Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Living with a Water Trough Bathtub


We get more comments on our water trough bathtub than any other part of the bus so I’d thought I share what it’s like living with one. The idea to use this kind of tub came to me one morning as I was drinking my coffee (as most good ideas do).

Shortly after we got the bus we discovered that a traditional shower wasn’t going to work. Although Chris can stand up straight in the middle of the bus, he has to duck when he gets to the sides since the ceiling curves. With the added height of a shower pan and tile, he wouldn't have the most comfortable bathing arrangements. We brainstormed various ideas of solving this issue and came to the conclusion that a tub would be best for our space. We would sit down in the tub and use a hand held shower nozzle so we wouldn’t have to take a full on bubble bath every time we bathed. I’m not sure what caused me to search images of “water trough bath tub” but when I found the pictures below and learned the price compared to a traditional tub, I was sold.

That same day we went to our local feed depot and purchased our new 48”, 100 gallon water trough bathtub.


Water trough’s go by various names including stock tanks, horse troughs, livestock tanks, and galvanized metal tubs, among others. For the sake of this post I will just call ours a tub. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. I recommend visiting a feed depot or local hardware store and trying out the tub you’re interested in. We almost purchased a tub that was about a foot shorter than the one we got to save space but changed our mind and opted for the wider one as we felt it would be more comfortable to sit in.

Here are a few examples of how others have used water troughs in their bathrooms.

(Source)

 



After about 8 months of living in the bus I thought I’d share our personal pros and cons about using a water trough bathtub.


Pros:

  • Inexpensive: We bought our tub for around $100 at the local feed store. They had one in stock so we were able to take it home that day. Similar sized claw foot tubs can go for over $1000!
  • Easy Install: To install the tub we drilled a drain hole, two holes for the faucet and attached the tub to the wall with 2 bolts. It’s nestled between our closet and kitchen counter so we’re not worried about it shifting during travel.
  • Light Weight: These tubs are considerably lighter than traditional bathtubs. I’m able to lift the tub on my own. It’s a little big and bulky but this is a huge plus to those who are weight-conscious when building. We were also able to store it in the bus while building and use it as a makeshift bench since it was so easy to move around.
  • Stylish, for some: I’ve seen a big increase in the number of people using these tubs and we always get compliments on the chic, rustic look.
  • Durable: Though they’re available in plastic, our tub is made from galvanized metal and meant to withstand abuse from livestock. We don’t have to worry about it chipping or cracking like a traditional porcelain tub.
  • High Sides: Since the tub has such high sides, we don’t have to use a shower curtain. Though we could easily spray water on the floor with our handheld claw foot tub shower nozzle, we’re careful and aware. Any spray is quickly and easily wiped up after we’re done showering.
  • Great Storage Space: When we travel we store many things inside the tub including a basket full of small, semi-fragile items that normally live on the counters. Our vacuum also lives in it from time to time. Additionally, we planned to install a foldup countertop over the tub for additional counter space, though we’ve found we don’t really need that space right now.

The tub was a great counter space for tools while working on the bus

 The Tiny House Conference
 Photos by Christopher Tack
Cons:
  • Alterations Necessary: The tub came with a drain plug in the side, about an inch from the base so we had to drill one in the floor. They’re also flat bottomed so we designed our tub nook to have a 1-inch slant so the water would flow toward the drain.
  • Not built to bathe in: If you’re looking for a luxurious bubble bath then a water trough probably isn’t for you. They’re straight walled and high sided so getting in and out may be difficult for some and if you want any sort or recline you’ll have to install a seat of some type. Additionally, they’re made of thin metal so the water stays warm for a relatively short period of time. Since we only really take showers in the tub, I hit the sides and bottom with a spray of warm water before getting in so that I don’t have to sit on the cold metal and that usually does the trick.
  • Not that easy to clean: Though the tub rarely looks dirty (and I suppose that’s a pro) it has a rubber seal around the base and up one wall that seems to be a magnet for soap scum. I’m constantly scrubbing it clean but do so very carefully as this seam keeps the floor and wall waterproof and I don’t want to damage it. The strange curves to the walls also make it a little awkward to scrub.
  • Negative stigma: I’ve seen these tubs referred to as “Red Neck Bath Tubs” but I suppose it’s up to you if that’s an insult or not.
  • Placement: These tubs take up a lot more floor space than a shower pan. To keep the open feel in our bus we essentially bathe in the kitchen/living room. I understand this may be a con for some so that’s why I included it here. However, it’s really no big deal to us. Just the two of us live in the bus and we can easily shut the curtains and the whole bus becomes our shower room. To be honest, this is the case for every room. We have a 200 square foot kitchen when we’re cooking, bedroom when we’re sleeping and bathroom when we’re…well, you know.


My mom told me that when she was little, her family used a bathtub to water their horses because they were cheaper and easier to find than horse troughs. An image of a horse relaxing in a claw foot tub immediately popped into my head when she said this.

Overall, we’re satisfied with the tub. It gets the job done and is a great conversation piece though I don’t think I would put one in my home if I had space for a standard shower. A water trough bathtub is not for everyone but it’s Just Right for us.

What kind of tub or shower would you build in your tiny home?

41 comments:

  1. Thank you. A very helpful post!

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  2. I will be doing a round one in my tiny house, so this article was helpful. I am glad its working out for you. I decided to raise my bathroom ceiling to accommodate an overhead shower, at the expense of space in the loft above it. You can follow my build progress at http://ryanstinyhouse.com

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  3. This is what we plan on using in our bus

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  4. They also come in oblong and round shapes. I have shared my horses water troughs a few times when it was hotter than blazes but never thought to bring one in the house. Great idea.

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  5. We got one for our bus after seeing yours. Thanks for the idea :)

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  6. Nice, thanks for sharing. What a wonderful idea. I'm going to do an RV/motorhome 1 human 1 fur baby. Wonder if it could work for that? Want something slightly deeper than traditional items. Love it.

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  7. Your entire bus is beautifully done! Great post!

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  8. use a rubbermaid or plastic tub from the feed store, love mine

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  9. Very attractive looking bus. Well done guys.

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  10. Great article with helpful info. Thanks! As I looked at the pictures it occurred to me that one could build a removable counter to hide the tub when not in use and maximize the space. Such a counter could be flush with the sink counter increasing the prep space. Just an idea.

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  11. Thanks for posting this! We just bought one for our tiny house and it's nice to see a pro's in con's list, I imagine our list would look the same in 10 months. :)
    Did you seal the inside with anything?

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  12. I was so excited to read this article. The pros and cons are perfect. Thank you. Congratulations on a lovely home!
    I've bought a green plastic trough, because I wanted the slanted sides and I thought that the plastic would feel better on my bare skin and maybe not leak the heat as quickly as the galvanized. If it does, I'll enclose it and insulate it. My small washer and spin dryer will live in it when I'm not bathing.
    I love your bus and that you are doing it your way and just right for you. I've designed my tiny house just for me, too. It will be done in a couple of months. I can hardly wait!

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  13. We are going to put one of these in our 1883 rail way house that we will be moving into. Do you suppose maybe putting a coat of swimming pool paint on the inside would be a good idea to help seal and make the tub last longer and maybe help the slippage that happens with metal? What type of drain did you put in the tub? A traditional bathtub drain? I was sold on this idea last and we are just a couple works weekends away from purchasing our "body trough". lol.

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    1. I'd be very appreciative of information regarding the drain and type of drill bit used to drill. Thanks.

      Scott

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    2. Hi Scot, sorry for the delay. We used a large metal drill bit to drill through the bottom. We had a lot sitting around because the whole bus is metal, slow and low is the key for drilling in metal. Our tub drain is actually a sink drain. We needed to go straight down to get out of the bus before putting in the p trap and most tub drains go down and then along the bottom or up the side for a spillover drain.

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  14. Perfect, exactly the information I was looking for, thank you for posting it :)

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  15. I posted a year ago, (see above) and am now living in my tiny house, Ozmyrrah, on Whidbey Island in WA. The green tub is perfect. It uses about 50 gallons of water when I take a bath, and when I get in, it's toasty and covers my shoulders and knees. It has a bar sink drain, so it keeps the water in, unlike a leaky standard bath drain, and I have a wall-mounted faucet that can accept my washer connection and my shower attachment. I really designed the house to accommodate the tub, and I'm so glad I did. The water stays lovely for an hour, and if I'd like to stay longer, I add about 5 gallons of hot water and I'm good for another half hour or so. The slanted sides are comfortable, and I can float when I cross my legs and arms. Incredible! I keep the water in the tub in the cooler weather until it's room temp, because it's heating the house while it's full. No regrets, at all. Oh, yeah, also really easy to clean. My landlady is removing her metal trough tub as we speak, and replacing it. lol Consider it if you ever get tired of yours. It also comes in royal blue. I love your blog.

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    1. Thanks for following up with a wealth of helpful information. Plastic seems like a much better solution than metal for a bathtub.

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  16. I'm thinking of adding a tub like this in my tiny house. Do you worry about support and the tub crashing through the floor?

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    1. Hi Claire, I can't speak for a tiny house but in a bus, nothing can crash through the floor. It's several layers of solid steel supported by large steal cross beams. We had trouble just drilling through it.

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  17. What brand did you buy? Do you have pictures?

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  18. We just purchased a 6'x2' galvanized tank from our local feed store $150 for our new home we built. Husband is 6'8, long legs so searching for a tub to fit him was way too pricey. Came up with this idea and am ecstatic to start it. We are putting a piece of plywood on the floor then on top of it putting foam board insulation then another piece of plywood, basically a type of pedestal and to hold a little more heat. We think we can do this for less than $500. Compared to the thousands for a custom tub this is going to be awesome, will be posting pictures when complete.

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  19. We just purchased a 6'x2' galvanized tank from our local feed store $150 for our new home we built. Husband is 6'8, long legs so searching for a tub to fit him was way too pricey. Came up with this idea and am ecstatic to start it. We are putting a piece of plywood on the floor then on top of it putting foam board insulation then another piece of plywood, basically a type of pedestal and to hold a little more heat. We think we can do this for less than $500. Compared to the thousands for a custom tub this is going to be awesome, will be posting pictures when complete.

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  20. Is there a paint or epoxy that could be painted to the inside as a coating? I want to try this, but I'd like the inside to be white.

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    Replies
    1. We had ours powder coated. Brown on the outside and cream on the inside.

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    2. We had ours powder coated. Brown on the outside and cream on the inside.

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  21. Hi! I just purchased a stock tank for my bus, and have a question. how did you two make the 1" slant happen? I am wanting to do the same thing for the drain. Let me know! Thanks!

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    1. I mean this nicely. 1. park on a slope 1 degree. 2. or before tub fill, slide a 1"x30" board under the non-drain end.

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  22. I love this idea! I'm hoping to build a tiny house with cash, something low cost yet "chique" and this sounds perfect! I appreciate you sharing the pros & cons.

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  23. I recently came across a high-end home decor article that featured a minimalistic bathroom with a painted stock tank in white, very modern and very attractive!

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  27. That looks so awesome! Looks very retro look-alike. Just remember with that much of a water. It can easily be mold in your bathroom. You should have a mold Inspector have a look at that. If you live in the Texas area. We can do it for you, or you should find someone in your local area. water damage restoration dallas texas- mold

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  28. If you’re looking for a luxurious bubble bath then a water trough probably isn’t for you. see post

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  30. I am thinking of getting a heavy-duty black plastic water trough for a temporary/permanent bathtub while I fix my bathroom floor. I was thinking about putting wheels under it, because of water issues I would have to roll it into the kitchen to use it then roll it to another room to store it. I wonder what kind of support I would need under it if any to put the wheels on. I was thinking two of them would be locking wheels for safety getting in and out. The one I'm looking at has a drain in the side I was thinking attach a garden hose to drain it. Any thoughts ?

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