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Bathtubs come in an array of sizes, styles, and shapes, from beautiful, old-fashioned clawfoot tubs to your everyday tub. The everyday tub is great for a quick rinse or for bathing a young child, but it may not be what you’re looking for if you want a luxurious soak, with a glass of wine, at the end of a long day.
If you’re looking to remodel your bathroom, or you’re in the process of designing your perfect bathroom with all the luxuries, there are so many different styles of tubs to choose from. As you start to add and delete choices from your list, two of the types of tubs you’ll run across are alcove tubs and drop-in tubs. They are similar in so many ways, and yet completely different in others. Here’s what you should know about them if they are on your list of tubs to consider.
All bathtubs have the same main purpose at the end of the day, but the styles, shapes, colors, and sizes of these tubs vary greatly. So what is a drop-in tub versus an alcove tub?
Well, an alcove tub has one side that has a finished apron on it. This is the “front” of the bathtub. The other three sides are unfinished. These sides will butt up against your bathroom walls when it is installed. This bathtub is the most common one you see in homes — the standard everyday-use tub. It’s called an alcove tub because to install it, the tub is recessed into an “alcove” in your bathroom.
Drop-in tubs differ from alcove bathtubs in that they do not have any finished sides on them. Instead of being pushed into an open space that is surrounded by walls, drop-in tubs are sunk into an open hole. Before the tub is installed, a surrounding structure is built, usually out of stone, ceramic tiles, or wood. These bathtubs have a rim around the top that holds them up on the structure, also known as the deck, that you build. They can come in many different sizes and shapes, allowing for your design choices to be highlighted in the bathroom.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a drop-in tub vs an alcove tub.
Every type of product has its pros and cons, and tubs are no different. Alcove tubs are the standard, go-to tub for many homeowners, but they may or may not be the best option for you. Here are some of the biggest advantages, and disadvantages, of owning an alcove tub.
Cost. When you look at alcove bathtubs vs drop-ins, alcoves are some of the most affordable options on the market. You can find a super inexpensive one at your local hardware store for around $1300. Luxury tubs are a bit more but well worth it for the upgraded styles and colors.
Functionality. With an alcove tub, you can add a showerhead to the wall and make it a dual-purpose tub. This means it can be used for quick rinses when you’re short on time.
Safety features. With three walls available, you can add handrails for those with mobility issues. These tubs also generally have lower sides and shallower depths for easy in and out access.
Space-saving design. The recessed space for your tub means that the tub can be sunk into the alcove vs drop-ins having to take space on the floor. This gives you more bathroom space to work with and more floor room for other items in your bathroom.
Easy cleaning. The simple design of this tub makes for easy cleaning and maintenance. You can easily reach all corners of the tub when a deep clean needs to happen or fix a leaky faucet simply enough.
Basic. Alcove tubs come in a basic, standard design that is 60” long x 30” wide. It doesn’t deviate from this without a special order. Some bathtubs can have deeper sides, and powered jets, but these are harder to come by.
Sizes. Most alcove tubs come in the size mentioned above. You may be able to find a few varieties if you special order, or look around a bit, but they are much harder to come by. While this can be an advantage if you are replacing an alcove tub that already has walls, it can also be a disadvantage if you are looking for something different.
Few material options. Most alcove tubs come in acrylic, fiberglass, or enameled steel. Some of your high-quality alcove tubs will come in stone resin, cast iron, or porcelain, but they are trickier to find. Because these tubs are a basic essential, they don’t come in any of the luxury materials, such as stone or copper.
Placement. You have one choice as to where to put your alcove tub. With only one side finished, it must be placed against three walls in a recessed area, and it must meet the size requirements listed above. There isn’t much room for error or for finagling to another space.
The drop-in bathtub vs alcove tub debate continues with the pros and cons listed here. While drop-in tubs are certainly more flexible and can contain a beauty you don’t often find with alcove tubs, they aren’t perfect either. Let’s look.
Deep sides. One major advantage of the alcove vs drop-in bathtub is the depth. Drop-in tubs are fantastically deep , offering you a nice, relaxing soak after a long day. You can add bath salts as needed and take a muscle-soothing bath with water that stays hotter for longer.
Easy cleaning and maintenance. The entire tub is easily accessible and you can sit on the deck if needed to reach inside. Wiping down and cleaning up is simple when the tub is available to you.
Placement. You can quite literally put this tub anywhere you have access to water. They don’t need to be tucked away unless you’d like them to be. You can make the tub the centerpiece of your bathroom, or put it in a corner to meet your functionality needs.
Size options. Tubs of this fashion are available in many different shapes and sizes. You don’t have to stick with “the standard” here but instead can find a tub size that is to your liking.
Material options. Unlike alcove tubs, drop-in bathtubs come in many different materials including acrylic , cast iron, fiberglass, porcelain enamel steel, stone resin , and more. You can also special order these in a variety of other materials. You can choose which materials you want based on aesthetics, or on the needs of your tub. For example, if you like to take long, luxurious baths, stone resin, and cast iron hold the heat in longer, keeping your water warmer.
Price. When you look at drop-in tubs vs alcove tubs, drop-ins tend to be a little more expensive. This is often because of the quality of the tub, as well as the different sizes and shapes you can choose from.
Mobility trickiness. If you have mobility issues, these may be a bit harder to get out of. The sides are generally deeper, and because they are built on a deck, you not only have to step out of the tub but take a big step over the deck as well, to get onto the floor. If there is no wall nearby, you may not have the stability you need for the large step.
Installation. When you look at alcove vs drop-in bathtub installation, drop-ins require more work. Before you can install the drop-in tub, you must build the frame, or deck, for it to sit in. This will need to be sturdy enough to support a heavy tub. You’ll also have to finish the structure once the tub has been placed into the hole in the deck.
The bathtub you choose — an alcove tub vs a drop-in tub — will largely depend on your design preferences in your bathroom. If you’re looking for large, open spaces, with clean looks, you may want to consider an alcove tub, which hides the tub away and gives the room a larger feel. Although, you could always put your drop-in tub in a corner for this as well.
If you’re looking for something modern, unique, and sophisticated, the drop-in tub may be perfect for you. It has more options than an alcove tub, and more designs are available. You can also build the deck to your liking. Use the deck as a place to set your glass of wine and book while you enjoy your bath. Draw eyes to the masterpiece that you designed to be placed front and center in your room, or make a bold statement with bright colors.
If you’re looking for a variety of bathtub options, Aquatica Bath USA has a selection that works for every bathroom. If you’re looking for an alcove tub, a drop-in tub, or any other tub, we can help you find what you need.
Beyond just those two bathtubs, we have freestanding tubs , air massage tubs , jet tubs , corner tubs , and even outdoor tubs . We have tubs in a variety of materials , so you can find the bathtub that you truly love. A bath is a luxury that you don’t often have time for, and when you do, you want to make the most of that time. Let us help you with an amazing bath experience.