steamy spa soaker tub

A stainless steel elliptical soaking tub from Diamond Spas is situated amongst white river rocks in a sleek, Asian-inspired tiled bath.

Some of us are shower people, and some are bathers.

But there’s a way to be both, as the Japanese discovered centuries ago when they developed the ofuro, or soaking tub.

Traditionally, the Japanese get clean with a shower or hand bath and then step into an “ofuro,” a deep tub full of clean hot water. These tubs are often large enough that several family members can have a communal soak. It’s considered a relaxing and important ritual.

The idea has caught on here, and there are now several manufacturers making ofuro tubs suitable for one bather or a couple. Usually about 27 inches deep, the tubs typically have built-in seats, and often a grab bar. They’re available in acrylic, composite, wood, even stainless steel and copper.

Steamy options

— Wooden tubs. The Hinoki Ofuro is made from romatic cypress native to Japan; the resin is bacteria- and rot-resistant and withstands humidity. The citrusy fragrance is a common aromatherapy component.

— Acrylic and composite tubs. Kohler makes the Greek acrylic soaking tub, a 4-foot-long, 23-inch-deep, one-person bath well-suited to a smaller bathroom. Kallista’s Perfect Deep Soak bathtub has two raised corner seats at different heights.

— Metal tubs. Diamond Spas in Frederick, Colo., welds recycled copper and stainless steel into tubs that are lined with foam insulation, then buffed to a nice Old World finish.

Need to know

— If you’re putting in a smaller, one- or two-person tub, you’ll actually use less water than a conventional tub. But a four-person version can hold a lot of water — close to 250 gallons, o floor joists need to be able to hold the weight of the water, not just the tub.

Also, make sure you’ll be able to get the tub sideways through doorways.

— Many tubs come with an overflow failsafe built in, but you should have a drain in the bathroom floor as well. The river rock bed is an attractive way to hide a draining floor system, but you can also tile the bathroom floor and install a drain.

— You’ll need lots of good hot water, so upgrade your system, and consider an inline heater that continuously reheats the full tub.

— There are jetted options for many of these models, if you’d prefer some bubbles with your soak.

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