15 Tub Types | A Guide by Installation & Material

woman tries to choose bathtub from selection at store

While a bathtub is meant for true relaxation, the process of buying one can be anything but. Follow this guide, to discover the different types of bathtubs. We’ll explore the best installation for your space, the bathtub material which will work best for you, and how to make the best choice given your budget, your purpose, and who will use the tub.

Types of Bathtub Installations

Here are some of the most common bathtub types by installation and function:

1. Alcove Tubs

alcove bathtub

This classic or standard tub style fits between 3 walls in the bathroom. It’s also considered a built-in tub because it is not freestanding but rather nestled into the available space. These standard tubs type is the most popular in the United States.

While it’s possible to turn a freestanding bathtub or alcove tub into a tub/shower combo, it’s more common to do so with an alcove tub. The reason is that with a tub/shower combo, the walls surrounding the bathtub help keep the water contained.

If you want to attach a shower to a freestanding tub, either place the tub against a wall and affix the shower head, or attach a deck-mounted handheld shower to the ledge of your freestanding bathtub.

Standard Alcove Tub Dimensions

Standard dimension for an alcove tub are 60 inches long x 30 inches wide by 16 inches deep (exterior) with a 12-inch soaking depth measuring from the bottom of the tub to the overflow drain.

Tub Shower Combo

This is the most common tub type if you’re looking to add a shower head, since you can easily install a shower head to the wall on the side undermount tubs above the overflow drain.

2. Drop-In Tubs

Drop In Bathtub

This type of bathtub is dropped into a separate tub surround or platform. Drop-in tubs can be great for customizing home decor, since the platform or container for the tub can be decorated in a variety of styles, using a wide range of materials from tile to marble.

There are no standard tub dimensions, as this installation style can fit any shape tub and any size tub, as long as the platform is built to match the bathtub.

3. Freestanding Bathtubs

oval freestanding bathtub

A free-standing bathtub is not built into any walls and can be placed anywhere in the bathroom. Freestanding tubs come in a variety of bathtub styles, from tiny round Japanese soaking tubs to clawfoot tubs to hammock tubs for two.

The faucets for these bathtubs can be mounted onto the adjacent wall, fixed onto the tub deck or freestanding beside the tub, in which case the faucet can be called a tub filler.

4. Soaking Bathtubs

Man relaxing in Japanese soaking tub

Soaking tubs (also called garden tubs) are designed to submerge you in more than just one foot of water, which is the standard soaking depth of a regular tub.

Some soaking tubs like a Japanese soaker tub are designed so that the bather will sit upright on a built-in seat and the hot water will come up to the bather’s neck.

Garden tubs are often made of double-walled solid surface or acrylic, or made from copper or cast iron, which are all excellent for heat retention.

5. Corner Bathtub

Corner Bathtub

Corner tubs can be space-saving options and works best in a square area. If you have a rectangular bathroom, you can still make a corner bath work as long as you select the right size and shape.

A standard-sized corner tub is triangular and measures 60 inches at its widest and 60 inches at the longest points. Using a corner tub, you can help foot traffic flow easily through your bathroom.


6. Jetted Tubs

jetted bathtub

Jetted bathtubs or whirlpool tubs are made for indoors as opposed to hot tubs expressly designed for outdoor installation. Often you will have the option to include jets on a freestanding bathtub.

On a whirlpool tub, jets pump either water or air. A tub that includes water jets might come with 6-10 jets and provide a targeted, vigorous massage. Air tubs, on the other hand, pumps streams of air through hundreds of jets giving the bather an overall, gentle body massage.

7. Walk-in Bathtubs

walk in tub

Walk-in tubs are ideal for bathers with mobility restrictions. The bather can roll a wheelchair into the bathtub or open a door and walk in without having to step over a tub side.

The water then fills the tub cavity, immersing the bather in warm or hot water. Walk-in tubs are usually built to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) specifications.



Bathtub Materials to Consider

There are a wide variety of bathtub materials and each has various pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of the most common materials:

8. Fiberglass Tub

Fiberglass vs Cast Iron Bathtub

Fiberglass is a lightweight plastic. This material is often found in rental units. It’s inexpensive and easy to clean. And while those benefits are super, the downside is that fiberglass doesn’t retain heat as well as other tub materials and it can shapeshift when the bather stands unless it’s installed with mortar under the base.

This material is also susceptible to mildew or mold and cracks more easily than other bathtub materials.

9. Acrylic Tubs

acrylic vs fiberglass bathtub

This may be the most popular bathtub material, both for tubs you’ll find in big box stores and in luxury bathtub lines.

Acrylic is a heavier-weight plastic that is less likely than fiberglass to flex when the bather stands, although it’s still possible. It’s also more expensive than fiberglass but not as expensive as other luxury tub materials, such as cast iron, wood, marble or copper.

To get a full comparison between fiberglass bathtubs and acrylic tubs, read my post Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tubs: How to Pick a Winner.

10. Porcelain Enameled Steel

porcelain-enameled tub

This bathtub material is heavier than. both acrylic and fiberglass. It’s made by layering porcelain on top of steel. This material is easy to clean and typically lasts for a long time, although it can chip if a heavy object is dropped on it. Of the bathtub materials, porcelain enameled steel tubs are average priced.

11. Cast Iron Tubs

Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub

This material calls to mind Victorian times and clawfoot cast iron tubs. Cast iron is incredibly heavy and is the winner when it comes to retaining heat. (Imagine the Victorian lady finally freed from her corset and relishing a long, long soak in her cast iron clawfoot tub.)

A cast iron tub is extremely durable and isn’t prone to chipping. Something else you might like about cast iron is that it tends to fill up rather quietly.

On the downside, a standard-sized cast iron tub can weigh 350-500 pounds empty. And an extra-wide cast iron tub will weigh more than a standard tub both empty and full. 

This can require you to install floor supports in your bathroom, especially if you’re placing the tub on an upper level or deck.

12. Wood Tub

Wood Bathtub

Think of buying a wood bathtub like you would purchasing a work of art–it’s an investment that you can enjoy right away. A standard wooden bathtub costs around $1,500.00, while high-end tubs could cost $30,000.00.

Wood tubs are generally wider and deeper than other bathtub types. Plus they allow you to bring nature inside, which is great for creating a Zen vibe or a Japanese bathroom decor.

The highest of the high-end wood tubs are made of petrified wood. These can go for millions of dollars. Yes, millions.

13. Copper Bathtubs

Another tub material that is both ecofriendly and gaining in popularity is the copper bathtub. These tubs can last longer than you do!

The price of a copper tub will typically range from about $2,500-$10,000, depending on its size and the type of finish.

But installing a copper tub can cost more than the bathtub itself, due to the extreme weight and the likely need to add floor supports to hold up the weight of the tub plus the water and human who will be soaking inside it.

Copper has a range of colors and shades from new-penny shiny to deep brown. The surface will tarnish over time, creating a unique “living -finish” or patina. 

A “living-finish” is a characteristic unique to copper, distinguishing it from other metals. Oxygen reacts with the metal causing the color to deepen with time and eventually stabilizing as a deep, rich shade. 

Because of the “living-finish,” copper is capable of healing itself—another wonderful benefit! So, if your copper bathtub is scraped or scratched, these cuts will, over time, disappear and become a part of the overall finish of the tub. 

14. Marble

Stone Bathtub - Marble

Many people consider marble bathtubs the ultimate in luxury. There are two types of marble: natural and cultured marble. While natural marble is excavated from the earth and carved out of a whole piece of stone, cultured marble is a synthetic material that blends natural marble with resins and dyes. The material is placed in a mold that can be made in any shape and then it’s coated with a gel.

A cultured marble bathtub could cost around $1,700- $2,200, plus another $200-$300 for installation. (source)

On the other hand, a natural stone marble bathtub can cost anywhere from $3,000.00 to $16,000.00, not including installation.  

Aside from being beautiful and coming in a range of colors, marble tubs have many things going for them:

  • They are durable
  • They are energy-efficient
  • They can be molded or carved to fit your space or decor.

15. Solid Surface Bathtubs

air tub

Solid surface tubs are made from an artificial, synthetic material manufactured from a blend of plant-based or synthetic resins and natural materials.

The most common materials are marble dust, an aluminum-rich ore called bauxite, acrylic, polyester and epoxy resins, and different pigments.

Solid surface can be made to look nearly identical to stone, granite, or marble, while available at a fraction of the cost. Plus, solid surface bathtubs are lighter weight than those other tub materials, which make installation both more affordable and easier.

How long do bathtubs last?

copper clawfoot tub

While a copper bathtub can last 80 years or more, your average acrylic or fiberglass bathtubs is likely to stick around for 10-15 years. A porcelain-enameled steel or porcelain-enameled cast iron tub can last longer, but you’ll need to refinish it after a decade or so.

Aside from the material you choose, you can extend the life expectancy of your bathtub by maintaining it well.

Why hard water shortens the life of a tub

Old clawfoot tub before refinishing

If you have hard water, your tub will live a shorter life, unless you get the water treated. This is due to constant build-up of minerals like calcium, magnesium and limescale. The result is that you’ll need to scrub harder to remove the buildup, damaging the bathtub surface in the process.

How to pick the right cleaning agent for your tub type

3 fresh lemons next to spray bottle of vinegar and lemon juice cleaning solution

You’ll need to use the gentlest cleaning materials possible on your tub in order to maintain the finish. Usually, a soft microfiber cloth is best. Cleaning agents depend on what tub material you have.

Bathtub materials dictate what cleaning agent you can use. For example, a common mistake people make cleaning acrylic tubs is using abrasive powders that contain bleach and a hardwire brush. Instead, try a gentler cleaning solution of dish soap and warm water.

Many nontoxic solutions contain vinegar or baking soda. However, these ingredients can damage a solid surface bathtub, so avoid the.

Clean according to manufacturer instructions

Different bathtub materials will require you to clean them more or less frequently in order to maintain the tub over time. Fiberglass tubs, which are more porous than acrylic bathtubs, need to be washed more often in order to prevent yellowing and stop mildew from growing in any fine cracks that might form.

Consideration for Bathtub Floor Support

extra-wide cast iron soaking tub

Bathtub materials range in weight from the lightest (fiberglass) to the heaviest (natural stone and cast iron). However, even an acrylic bathtub that is large and meant to hold more than one person can get too heavy for the floor on which its placed.

You’ve not only got to consider the weight of the tub itself, but also any faucets attached to the decking, plus the water weight of the full soaking bathtub, and then the weight of the humans who will bathe. When you put all this together, it can be a lot of weight for a typical floor to maintain.

Enter a contractor.

If you’re not sure, your contractor should be able to assess whether you’ll need to add joists in order to ensure your floor is ready for a new bathtub. Keep in mind, a floor on an upper level or on a deck will be able to hold less weight than a tub placed on a ground floor.

How will your tub fit the bathroom decor?

The same bathtub material can often be found in many colors and styles:

Bathtub Colors

pink bathtub

Trending now are bathtubs in a range of colors, from powder blue to lime green.

But think in the long-term: If you buy a pink tub now, will you still want it in 5 years? And if you’re thinking of putting your home up for sale, certainly it’s safer to go with a white bathtub so as not to repel a potential buyer who may not agree with the color choice.

Also trending for all types of bathroom fixtures are black finishes, especially matte black. A black tub is less of a risk than another color and can add a pop to contemporary, minimalist bathroom decor.

Bathtub Decor

rectangular freestanding tub

You can find acrylic tubs that are free-standing and modern in style. Some are oval and others are rectangular. But you can also find a traditional rectangular alcove bathtub in acrylic.

A mid-century modern home primary bathroom might feature a clawfoot tub made of acrylic or a traditional cast iron claw foot. Either is possible and will work for the decor.

Also popular now is a Zen bathroom decor. This type of bathroom might include cedar Japanese soaking tubs or copper soaking tubs. Both work because each bring in natural elements from outdoors, which is the key to creating the Zen feeling in the bathroom.

What are the standard dimensions/sizes of bathtubs?

Choose a Bathtub

Although tubs are available in different sizes and styles, the Alcove-type tub is the most common as it takes up the least space in a regular bathroom and generally suits any décor.

The overall external measurements for a standard wall-wall tub with a front apron are:

·         60″ Long (152.4cm), 30″ wide (76.2cm), and 14 – 16″ deep (35.5 – 40.6cm)

The overall basin or inside measurements of the tub will vary depending on the materials used on the surround as well as the bathtub material. All tubs have a slant, making them slightly wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. Standard basin or inner tub measurements are:

·         55″ Long x 24″ Wide (139.7 x 60.9cm) at the top of the tub

·         45″ Long x 22″ Wide (114.3 x 55.9cm) at the bottom of the tub

Tub types have different dimensions according to shape and style. This chart will give you an idea of common sizes for a variety of tub types:

Bathtub TypeOverall LengthOverall WidthOverall Height
Alcove Tub54″ (137.1cm) 60″ (152.4cm) 72″ (182.8cm)30″ (76.2cm) 32″ (81.2cm) 36″ (91.4cm)14″ (35.5cm) 16” (40.6cm) 18″ (45.7cm) 20″ (50.8cm)
Corner Tub48 – 72″ (121.9 – 182.8cm)48 – 72″ (121.9 – 182.8cm)18 – 22″ (45.7 – 55.8cm)
Drop-in Tub45 – 72″ (114.3 – 182.8cm)30 – 32″ (76.2 – 81.2cm)14 – 20″ (35.5 – 50.8cm)
Freestanding Tub35 – 80″ (88.9 – 203.2cm)20 – 59″ (50.8 – 149.8cm)14 – 25″ (35.5 – 63.5cm)
Hammock Tub8.5 – 9.8 feet (259 – 298cm)39 – 50”(99 – 127cm)25.6” (65cm)
Oval Tub60″ (152.4cm)41″ (104.1cm)24″ (60.96cm)
Soaking tub40″ (101.6cm)32″ (81.2cm) 34″ (86.36cm)
Undermount tub45 -72″ (114.3 – 182.8cm)30 – 32″ (76.2 – 81.2cm)14 – 20”(35.5 – 50.8cm)
Whirlpool Tub60″ (152.4cm)32 – 36”(76.2 – 91.4cm)18 – 23-1/4″ (45.72 – 58.4cm)
Walk in tub48 – 60″ (121.9 – 152.4cm)28 – 36″ (71.1 – 91.4cm)30″ (76.2cm)


What type of bathtub will you choose?

couple choosing new bathtub in shop

If you’re doing a bathroom remodel, then you’ve got a lot of decisons ahead. In combination with this post, our step-by-step guide to choosing the best bathtub type will help you get it right.

Also, if you want to save big $$$, fill out the form below. I’ll send you the Save Big $$$ Cheat Sheet. It has designer hacks that can literally help you save thousands of dollars on your bathroom remodel.

Tags: bathtub installation, bathtub materials, tub types

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