Basic Types of Bathtubs

Alcove, Freestanding, Corner, Undermount, and Drop-in

For many homeowners, the experience of unwinding with a book and a warm bath, especially during those long winter months, is an experience without compare. Bathtubs are not interchangeable; each is uniquely suited to the bather. Owners of cottage-style homes who love bathing in clawfoot tubs may scoff at the idea of a massive whirlpool corner tub. And vice versa.

Not only that, your choice of bathtub depends on your available space. Do you have limited space? Then an alcove tub is for you. A mansion? Then a freestanding or corner tub may be right.

  • 01 of 04

    Free-Standing Tubs, Like Clawfoots and Slippers

    Ralston Clawfoot Bathtub

    Photo from Amazon

    Free-standing tubs are unconnected to walls or any other surface. This classic tub, though, requires a large bathroom to accommodate the tub and buffer room around the tub.

    For one, free-standing tubs tend to be significantly more expensive than alcove and drop-in tubs; expect to pay $2,000 or more. For another, you need to have space for free-standing tubs. Yes, you can install one of these tubs in a three-sided enclosure, but why would you? Free-standing tubs are all about freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom of space.

    Slipper and clawfoot tubs fit into this category, and both convey the impression of antiquity. Thus, you need a house worthy of such a tub. One major downside of free-standing tubs are the exposed plumbing. You can purchase specialty plumbing parts that celebrate, rather than try to hide, this exposure.

  • 02 of 04

    Alcove Bathtubs

    Modern Bathroom
    Sarah M. Golonka/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Alcoves are the easiest and cheapest tubs you can buy and install. But you pay the price with sizing, as most alcoves (and tubs) and only 60 inches long.

    The alcove tub is the kind we all know, and many of us may have grown up with. This tub fits in a three-walled enclosure. When the walls are tiled or fitted with panels, the enclosure can be used for a tub/shower combination.

    The alcove bathtub is all about maximizing your space: it's the tub with the smallest footprint. The standard length for an alcove tub is 60 inches but can range from 53 to 72 inches. Lower end but good quality rectangular drop-in bathtubs will cost you between $500 and $600.

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    Drop-in Bathtubs

    Drop in bathtub

    Caiaimage/Charlie Dean / Getty Images

    Want to break out of the box? And by "box," we mean the three-sided box that encloses alcove tubs? Then a drop-in bathtub might be for you.

    This unique bathtub requires you to have a carpenter build a deck or peninsula that juts into the room. The tub is then installed in that structure. Drop-in tubs come with their own rim. These tubs can be installed in an alcove, but most often are installed in a more open area. As such, the drop-ins usually require more floor space than alcoves and cost slightly higher: about $600-$700.

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    Corner Bathtubs

    A luxury corner bathtub


    Bill Oxford / Getty Images

    Corner tubs are not about bathing the children. They are all about Mom or Dad indulging in-home spa therapy—with the bathroom door securely locked!

    Always expensive, corner bathtubs eat up lots of bathroom floor space and appear to have no practical use. But who cares about practicality? If you like bathing in pairs or trios, this tub is for you. Triangular tubs are actually five-sided, not three-sided, as the name implies. One downside of this tub is that they take forever to fill up. More capacity equals more water volume needed.