided that you can afford it).

One bathtub renovation Staci wouldn’t recommend? Adding a clawfoot tub. “A clawfoot tub is a pretty picture, but it doesn't appeal to a buyer's need for modern conveniences,” she says, adding that she would only suggest installing one in a historic home that’s undergoing a period-appropriate renovation. So long, Instagram fame.

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