For many years, tile was the choice of bathtub surrounds as well as shower enclosures. Plastic shower enclosures offer an inexpensive way to protect walls from water, but they are not that attractive. Hardboard with a laminate coating is another choice but a poor excuse for a bath surround.
More people now choose bathtub surrounds made from stone, and a great many of those are marble. The most obvious reason is that natural stone is an attractive choice, and upkeep combined with durability makes it a popular material.
The old ceramic tile came in four or six inch blocks, which left a lot of grout cracks to invite mildew. Many showers use floor tiles that are even smaller, and this increases the amount of time a person has to spend on cleaning and maintenance. Another problem with grout cracks is the water migration that seeps behind the tile and can cause larger problems.
All types of bathtub surrounds are going to have seams where water can intrude, but obviously limiting the number of seams can only decrease the chances of damage. Many of the natural stone installations have only tiny separations between pieces that don’t use grout, but more lasting and maintenance free sealants.
The predominant choices in stone tub surrounds and shower enclosures are granite and marble, but travertine and slate make excellent choices, too. All of them present a beautiful change from any other kind of material. A shower enclosure can usually be created in solid pieces so that the only penetrable places are in corners and where the wall intersects with the floor. A tub surround may be installed in one piece horizontally and have different sections above the deck as a splash guard.
Creating a Bath Experience If you are looking to design an attractive bathroom, one of the most prolific and visually stunning elements has to be the bathtub surround and how it is presented in the room. A clever and popular plan has the tub in its own alcove, usually elevated above the floor, but there’s a lot to be said for the sunken tub design, too.
Elevating the tub gives more attention to the surround as well as the tub. Steps can be created leading up to the bath that are straight forward, or contain one or more twists and turns that add more diversity in design. A good material to use for the steps might be a rougher stone, which would prevent the chance of slips and falls.
If the alcove is on an outside wall, it’s a great idea to have plenty of windows to make bathing a bright and natural event. You may prefer to have windows of short height that do not reach down to the tub and lend privacy where needed. You can also use opaque glass or, if you have the luxury of a private dwelling, allow full glass to the top on the tub deck.
Depending on the decor style you are aiming for, you have several choices of how to construct the surround. For a very elegant and regal bath, Corinthian columns on each side of the entry are a special treat. Steps leading up to an oversized garden tub might be square cut marble in the lightest of colors. The deck could be the same, and any windows looking out from the bath would be high with arched tops.
If you aren’t trying for the emperor look, rustic might be more to your liking. For instance, if you have a lot of wood throughout your home, you can create a bath alcove that has solid wooden columns on the sides, which support a beam going across the entry. A stone surround could have a low splash with wood panels above. Tall windows with wooden shutters at the lower sash would give privacy or exposure as you wish.
Still another idea for that special tub area is the sunken tub that has steps leading down to it. In this scenario, windows appear at the upper level so that there is privacy while in the tub. Robe hooks would allow for modesty issues when leaving the bath.
One of the features that makes natural stone such a versatile part of the bathtub surround is that it offers so many different possibilities. It is just as at home in elegant styling as it is with a rustic or primitive theme, and it presents a finished product that doesn’t grow wearisome or ever go out of style.