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Home » Freestanding vs. Built-in Bathtubs: A Comparative Study

Freestanding vs. Built-in Bathtubs: A Comparative Study

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Choosing the perfect bathtub is crucial when designing or remodeling your space. Among the various factors to consider, one of the fundamental decisions is whether to opt for a freestanding or a built-in bathtub.

Both options offer unique features and aesthetics; your choice will depend on your preferences, available space, and overall bathroom design. In this guide, we will explore the differences between freestanding and built-in bathtubs, helping you make an informed decision that suits your needs and enhances the ambiance of your bathroom oasis. 

I recommend reading my other blog: Standard Bathtub vs. Jacuzzi Bathtub.

Freestanding bathtub

A freestanding bathtub is a luxurious and eye-catching addition to a bathroom, designed to be a focal point and provide a sense of elegance and style. It is a standalone bathtub not attached to any walls or structures. Freestanding bathtubs are available in various shapes, sizes, and materials, allowing homeowners to choose a style that complements their bathroom decor and personal preferences.

Features of the freestanding bathtub

Aesthetics: Freestanding bathtubs are visually striking and add a touch of luxury and elegance to any bathroom. 

Luxury spa experience: With their more profound and broader dimensions, these standalone bathtubs provide ample space to stretch, allowing a more immersive and luxurious soaking experience. 

Versatile: Freestanding bathtubs come in various designs, styles, and materials, allowing homeowners to choose a bathtub that perfectly suits their taste and bathroom decor. 

Flexibility in placement: Freestanding tubs are versatile and can be positioned anywhere in the bathroom, allowing for more design flexibility.

Easy Maintenance: Freestanding bathtubs are generally easier to clean and maintain as they are not attached to the wall making access on all sides easier.


  • Luxurious and visually appealing
  • Offers a focal point for the bathroom
  • Versatile placement options
  • A wide range of design options is available.
  • Can create a spa-like atmosphere
  • Easier to clean the floor around the tub


  • Requires significant floor space
  • Expensive, including installation costs
  • Challenging installation process
  • Limited functionality and storage space
  • Cleaning and maintenance can be more difficult
  • Accessibility issues for individuals with limited mobility
  • Lower heat retention properties compared to other tub types

Built-in Bathtubs

Also known as an alcove or recessed bathtub, it is a type of bathtub that is installed against three walls in a bathroom. It is typically designed to fit into a specific space. The front side of the tub is open and accessible for entry and exit. Built-in bathtubs are a common and practical choice for bathrooms where space is limited or where a streamlined and integrated look is desired. They are often paired with a showerhead, curtain, or enclosure for combined bathing and showering functionality.

Features of Built-in Bathtubs

Standard sizing: Built-in bathtubs are available in standard sizes, easily fitting into most bathrooms. They typically come in lengths ranging from 5 to 6 feet, with widths around 30 to 36 inches.

Integrated design: Built-in bathtubs create a seamless and integrated look in the bathroom. They are designed to be surrounded by walls on three sides, providing a cohesive and finished appearance.

Space efficiency: These bathtubs are designed to fit into specific alcoves or recessed spaces, making them ideal for bathrooms with limited space. They maximize the use of available floor areas without compromising on functionality.

Accessibility options: There are many accessibility features in built-in bathtubs, such as built-in grab bars, handrails, or seats. These features can enhance safety and comfort, particularly for individuals with mobility challenges or seniors.

Easy cleaning: Cleaning a built-in bathtub is generally more accessible as the enclosed sides and integrated design make it simpler to clean and tidy the surrounding area.

Versatile design options: Built-in bathtubs come in a wide range of designs, styles, and materials, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your aesthetic preferences and bathroom decor.

Cost-effective: Built-in bathtubs are often more affordable than freestanding or custom-designed tubs. Their standardized sizing and installation requirements can help keep costs down.


  • Space-efficient design
  • Cost-effective compared to custom or freestanding tubs
  • Integrated and cohesive appearance in the bathroom
  • Shower compatibility for dual bathing and showering functionality
  • Accessibility options for added safety and comfort
  • Easy maintenance and cleaning
  • Versatile design options to suit various aesthetic preferences
  • Provides stability and support while using the tub


  • Limited flexibility in terms of placement and positioning
  • It may require professional installation
  • Less visual impact compared to freestanding tubs
  • Have less design variety compared to custom tubs
  • Accessibility features may not be included in all models

Freestanding vs. Built-in Bathtubs: Which is the Best Choice?

This section will discuss the differences between freestanding bathtubs and built-in bathtubs so you can make an informed buying decision. 


Freestanding bathtubs have gained popularity recently for their elegant and luxurious appeal. These standalone fixtures are typically placed away from walls and can become a captivating focal point in any bathroom. 

On the other hand, built-in bathtubs, also known as alcove or drop-in tubs, have a less dramatic visual impact. They are designed to be integrated into the surrounding walls and offer a more seamless and space-efficient solution. 

Space utilization

Freestanding bathtubs typically require more floor space and can be a focal point in the bathroom, making them ideal for larger bathrooms with ample room. They offer a sense of luxury and elegance, but their standalone nature may limit other fixtures or furniture in the space.

In contrast, built-in bathtubs are designed to fit into specific alcoves or recessed spaces, maximizing space efficiency. They integrate seamlessly with the surrounding walls, allowing for more efficient utilization of the available floor area, making them suitable for smaller bathrooms or those with limited space.


Being a standalone fixture, freestanding tubs usually lack built-in storage space or ledges for toiletries. The design of freestanding tubs focuses more on the aesthetics and the open, luxurious bathing experience they provide. As a result, you may need to rely on alternative storage solutions nearby, such as a separate shelf or cabinet.

If having built-in storage space or ledges for toiletries is essential to you, built-in bathtubs offer more possibilities. Built-in bathtubs have the advantage of being integrated into the surrounding bathroom space, which allows for the possibility of incorporating built-in storage options or ledges. Depending on the specific design and model, you may find built-in shelves, niches, or ledges adjacent to the tub, providing convenient storage for toiletries, bath essentials, or decor.

Bathing experience

Freestanding bathtubs often have more profound and broader dimensions than built-in tubs, allowing for a more immersive and luxurious soaking experience. They provide ample space to stretch out and relax, creating a spa-like ambiance in the comfort of your own home.


Freestanding tubs can present accessibility challenges, especially for individuals with limited mobility or physical disabilities. Stepping over the tub’s high sides can be difficult or unsafe for some people. Additional modifications like handrails or grab bars may be necessary in such cases. Whereas built-in tubs often offer accessibility options like built-in grab bars, fences, and non-slip surfaces, making them more suitable for individuals with accessibility needs.


Installing a freestanding tub can be more challenging due to its heavier weight, complex plumbing requirements, and the need for proper stability and leveling. It often requires professional assistance to ensure appropriate placement, alignment, and secure connection to the plumbing system. The installation process can be time-consuming and costly. 

On the other hand, built-in bathtub installation often involves construction or remodeling work, such as framing, waterproofing, and customized fitting, which can be more complex and time-consuming. 

Both types may require professional assistance for a successful installation, but freestanding tubs present more technical challenges.


Cleaning a freestanding bathtub can be more challenging than cleaning a built-in tub or shower enclosure. The exposed sides and underside of the freestanding tub may accumulate dust, debris, or water stains, requiring extra effort to keep it clean and in good condition. In comparison, built-in tubs are surrounded by three-sided walls, resulting in fewer exposed surfaces. This can make cleaning easier as the enclosed sides limit the areas where dirt and grime accumulate.


Freestanding tubs often have exposed piping, making accessing and inspecting leaks or issues easier. Regularly check the connections, seals, and fittings to ensure proper functionality and address any concerns promptly. Built-in tubs have concealed plumbing within the walls or floors, making access more challenging and may require professional assistance.

Heat retention

Depending on the materials used in constructing the freestanding tub, it may have lower heat retention properties than other types of tubs. This means the water in the tub may cool down more quickly, leading to a potentially shorter and less relaxing bathing experience. On the contrary, built-in tubs may have an advantage in heat retention due to the surrounding walls acting as insulation. The enclosed space helps to maintain the water temperature for a longer duration.


When selecting any bathtub, the cost is the most important deciding factor. Freestanding bathtubs can be expensive compared to built-in or alcove-style tubs. The fee includes the tub itself and the installation, plumbing modifications, and potentially additional structural support. The price can vary depending on the materials used, such as acrylic, cast iron, or stone. 

On the other hand, built-in tubs typically have a more standardized price range compared to freestanding tubs. They are often priced lower than high-end freestanding models.


Choosing between a freestanding and built-in bathtub depends on various factors and personal preferences. Both options can be excellent choices for your bathroom.

Freestanding bathtubs offer a luxurious and visually striking presence, making them a focal point in the bathroom. They provide versatility in placement and can create a spa-like bathing experience.

On the other hand, built-in bathtubs maximize space efficiency and integration with the toilet, offering dual functionality with showers and accessibility options.

If you want to know how to choose the bathtub, click here.

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