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Basic Types of Bathtubs

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

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For some reason, bathtubs seem to be going out of fashion. I've even seen bathroom remodeling company ads that tout "Kill the Bathtub, Replace with a Shower!" I like a good bathtub. I like the experience of unwinding with a book and a warm bath, especially during those long winter months. I'd always thought that bathtubs were pretty much interchangeable. As it turns out, you need to pick your bathtub for your particular space (or build a space around that tub). Here are five basic types of bathtubs, starting with the most common one.

1. Alcove Bathtub

alcove bathtub
© Kohler
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. 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.

2. Drop-In Bathtub

Drop In Bathtub
© Kohler
Want to break out of the box? That is, the three-sided box that encloses the alcove tub? Then a drop-in bathtub might be for you. You can have a carpenter build a deck or peninsula that juts into the room, installing the tub into that piece.

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.

3. Free-Standing Tub

Freestanding Bathtub
© Kohler
Free-standing tubs are the type that many of us dream about and few achieve.

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 is the exposed plumbing. You can mitigate this by purchasing specialty plumbing parts that celebrate, rather than try to hide, this exposure.

4. Corner Bathtub

Corner Bathtub
© Kohler
The corner tub is the fancy, pinky-raised type of tub. They are expensive (but interestingly enough, cheaper than free-standing tubs), eat up lots of bathroom floor space, and appear to have no practical use. On the other hand, 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.

5. Undermount Bathtub

Undermount Bathtub
© Kohler
In the undermount tub, the basin is mounted under a rim of another material, usually a hard, water-proof material like solid-surface (i.e., Corian), tile, or stone. Undermounts have a refined, "finished" look that distinguish them from self-rimming tubs such as the drop-in. Undermount tubs are the least common type of tub, and usually can also be mounted as a drop-in tub. Because they are rare, undermounts tend to run fairly high--prices starting around $2,000.

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