Basic Types of Bathtubs

Alcove Bathtub

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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 do not just bathe us: they soothe us and provide us with unmatched comfort.

But not every type of bathtub works for every user or home. Owners of cottage-style homes may love bathing in period-perfect clawfoot tubs. Those with enough space who have aching muscles may appreciate a large corner bathtub with a whirlpool function. If bathroom space is tight, then an alcove tub may be right for you.

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    Free-Standing Bathtubs

    Free-standing bathtub

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    Free-standing tubs are unconnected to walls or any other surface except for the floor. Free-standing bathtubs often include the classic clawfoot tub, but it's possible to buy free-standing tubs of modern designs, as well.

    Free-standing bathtubs require a large bathroom to accommodate the tub and the buffer room around the tub. It is possible to install a free-standing bathtub in a three-sided alcove, but this makes it harder to clean around and under the bathtub.

    Free-standing tubs tend to be significantly more expensive than alcove and drop-in tubs.

    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 hurdle of free-standing tubs is the exposed plumbing. You can purchase specialty plumbing parts that celebrate, rather than try to hide, this exposed plumbing.

    What We Like
    • Charming, beautiful

    • Fits with traditional homes

    What We Don't Like
    • Requires a lot of room

    • Exposed plumbing

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    Alcove Bathtub

    Alcove Bathtub

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    The operative word in the term alcove bathtub is alcove. This is a special type of bathtub but one which is very familiar to many homeowners, in that it fits precisely within a three-sided enclosure built just for the tub. When the walls are tiled or fitted with panels, the enclosure can be used for a tub/shower combination. Alcove bathtubs are often the least expensive and easiest type of tub that you can install. 

    The alcove bathtub is all about maximizing your space: This is the tub with the smallest footprint and it fits tightly into its allotted space. The standard length for an alcove tub is 60 inches but some can range from 53 to 72 inches.

    Alcove bathtubs can come as part of a package that includes the three-sided wall surround. In some cases, the wall surround is permanently attached to the bathtub. This type is easiest to clean but it can be difficult to fit through the bathroom door; generally, this is a new-construction tub. Bathtubs with detached surrounds usually come in three pieces: a large back wall, with two smaller side walls.

    What We Like
    • Cost-effective

    • Good use of space

    • Predictable sizing

    • Excellent for small bathrooms

    What We Don't Like
    • Requires tile or a wall surround

    • Only the front has an apron, so it can only be positioned in one direction

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    Drop-In Bathtub

    Drop-In Bathtub
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    A drop-in bathtub is a shell that fits into a prepared deck. The inside of the bathtub is finished, but the outside is not since it is covered up by the deck.

    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 more.

    Drop-in bathtubs give your bathroom a more finished, permanent look. The tiled sides to the bathtub provide extra space for soap, shampoo bottles, candles, or books.

    What We Like
    • Fits in well with the bathroom

    • Gives bathroom a polished look

    • Room on the sides

    What We Don't Like
    • Requires a site-built deck

    • Difficult to DIY-install

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    Corner Bathtubs

    A luxury corner bathtub


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    Corner tubs are large, triangular bathtubs that, as the name says, fit into a corner of the bathroom.

    Typically expensive, corner bathtubs use a lot of bathroom floor space. One downside of this tub is that they take a long time to fill up. More capacity equals more water volume required.

    Corner bathtubs tend to be less about bathing and getting clean and more about relaxing and taking care of yourself. For that reason, corner bathtubs tend to have bubble and whirlpool features.

    What We Like
    • Spacious

    • Shape conducive to multiple users

    • Good way to use a corner

    What We Don't Like
    • Expensive

    • Uses a lot of water