Drop-ins vs. an Alcove Bathtub

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A drop-in tub needn't be placed against a wall.
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Are you debating between a drop-in vs. alcove bathtub? Whether you're entirely remodeling a bathroom or just replacing an old bathtub, one important decision to make is what type of bathtub to purchase. Choosing the right bathtub to fit your style and needs can be difficult with so many options. Look at the differences between drop-in and alcove tubs to see which one best fits your needs.

Drop-In Bathtub Basics

A drop-in bathtub is a type of tub you don't have to place against a wall. Instead, you can simply drop it into place inside a frame or platform wherever you want the tub. This gives you the flexibility to place it anywhere in the bathroom, whether you want it in the middle of the room as a focal point or along a wall.

The tub itself is unfinished on all four sides since only the top lip and inside of the tub show. Once the tub is placed into the frame, the outer structure is finished with your choice of materials, often tile or stone. This leaves the sides of the tub and the plumbing hidden for a clean finish.

Drop-in tubs are ideal for people who like sitting and soaking in the bathtub for long periods of time because of the shape. The tub offers you a deeper water level than the alcove tub.

Alcove Bathtub Basics

The term alcove doesn't refer to the shape or size of the bathtub, but the installation. Alcove tubs are unfinished on three sides with the fourth side, usually one of the long sides, finished with a tub apron. The tub gets installed into an alcove section of the bathroom with three of its sides enclosed by a wall.

On the front side, you can place a shower curtain or bathtub door to provide privacy. For a person needing help getting in and out of the bathtub, an alcove may be a better choice than a drop-in tub. You can install either a rail or safety grab bar to assist in entering or exiting the bathtub.

Variety of Bathtub Styles

Your preference in styles can help with your decision of a drop-in vs. alcove bathtub. Alcove tubs don't offer you a variety of styles to choose from. You can only choose the rectangle style alcove bathtub, and you have to place it against the wall in an alcove with three sides surrounding it. You're also limited to the size of the existing alcove.

In contrast, drop-in tubs offer different styles, sizes and shapes. You can pick an oval, rectangle or square-shaped drop-in tub. For instance, you can purchase a deck mounted drop-in tub or one mounted on a pedestal like a sink. You also have more flexibility in where you place the tub.

Drop-In vs. Alcove Bathtub Considerations

A drop-in tub is easier to clean than an alcove tub. The drop-in tub does have disadvantages, though. The bathtub is easy to get into, but hard to get out of. You must fully stand, then take a big step to get to the floor.

The alcove bathtub allows you to protect the walls by installing wall surrounds. The wall surrounds consist of the same material that your tub is made with. Once installed, it provides a water tight barrier.

Drop-in tub installation requires extra steps to build the frame. You need precise measurements to ensure the tub has proper support and fits properly within the frame. You also have to finish the exterior once the tub is installed.

Alcove tubs attach to the walls within the alcove. You might need to install wall panels or tile to cover the shower walls, but the front of the tub is already finished.

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Demetrius Sewell

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.