We've been making some big decisions in our house of late, many of which center around our never ending story of the master bathroom project. Though some of the big choices have come rather easy (of course we'd like a claw foot tub), one selection in particular I've been agonizing over for nearly the last decade is the choice between goose or telephone. Say what? Do I have you a little confused as to how a decision between a goose or a telephone might be a critical element in a bathroom renovation worthy debate for nearly 10 years? Trust me, it makes sense. I'm actually referring to the style of faucet we'll use for our salvaged claw foot tub.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up for a moment and share the story of how our claw foot tub came to our home, and how it’s been quietly slumbering in our basement for the last nine years.

As you may know, new cast iron tubs aren't cheap. Depending on style, size, and how they're made, they can easily run from about $1,000 on up to $3,000 and more. For the basic style that we like, $1,000 is a pretty good bet.

Though we knew we could buy a new tub, we also knew how many deals there were to be had with older tubs. The key here was to find an old tub that was in decent shape and wouldn't break the bank. We also really liked the idea of reusing an old tub that just needed a new home. The trick was simple, we had to find that good deal.

Back in the summer of 2003, we were just a few months into home ownership. Our energy knew no bounds, but unfortunately our budget was quite the opposite. We turned to second hand stores and eBay as primary sources for home furnishings, and back in those days it felt like eBay was absolutely full of wonderful finds and great deals . While scouring eBay one night, Alex started perusing the claw foot tub selection, thinking ahead even back then to the day that we could overhaul the ugly 1980s master bathroom.

Amid the large selection of damaged and rough around the edges options, he spotted one tub that looked to be in great condition. The tub had no bids but a starting price of just $150. This quickly attracted his attention, but his enthusiasm waned when we noticed the “local pickup only” disclaimer in the description. Since we don't have photos or screen shots of the process (this was back in 2003, after all), I'll pepper in the shots that we do have from that time. This photo shows what decent shape the interior of the tub is still in.

But the stars must have aligned that day, because upon further inspection, he excitedly learned that this tub's location was listed as "Alexandria, Virginia"! Although we knew our bathroom project was years down the road, we simply couldn’t pass up such a great deal. After securing the tub, we rented a truck from The Home Depot, enlisted the help of our friend Bull (yes, like from Night Court, a nickname earned when our 6'6" friend shaved his head in college), and drove to neighboring Del Ray (a neighborhood in Alexandria, adjacent to Old Town), where the tub was located. Here's Bull and Alex working to bring the tub in.

We met the current tub's owners in the yard of their home. They were flippers working on renovating the home and were discarding the tub in favor of a new fiberglass tub. Though we were a little sad for the bungalow they were working on, their loss was our gain and we hauled off our hefty addition.

Although getting the tub back to our house was relatively uneventful, moving the tub downstairs into our basement required the strength of ten men. The tub itself is in the neighborhood of 300-350 pounds, but the lip of the tub offers an easy carry handle. The problem comes when the tub needs to fit through the doorway that's more narrow than the tub is wide, and the tub needs to move onto it's side. 

Somehow Bull and Alex, under my careful supervision, managed to wrangle this sucker down our rickety basement stairs without killing themselves. Here’s a look at their victory celebration.

I gave it the "dry fit" test, and was satisfied with what will be my future soaking tub.

This tub has sat in the same location now for nearly a decade, serving as a dust and junk collector, just waiting for its chance to be the center of attention in our new bathroom. You can barely see it buried below the mountain of junk in this photo from last year. 

With the start of the New Year, we’ve refocused our DIY ADD and are devoting our thoughts, plans, and time to taking on this project. Which brings us to present day.

While we plan out the look of the space, we knew it was high time to make a decision on the type of faucet we’ll use for the tub. Ruling out deck mount options was relatively easy, as the access points are already located in the wall of the tub itself. Besides, deck mount options require a tub that's specifically designed with this in mind.

Freestanding fixtures were also a consideration, but I wanted something more understated than that. Alex also has had a longstanding concern about using the freestanding fixtures that has to do with how easily they're supported and what sort of stress they put on the fittings. Not to mention the complication of needing to fill the existing supply holes in the wall of the tub.

That left us with the decision to mount the faucet in the existing holes, but we needed to decide on a style. Our options ranged primarily between a simple gooseneck faucet or the more commonly seen English style with telephone sprayer.

We searched online and reviewed our various options. Of all the various styles there was one look in particular I didn’t care for at all. The style of faucet that I just don't like are the ones with the “downward spigots.” These may be the most historically accurate, but perhaps it’s my juvenile sense of humor that keeps me from liking these faucets. For some reason these spigots look way to phallic for my tastes. As I kept telling Alex when he'd suggest one of these faucets, “No, I don't want any drippy penises in my tub!” TMI? Sorry about that. He thinks I’m crazy too.

On the other hand, I found I really liked the look of the wider mouthed spigot seen below. It’s simple, almost utilitarian look really appealed to me.

Of the telephone style, it was easy to rule out those that were really large, overly complicated, and would take over as the focal point. I want the attention to be on the tub and bathroom, not on the hoses, levers, and pipes that make it all work.

After a lot of browsing, I found one tub mounted telephone style that was more understated. It’s available in a polished nickel finish (the finish we tend to gravitate towards), and the price was more reasonable than many I’ve seen over the years. Hmm, maybe this telephone thing isn’t so bad after all.

Several years ago I was 100% certain I wanted to go with the gooseneck, largely due to the size and cost of the English with telephone style, and my general dislike of the weird telephone cord that lays flat against the tub wall. But after using a handheld sprayer on our trip to Budapest this year, along with considering how much easier it will be to clean the tub if we have a sprayer, this option was suddenly more appealing to me.

With this research in hand, I hemmed and I hawed. I flipped and I flopped. And after enough internal debate to put congress to shame, I finally pulled the trigger. We’re adding a phone to our bathroom, and not one that will make outbound calls. This beauty has been ordered, and is on her way to Old Town Home.

I’m really excited to have finally made a selection. It feels like we’re finally making the tough decisions that have presented mental roadblocks for us in our bathroom planning. Though this finish fixture piece of hardware has been ordered, don't let it fool you, we're nowhere close to install (I mean, NOWHERE)! But I’m currently working on my full design plan for the space, and can’t wait to share it with you.

Does anyone else own a claw foot tub? I’d be curious to know how you like it, and what style faucet you use and prefer. Am I alone in my “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to making design choices? If you’re stuck on something, I’d love to know what’s holding you back, and/or how you finally moved forward on a daunting renovation.

Comments 22

Comments

1/10/2013 at 12:09 PM
I'm with you on the drippy penis thing, ha!

When we first moved into our house, the shower had JUST a sprayer that was inadequately attached to the wall of the shower. Now that we've reno'd the bathroom, we have a gorgeous rain shower head, but I really really miss having a sprayer! It was so much easier to clean (like you mentioned), and bathing the dog was quick and easy. Now she only gets bathed when it's warm enough outside to use the hose.

I love the porcelain details on the faucet you chose!
Alex
1/11/2013
We're torn on bathing Lulu in the tub. I want to, but we're worried her nails will end up scratching the finish (yes, we're that anal). If we keep the original finish of the tub and clean it up we won't have to worry. I've always had a dream of installing a doggie shower of some sort in a mud room (which we don't have) or in the basement. It would have one of those restaurant style pull down faucets.
1/10/2013 at 12:13 PM
I LOVE it! Great (non-phallic) choice! Your bathroom will be beautiful.

I have a difficult time beginning to decorate rooms. Not nearly as complicated as a bathroom reno, but I typically go through a bit of paralysis by analysis. I've been trying to come up with plans to decorate our bedroom for years (starting from total scratch) but never landed on the right plan. I found a fabric I loved last week, and all of a sudden the whole room is falling into place. Love it when that happens.

I wonder if it makes it harder or easier for you to renovate and decorate a historical home. Almost anything goes in my 50's ranch. Sometimes I think set historical parameters would make it easier. Probably depends on the situation!
Alex
1/11/2013
I'd say there are times where it is easier, but the historical aspect of our home means far more research into "appropriate" decor. I think you're right, it all depends on the situation.

Finding fabric (or other soft elements of a room) absolutely help the whole process move much faster. Hey, a new rug was the reason for our whole kitchen update last year.
1/10/2013 at 2:18 PM
So interesting, I have to admit that I had no idea where this post was going when I saw the title in my reader, haha. I like the fixture you chose best out of all the options you posted, great choice! My BF's mom has a newer jetted claw-foot tub and has one of those freestanding fixtures, but it also has an extension for a shower fixture and shower curtain rods hanging down from the ceiling... are you going that route or are you doing a separate shower? (It's amazing just to soak in or use the jets, btw)

I also suffer from design paralysis sometimes. My current solution is to pick out a few options that I like equally and let my BF choose the final. We've chosen light fixtures, kitchen faucets, and even watches this way!
Alex
1/11/2013
We're going to have a shower and a tub. The tub will be there exclusively for soaking and enjoying one's life. At least that's what we're telling ourselves.
Michele
1/10/2013 at 3:39 PM
Hi Wendy,

I have an old clawfoot tub and it's the only shower/tub in my home. When I purchased the home, the clawfoot was a "tub only" with a "downward facing" faucet spout, similar to the one you ordered. Be aware, this faucet is not "to code" and it failed inspection. So when I upgraded the bathroom and turned the clawfoot into a shower/tub combo, I upgraded the faucet so the spout is now goose-neck.

While I spent nearly $1000 on the faucet conversion, as it turns out the handheld shower that comes with these faucets is not very resilient. The first time I used it while washing my dog it (easily) slipped out of my hand and broke when it fell into the tub! I wish I had skipped the extra expense of the handheld and just replaced the showerhead with a standard removable head.

My tub is also very old and needs to be refinished. If yours needs glazing, do it before you install. Also, be sure the "hair trap" and "water stop" work properly. Mine do not - big hassle!

Anyway, lots of lessons learned on this. While I love the way the bathroom looks with the clawfoot, I wish I could afford a better set-up, and don't really find it as practical as regular showers.
Alex
1/11/2013
Thanks for the great info, Michele. We're going to be using it as a "tub only" install, and hopefully won't have any issues. But we'll absolutely be handling the telephone sprayer with kid gloves given your experience.
Bill
1/10/2013 at 8:10 PM
where did you end up ordering from?
Alex
1/11/2013
SignatureHardware.com. We've ordered quite a bit from them over the years.
1/10/2013 at 8:24 PM
That's one of the faucets we were considering for our second floor bath, but we ended up ordering a goose-neck with the telephone cradle sprayer from Signature Hardware. It wasn't cheap - around $600 with the supply lines if I remember right, but you get what you pay for.

The one you picked is a good choice for a clawfoot!

Our third floor bath has an El Cheapo '80s replacement faucet on the clawfoot tub. Even though we're still working on one bathroom, we're already starting to think about what is going in the other one. The style you chose is a strong front-runner!
Alex
1/11/2013
We used Signature Hardware too. You're right about not being cheap, but since it will all be on display I figured it was worth the extra money for a nice finish and quality piece. We can't wait to have a real tub in the house again.
Lee
1/11/2013 at 7:59 AM
When we moved in our tub had the 'drippy penis' type faucet. Not wanting to change it out, we bought a telephone style hand shower and fitted it to the existing spigot with a rubber adapter (that was salvaged off the cheapo hand shower the previous owners used)
Alex
1/11/2013
I think I saw something like that while looking around. That's a good solution.
JC
1/11/2013 at 10:40 AM
First, that photo of Alex and Bull in their victory poses is just simply amazing. Makes me smile ear-to-ear!

Second: I am the same with the "design paralysis" issue. It took me months to decide on certain things, including my own bathroom faucets. I wanted something "traditional/old-looking" but not too hard to clean. I absolutely did NOT want brushed nickel or bronze, or other "trendy" finishes, which limited some choices, and it also had to be cheap/affordable. The ones I ended up with were not the best, but they're fine, and I like them.

I really love the faucet you picked. I wonder weather or not you had looked at any second hand ones (although they can be quite hard to find). I have found that the old and repro telephone style fixtures sell for a wide range of prices, from around 600$ to well over 2500$, and sometimes you "get what you pay for".

I have thought about getting an old claw foot tub to use in my small basement bathroom, but I don't know if it's really worth it. That bathroom is going to be one of the last reno projects, and the basement will always be left unfinished (since the ceilings are so low, and everything is exposed), so I didn't want to spend much money on that room (but it would be fun to make it really cool/historic.
JC
1/11/2013 at 10:47 AM
Also... I'm likewise not a fan of the "downward spigot" faucets, which are easier to find (original used ones). I find that they look more like a gas hose fitting (like for a Bunsen Burner). They're probably my least favourite historical fittings. I'm also very picky about the knobs. The one pictured has the typical "blobby looking" newer porcelain cross knobs. They just don't look like the old ones. Some of the nicest faucets I've seen on original fixtures were ones with 5 spokes, or just ones that generally have a very shapely design. The ones on your chosen faucet fit this criteria.
Wendy
1/11/2013
Hmmm, maybe should have gone with the bunsen burner analogy? ;-) I agree with you. Blobby & drippy = no good in my book.
1/11/2013 at 10:58 AM
This will be forever known as the "drippy penis" post.

I actually like both. The phone is nice though!
Wendy
1/11/2013
LOL - that's great (and so gross). Normally I try to censor out my immature humor, but just couldn't resist this time. :-)
1/12/2013 at 9:50 AM
First, I had to read because of the bizarre title. I'm rewarded with your hilarious drippy comment. Sweet.

This is going to look awesome, especially since you will keep the shower separate. For bathing Lulu, maybe you could pup a rubber bathmat in for her? It could give her traction while also protecting the tub.
katie
1/14/2013 at 12:53 PM
DH and I have an older re-glazed clawfoot tub in our main bathroom, which is also used as a shower. It was in our home before we purchased it, and from what we understand, is the original.

I'm extremely jealous that your new bathroom will have a tub and shower, although our tub looks awesome, and is great for the occasional soak, it's just annoying for showering in!

Also, we have a 150lb great dane that will only bathe in our tub upstairs where it's nice and warm. After many many baths, I am happy to announce that there is no sign of scratches! Don't be fooled, this is not a dog that enjoys baths, it's a two person job to get her in and KEEP her in the tub during bathtime, so if scratches were an issue, we'd know!

Thanks for sharing the website you bought your faucet from! I'll be adding it to my favourites list!
threadbndr
1/14/2014 at 1:44 PM

My son has a 'phallic' faucet on the clawfoot tub in his upstairs bathroom. He'd like to get a handheld, though, so I'll be showing him that picture.

This is, BTW, the bathroom above the room with the plaster ceiling that had to be fixed. Plaster buttons to the rescue.

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