Ask the Architect

The tub: indoors or out?


Q. I didn’t think designing bathrooms would be difficult, but we are trying to decide if we should have a Jacuzzi tub and shower in our master bath or forgo the tub and put a hot tub on our deck instead. We generally don’t use a bathtub, except for when our grandkids are over, but some friends say it adds value to the house, and that most people want them. Is that true? I would rather have a separate toilet room than a tub, but my wife wants the tub, even though I know she won’t use it. Any thoughts?

A. I remember rolling my eyes in my third-year architecture class when the question was posed, “What is a home?” We went room by room, listing the uses, activities and needs on a chart, and then creating a diagram relating the room shapes and how they’re connected. I realized that I’d never thought about it that way before.
The great bathroom debate over tubs versus hot tubs is very common, and just like any design decision, requires an important thought process. Think of your need versus desire. Because a tub takes up a considerable amount of floor space, you have to really want the vessel. Alternatively, consider the hot tub, which is more portable and removable, takes up no interior space, unless you install it inside, and can be used with friends that you might not have in your bathroom to socially soak. In other words, do you want the personal value of soaking in the privacy of the bathroom or the seasonal social soaking with others, whether family or friends, outdoors?
A hot tub, outside, is handled by municipalities the same as a pool, in-ground or above ground, because a fearless and unaware small child can lift the cover and possibly drown. Outdoors, the hot tub triggers the need (code requirement with a building permit) for fencing and gates around it, although some communities accept a locking cover, floating alarm and door alarms (for when the door has been opened to the hot tub area). I constantly murmur that nothing is simple, and the decision about an indoor versus an outdoor tub is proof.
Most people honestly tell me they don’t have the time or inclination to soak in a tub in their master bathroom (which now, due to political correctness, I hear, is called the “primary suite”). Recently, a client who insisted on a whirlpool tub in their bath called to tell me that after all our discussion and expense, it takes up to 45 minutes to fill the tub, and they had to have a higher-volume water heater so as to not run out of water, after turning down a tankless instant hot water system. They used the expression “Live and learn,” so I hope you avoid the disappointment of making the wrong decision.
Write down your needs versus wants. Decide what you want, not what a future buyer wants. Good luck!

© 2022 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.