Have master tubs jumped the shark?

February 21, 2013

Sept. 201977, was the day that I breathlessly awaited the conclusion of the shark-jumping episode of "Happy Days." All week long I had fretted about Fonzie’s mid-air cliff hanger. While Fonzie (clad in leather jacket and water skis) successfully made the jump and lived to be cool another day, the series "Happy Days" was not so lucky--it took a turn for the worse and was never the same again.

In the building industry, I am noticing in many markets the master bath soaking tub is beginning to vanish. Why? Trends often make their way into the middle market as a trickle down from the luxury market. David Compo, a high-end builder and Southeastern Michigan’s Builder of the Year, states, “85 percent of our customers want to eliminate the tub. Many buyers have had the soaking tub with or without jets in a previous home and realize that they rarely (if ever) used it. It became almost like a piece of furniture that they did not use but still had to dust. Most buyers only consider it because of resale value; however, in our market the tipping point has occurred and tubs can now be viewed as a negative." Along with his building company, Compo also owns a renovation company and states that most of his master bath remodels consist of removing the tub.

What is the trade off? Are buyers downsizing their bathrooms now that they are choosing to eliminate the tub? No. The showers are becoming far more luxurious and user friendly. They are larger--typically four feet wide by six feet deep or more--and they are designed with two shower heads and often a dazzling display of body sprays. The end result is that eliminating the tub and deck easily pays for the shower upgrades and often costs much less. Production builders in many markets throughout the country are taking advantage of this trend and offering buyers a luxury shower instead of including a bath.

So have master bath tubs jumped the shark? Not yet, but the jacket and skis are on and they are sizing it up.


Todd Hallett, AIA, president of TK Design & Associates has been designing award-winning homes for more than 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of its homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was president of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. Todd welcomes your feedback at thallett@tkhomedesign.com or 248.446.1960.