One of the amenities of our Just Right Bus that receives the most comments and questions is our water trough bathtub. It’s in the middle of the bus across from the fridge and next to the sink, fairly difficult not to notice.
Water trough’s go by various names including stock tanks, horse trough, 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. Ours is 48” wide by 24” tall and holds about 70 gallons.
Here is some information including the pros and cons we’ve discovered living with a water trough bathtub for the past 10 months.
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 and even shower pans can be upwards of $200-300. If we changed our mind about the tub it wouldn’t be that big of a financial loss.
Easy Install: To install the tub we drilled 3 holes, one for the drain and two for the faucet. We elected to tile the floors and walls around the tub for ascetics and to provide the slope necessary to drain.
Light Weight: These tubs are considerably lighter than traditional bathtubs. I’m able to lift the tub on my own. It’s a little 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: The high sides of the tub allow for nice, deep baths. I’ve never enjoyed baths as much as I do now. There’s no overflow drain to stop the water from getting as high as I want (but be careful not to overfill) and I can easily set my laptop up on the counter to watch a movie among the bubbles. Also, since the tub has such high sides, we don’t have to use a shower curtain, though it wouldn’t be difficult to install a shower curtain above the tub if you have space for it.
Versatile: Having a tub is convenient for bathing our two dogs. It also serves as a storage place when we’re traveling in the bus and it’s handy for cleaning large things like mop buckets or the kitchen trash can.
Requires Alterations: 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. It takes some planning to use one for bathing, as that’s not what they’re designed for.
Not built to bathe in: If you’re looking for a luxurious, spa-like 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 reclining would be more comfortable with the addition of a slanted seat back. The metal can also be pretty chilly at first since we mostly 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 scrub it clean often but do so very carefully as this seam keeps the floor and wall waterproof. The strange curves to the walls also make it a little awkward to scrub but as long as you keep up on it it’s really no big deal.
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.
Overall, we’re happy with the tub. It gets the job done and is a great conversation piece. On a recent vacation I found myself actually pining for a bath and sorely disappointed in the dinky tub in our hotel room. A water trough bathtub is not for everyone but it’s Just Right for us.
Kelly Ross is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings. She lives in a converted school bus that is neither too hot nor too cold with her husband and two dogs. You can learn more about Kelly and her “Just Right Bus” at her website or Facebook Page.