Backyard Bathtubs Are Having a Moment—but Should You Take the Plunge?


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Jul 09, 2023

Backyard Bathtubs Are Having a Moment—but Should You Take the Plunge?

Soaking under open skies sounds appealing, but there are plenty of logistics to consider before you set up the outdoor tub of your dreams. Outdoor bathtubs are all the rage this summer, and for good

Soaking under open skies sounds appealing, but there are plenty of logistics to consider before you set up the outdoor tub of your dreams.

Outdoor bathtubs are all the rage this summer, and for good reason—a private, peaceful oasis right in your backyard might be just what you need to unwind. If you’re into the idea of bathing al fresco, you’re in luck: We spoke with Kevin Lenhart, design director and landscape architect at Yardzen, to get the scoop on all things outdoor bathtub. Read on to see whether your backyard could benefit from an outdoor bathtub, and what to keep in mind before you dive in.

You’re the ideal candidate for an outdoor tub if you have the space for one in your yard, if you want a place to relax by yourself outdoors, and if you prioritize wellness. Lenhart says that outdoor bathtubs are on the rise, and they’re part of a larger trend—more and more people are designing their yards to optimize physical and mental wellness. Taking a bath can be great for your overall physical and mental health, but bringing it outdoors does even more.

“There are loads of studies documenting the health benefits of getting out and being in nature,” says Lenhart. “When you take the health benefits of a bath and the health benefits of being outside and you overlap them, it’s a pretty obvious win.”

Looking for other ways to incorporate wellness into your backyard? Lenhart suggests planting native plants to boost the natural ecosystem’s health—and thereby enhance your backyard experience—or building flexible entertainment spaces, so you have the peace and quiet of the outdoor tub along with the space to be social with your family, friends, and neighbors.

Bringing a bathtub to the yard is also a playful way to incorporate traditionally indoor elements outdoors. Lenhart loves this landscape design trend, and we’re starting to see why.

“There is no space more private than our bathroom, and here we are taking that bath and bringing it outside,” says Lenhart. “That’s pushing this concept of taking indoor spaces and moving them outdoors to its fullest extent.”

There’s a lot to consider when incorporating an outdoor tub into your yard, but the first and foremost should be comfort. Bathing outdoors can be quite vulnerable if you don’t place the tub in the right place, or if you don’t include everything you’ll need pre- and post-bath.

“You want to make sure that there is a sufficient level of privacy for you to feel comfortable, because the tub is going to be a failure from a design perspective if you don't feel at peace when you're using it,” says Lenhart. “Planting is often the best way to provide privacy, by blocking views from neighboring properties.”

Planting dense and tall greenery around the bathing area and nestling the bathtub amongst the plants can help add an extra layer of privacy—and can create an outdoorsy illusion if the rest of your backyard is on the sparser side.

Other things to consider: Where will you put your towel? Is there space for your soap and shampoo? Is there an easy and comfortable pathway back to the house when you’re done? Incorporating an easy-to-use walkway (hint: not gravel) from the bath to the back door can make or break the bath experience. Including a chair or small table that can accommodate all your bathing essentials will ensure that you’re not struggling to reach your bath products when trying to relax and unwind.

Something else to keep in mind: Many people are drawn to the vintage look and may seek out an antique, resale tub. That’s a great route to go if you’re looking for a bargain—and we love the clawfoot look—but Lenhart wants to remind buyers that older tubs aren’t always able to endure the outdoors. Before buying, make sure the tub is in good enough condition that you’re comfortable bathing in it, and that it won’t fall apart when left out in the elements.

Otherwise, all of your normal design rules apply. Stick to a color palette for easy cohesion, and place the tub in an accessible and aesthetically pleasing location to go with the flow of your backyard.

“Just as with any design decision, you want to make sure that your decision to add a tub into your landscape has an overall positive effect on the landscape as a whole,” says Lenhart. “You need to make sure it looks good so that when you’re not bathing, it adds aesthetic value to your yard and it comes across as a charming feature in your overall landscape design—something that is fun to look at.”

The most unexpected part of an outdoor bathtub is often its price tag, according to Lenhart. He says that the tub itself can often be pricey, ranging from fairly inexpensive to quite an investment on the luxury end.

“It’s quite common for people to underestimate the costs of a landscape project, regardless of whether or not it includes the bathtub,” says Lenhart. “Outdoor baths fall into that pitfall.”

Beyond that, if you want hot water to run through the tap, you’ll need to run plumbing to your outdoor tub. Depending on where you place your tub, plumbing costs vary—closer to the house is generally cheaper. Just be sure to consult an experienced plumber before embarking on this task.

If plumbing is involved, your bathtub will also need a sturdy base, which only adds to the cost. Though all these costs combined are relatively affordable compared to the cost of installing an in-ground pool (even a small one!), they can really start to add up, so make sure you’re aware of the total cost before you take action.

If you want to avoid plumbing all together, that’s completely alright too—just know that you won’t have hot water in your outdoor tub. You can simply fill the tub up with a hose when in use, or make your own ice baths. When going the no-plumbing route, though, make sure there’s somewhere to drain the water when you’re done—consider a planted area with high drainage capabilities to ensure you don’t damage the rest of your yard.

There are so many options for taking a dip outdoors: Pools, plunge pools, hot tubs, and outdoor showers all offer their own benefits. So why choose an outdoor bathtub?

For one, though tubs can be quite expensive, they’re generally much cheaper than their pool alternatives. Because they don’t require filtration systems, their price tags are much more manageable if you’re strategic about placement. Beyond the tub itself, and plumbing if you so choose, there aren’t really any hidden costs—upkeep is minimal and cleaning is much simpler.

Also, if you’re looking to save space, an outdoor tub might be right for you. Instead of installing a pool and everything that goes along with one—think diving boards, pool chairs, and ladders—all you need is the tub! It can be nestled away or disguised with greenery so it will blend in seamlessly with any other design elements you’ve already incorporated.

And, even though an outdoor tub may seem like a fixture only fit for individual—or maybe two-person—experiences, there are ways to maximize its use that just wouldn’t work with a pool.

“What you want to avoid is having it be a single-use feature that is only providing value when you’re actually sitting in the tub,” says Lenhart. “We’ve seen people get creative around outdoor bathtubs, to try to get value out of them beyond simply bathing.”

Whether you’re giving your dog a bath in the tub, letting your kids play inside (with supervision), or filling it with ice and using it as a drinks cooler, there are endless ways to make an outdoor bathtub just right for your backyard.