10 Types of Bathtubs Explained: Which Is Best For You? (2024 Guide)

By Alex Hawkins Updated February 6, 2024

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Bathtubs are more than basic bathroom fixtures. Your tub is a place to relax and unwind and acts as your bathroom’s centerpiece—unless it doesn’t meet your needs and clashes with your interior style. If you’re undergoing a bathroom remodel, consider how you can elevate your bathroom into a luxurious, peaceful space with a new bathtub type.*

*Cost figures throughout this article were pulled from 2024 reports by The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Build with Ferguson.

 


 

Types of Bathtubs

Below are the 10 most common types of bathtubs

Alcove Bathtubs

Alcove bathtubs, or recessed bathtubs, are the most common tubs in the United States. This tub type fits in smaller spaces, installing within a three-sided enclosure. Homeowners often choose this type for their tub-shower combinations to save more space. The standard length of an alcove tub is 60 inches, but some installers create them between 53 and 72 inches long.

Alcove bathtubs come with a three-sided wall surround. The wall surround can be permanently attached to the bathtub or detached for further customization. Recessed tubs are made of fiberglass, acrylic, or stone resin. For an exceptionally rare and intriguing tub, you can find them in cast iron.

Alcove bathtubs are the most cost-effective tub type, ranging from $250 to $700, depending on their material.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Alcove Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Allows for further customization with wall-surrounds

Requires a pre-built space for the tub to fit into

Acts as an excellent space-saver

Allows for fewer design options than other tub types

Is one of the most cost-friendly tubs

Features limited sizing options

Corner Bathtubs

Corner bathtubs fit into your bathroom’s corner and take a large, triangular shape. They are often separate from the shower. Compared to other tubs, they require a lot of floor space to install—at least 60 inches long and 60 inches wide. Once installed, a corner tub serves as a place to relax and unwind rather than just a tool to clean yourself. Corner tubs often use air and water jets to create a spa-like experience in your home.

Corner tubs made from fiberglass, acrylic, and solid surface materials are cost-friendly, while cast iron corner tubs yield a higher price tag. These tubs provide ample design options. For example, you may place an interesting tile design around the tub’s perimeter or set it against some windows that yield a breathtaking view while you bathe.

Corner tubs cost from around $1,000 to more than $3,000. Luxury features, such as whirlpool jets, may increase the total cost.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Corner Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Elevate an otherwise empty corner

Require a lot of space for installation

Provide a spa-like experience

Use more water compared to other tubs

Allow for elegant and interesting design options

Are more difficult to clean than other tubs

Drop-In Bathtubs

Drop-in bathtubs offer tons of style and customization options. This tub is a shell that “drops” into a prepared deck. The inside of the bathtub is finished, but the outside is covered by the surrounding walls and floor. You can install a drop-in tub in an alcove, a corner, or directly into the floor. This versatile design requires more complex installation by professionals in various specialties, including a carpenter, plumber, tile specialist, and decorator.

Drop-in bathtubs provide a more finished, permanent look to your washroom. You can further customize the surrounding tile or other waterproof surfaces to match your desired color scheme and create extra space for soap, shampoo bottles, candles, or books. Manufacturers create drop-in tubs in fiberglass, stone resin, cast iron, acrylic, and solid surface.

A drop-in bathtub costs $550 to $2,500. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Drop-In Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Allow for unique style and design customization

Require a platform or pre-built construction for installation

Are space-efficient

Are limited in their placement due to their design

Feature a clean, permanent aesthetic

May require complicated plumbing if you desire water jets

Freestanding Bathtubs

A freestanding tub is unconnected to walls or surfaces other than your floor. Because of their design, freestanding tubs require a large bathroom. You can install a freestanding tub in a smaller bathroom, but it will make cleaning and navigating the room more challenging. 

These tubs come in sleek, minimalist, and modern designs, plus classic, traditional designs, such as clawfoot tubs. If you are interested in the attitude of antiquity that a clawfoot tub provides, ensure your bathroom matches this aesthetic. Freestanding tubs also feature exposed plumbing, but you can purchase specialty plumbing parts that elevate this feature rather than hide it.

If you want a freestanding tub but are on a budget, look into fiberglass and acrylic tubs. These tubs also come in cast iron, copper stone resin, and brass, adding a layer of personality to your bathroom.

The average cost of a freestanding tub is $800 to $4,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Freestanding Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Serves as a beautiful, striking bathroom centerpeice

Features exposed plumbing, which may not match your aesthetic

Matches many traditional styles

Requires a lot of space

Has one of the easiest installation processes

Sometimes requires enhanced flooring, depending on its weight when full

Garden Bathtubs

A garden tub is another tub type that can serve as a luxurious accent piece in your bathroom. These large, freestanding soaking tubs replicate the appearance of tubs that were traditionally used in outdoor gardens. They feature a deep design for full-body soaking, and you can enhance the tub with surrounding features, such as shelving for candles and bath salts.

However, like other freestanding tubs, garden tubs require a lot of space as they are typically 42 inches wide and 60 to 70 inches long. In addition, garden tubs may require a second water heater as they use so much water to fill up that you can run out of hot water quickly. Garden tubs are available in typical bathtub materials, such as acrylic, cast iron, and stone resin. 

Garden bathtubs cost around $2,000 to $5,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Garden Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Provides a sleek, elegant appearance

Requires a lot of space

Offers a luxurious, full-immersion soak

May require an additional hot water heater

Matches many different styles

May require extra floor support given their heavy weight

Jetted Bathtubs

Installing a jetted bathtub is like having a jacuzzi in the comfort of your bathroom. Technically, any of the bathtubs mentioned in this guide can be jetted tubs, as it simply refers to a tub that uses jets to massage and soothe your muscles.

There are two types of jetted bathtubs: whirlpools and air jets. Whirlpool tubs, also known as water jets, shoot streams of water to create a hydromassage that relieves muscle pain. Air jets shoot compressed air to create a bubbling sensation, which doesn’t necessarily massage your muscles but creates a relaxing atmosphere. The main drawback to jetted tubs is how difficult they are to clean. Given that they have to be flushed multiple times during cleaning, you may want to consider hiring professional cleaners.

A jetted bathtub costs between $800 and $3,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Jetted Bathtub

UpsidesDownsides

Offer a spa-like experience in your home

Require an extensive cleaning process

Can increase home value as a luxury feature

Might increase your utility bills

Supply health benefits through hydrotherapy

Require a larger bathroom and more space to accommodate

Shower-and-Tub Combos

With a tub-and-shower combo, the shower head sprays into the bathtub. This tub type is a common choice, especially for bathrooms that are too small for a separate bath and shower. However, this option focuses more on convenience than luxury, saving space with its all-in-one, alcove-style design. Like alcove tubs, a shower-and-tub combo uses three surrounding walls made from acrylic or resin and fiberglass molding.

You can elevate a tub-and-shower combo by adding a clear glass door and a custom wall panel kit. In addition, you can accent any shelves and grab bars with brass, chrome, or nickel. You could also switch out the shower head and faucet with fixtures matching your bathroom’s style and tone.

A shower-and-tub combo typically costs around $2,500 to $6,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Shower and Tub Combos

UpsidesDownsides

Saves a space by combining your shower and tub

Requires more frequent cleaning than other tub types

Curtains and glass doors add both style and privacy

Might be difficult for those with limited mobility to access

Helps match multiple household members’ needs with one product

Features limited style options when compared to other tub types

Walk-In Bathtubs

Consider a walk-in tub if you are looking for a more therapeutic tub design for mobility and health reasons. Walk-in tubs have a watertight door and either a low or nonexistent threshold. The accessible design makes entering and exiting the tub more effortless and secure, helping bathers of all ages and mobility levels enjoy a comfortable bathing experience while remaining independent.

Walk-in tubs are also great for anyone who wants a calming, spa-like experience at home. If you want a more relaxing experience, try adding chromatherapy, hydrotherapy, and other massage features that can help relieve stress. You can also consolidate your bathroom space with a walk-in tub-and-shower combo

Walk-in bathtubs range in price from $2,000 to $5,000 for the tub itself.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Walk-In Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Provides a spa experience in your home with unique add-ons, such as aromatherapy

Requires a complicated installation process

Features an accessible design

May require an additional water heater due to fill time and water usage

Increase home value depending on your location and potiental buyers

Typically not covered by Medicare

Undermount Bathtubs

Undermount tubs are an excellent option if your bathroom features marble or stone. These tubs attach to the underside of the counter rather than the top. Unlike a standard drop-in tub, there is no lip to interrupt the beautiful lines of the tile or marble, creating an elegant look.

These tubs can be freestanding or installed against a wall. From there, all design options depend on your choice of marble or stone. You also have options for the tub’s shape. For example, an oval undermount bathtub offers a long soak and can easily be transformed into a jetted tub. You can find undermount tubs in cast iron, fiberglass, and acrylic

Undermount bathtubs cost between $350 and $2,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Undermount Bathtubs

UpsidesDownsides

Offers and elegant, clean aesthetic

Can be more difficult to get in and out of than other tub types

Provides design flexibility with multiple shapes and upgrades

Marble and granite installation may require additional floor support

Allows for deep soaks, depending on design choice

Requires a platform for installation

Japanese Soaking Bathtubs

The Japanese soaking tub (or ofuro) is intended for relaxation and contemplation. Deep with a built-in seat, these tubs aren’t typically used for washing, which is done separately. Although they’re often cylindrical, contemporary models can be oval, square, or octagonal. Initially made of hinoki wood, modern Japanese soaking bathtubs also come in acrylic, fiberglass, steel, or copper.

We recommend pairing a Japanese soaking tub with a bathroom that utilizes bamboo features or dark, cool colors. However, there are many bathroom remodeling ideas you could incorporate a Japanese soaking bathtub into.

Japanese soaking tubs typically cost around $6,000 to $10,000.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Japanese Soaking Tubs

UpsidesDownsides

Provide one of the most serene deep soaks

Do not typically feature a faucet, so one must be installed

Act as incredible, eye-catching bathroom centerpieces

Are not designed for bathing as much as relaxing

Are eco-friendly due to the bathing process and materials

Require you to sit in an upright position, which may be uncomfortable for some

 


 

Types of Bathtub Materials

In addition to its style and design, a tub’s material plays an important role in its performance, feel, and price. Below is a breakdown of the most common bathtub materials.

 


 

Our Recommendation

Choosing the best bathtub for your home requires some planning. First, check what size tub your bathroom can accommodate. If you have a large space and desire various accessories and high-end features, a freestanding bathtub or corner tub could serve as a stunning bathroom centerpiece. On the other hand, alcove and drop-in tubs are more common and reasonably priced, allowing you to easily replicate an interesting bathroom you’ve seen online.

It’s helpful to choose the best construction material for your needs. Cast iron tubs retain the most heat, while acrylic, fiberglass, and solid-surface tubs are more affordable. If you’re torn between what type of tub to use for your bathroom remodel, contact a local contractor specializing in the job. Our tool below helps you kick-start that process.

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Types of Bathtubs FAQ

What is the most durable type of bathtub?

No matter the style, a cast iron bathtub is the most durable tub material available. The tubs are resistant to chipping, scratching, and denting and last up to 70 years.

What is the difference between a soaker tub and a bathtub?

A soaker tub allows you to soak deeply into the water and relax rather than simply clean yourself. On the other hand, a bathtub focuses more on bathing and cleaning than relaxation. 

Is a fiberglass or acrylic tub better?

Though both are standard bathtub materials, acrylic is an overall better tub material than fiberglass. Acrylic bathtubs resist general wear and tear longer and more efficiently than fiberglass, which experiences scratching and cracking more easily. In addition, fiberglass fades more quickly than acrylic, especially if exposed to direct sunlight.

How much does it cost to replace the bathtub only?

The national average cost to install a bathtub is around $3,000, but it can range from $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the tub you choose and how it’s installed.