Buying a Freestanding Tub? Know the Pros and Cons First


a man in bathrobe looks out window to ocean, a freestanding tub behind him

 

There is nothing quite like a striking freestanding tub to change the look of your bathroom completely. Freestanding tubs come in so many varieties and styles that you can get one to accommodate your exact needs. But are there any disadvantages to freestanding tubs relative to built-in bathtubs? In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of freestanding tubs.

Freestanding tubs are unique statement pieces but usually require more space than built-in baths. Due to the variety of styles, sizes, and shapes, freestanding tubs fit any décor style and are often more comfortable to use. However, they can be harder to clean, and installation costs may be higher if you need to add floor supports.

Let’s take a deeper look (no pun intended) at the pros and cons of freestanding tubs! 

 

The Pros of Freestanding Tubs

 

rectangular freestanding tub

 

Every bathtub type—whether built-in or freestanding—has pros and cons. We’re going to focus on what you might like best and least about a freestanding tub.

Design

These tubs make a high-impact visual statement. Styles range from vintage to contemporary. It’s easier to make a statement with a freestanding tub and truly turn your bathroom into a high-end spa.

Variety

Available in a wide array of shapes including oval, rectangular and circular, as well as in a wide array of bathtub materials, including wood, cast iron, acrylic, and copper.

Soaking Depth

Contemporary freestanding tubs are also called “soaking tubs” due to their increased depth. You can find freestanding soaking tubs with depths that range from 14 to 25 inches.

Comfort

Many people find a freestanding tub more comfortable than a built-in tub. This, of course, depends on the particular model you buy. A vintage clawfoot tub is built for a small-bottomed woman. However, an acrylic contemporary soaking tub for two may offer the room and the shape that will feel best for you.

Cost of Installation

On average, freestanding tubs cost less to install than built-in tubs. However, if your floor isn’t reinforced or you plan to place your tub on a deck or upper level, you may need to add floor support which adds to the cost. You also may need to rip up the floor to put in a freestanding tub filler, but deck-mounted or wall-mounted freestanding tub faucets would not require this.

 

The Cons of Freestanding Tubs

Shower

It’s hard to install a shower in a freestanding tub, unless you position the tub against a wall. Because freestanding tubs are not firmly set in place, they can move slightly with use which makes installing showers over them tricky. That said, there are kits you can buy to add a shower to your freestanding tub. Still, it won’t be as clean and simple as putting a shower in an alcove tub.

Cleaning

It can be harder to clean around a freestanding tub. Since more of the exterior will be visible, you’ll always want to clean off the shell of the tub as well as the interior. Also, because of the curves or any ornate clawed feet, you may find it more difficult to access for cleaning.

Storage

Many people use the edges of a fitted tub to store soaps and toiletries. Without this shelf, you will have to consider other storage options like a bath caddy. This is a cheap, easy fix.

Access

Most freestanding tubs are placed in the center of the bathroom. This eliminates the opportunity to install a grab bar for easier access in and out of the tub. Higher sides to the bathtub also can make it harder for elderly or disabled people or children to get in and out of.

Cost of Tub Itself

You may pay more for a freestanding bathtub than a built-in bathtub. That said, the installation cost is likely to be less with the freestanding tub; in the end, the overall cost of built-in vs freestanding tubs can be similar.

 

Common Concerns About Freestanding Tubs

 

When choosing bathroom tile for the floor, calculate square footage you'll need

 

Let’s go into a little more depth on some of the most common questions and concerns buyers have about freestanding tubs:

 

Are Freestanding Tubs Hard to Clean Around?

 

Cleaning around a freestanding tub will be highly dependent on the particular design as well as where it’s placed in the bathroom.

As an example, a sleek, flat-bottomed modern design will be easy to keep clean. However, if you have a tub on ornate raised legs, such as an antique clawfoot tub, you will have to take extra time when cleaning underneath.

Freestanding baths are usually not placed against walls, so this will mean you have less tiling, grouting, or glass doors to clean. 

 

Is Installing a Freestanding Tub Complicated?

 

Many people worry about the installation of freestanding tubs. Since all baths will require plumbing, the essential plumbing system is already in place. A plumber will add any additional lines that need to run to your tub beneath the subfloor.

Old houses may have uneven or weaker flooring that will need to be corrected or replaced to support a freestanding tub. Before you buy a freestanding tub, it’s a good idea to ask a contractor or a plumber to evaluate your bathroom floor.

On the plus side, once your freestanding bath is installed, it will be relatively easy to make a change to a different freestanding tub in the future

 

Are Freestanding Tubs Comfortable? 

 

Freestanding tubs come in many shapes and sizes, so comfort depends on the style you choose.  Most people will want space to stretch out in and relax, and prefer rounded edges rather than sharp ones.

Choose an ergonomic design for the maximum amount of comfort. A rolled top rim can be more comfortable to lean your arms and neck against than the sharp edges of a contemporary hard-edged design.

In some cases, what looks good may not be the best fit for you. This is always a bummer to accept!

Smaller freestanding tubs may not be very comfortable as their shape may get quite narrow toward the base of the tub.  

If you are confident you would like a freestanding tub, a wide-fit or larger tub will be more accommodating and relaxing. Modern, small freestanding designs will also be better options than antique models.

 

Do Freestanding Baths Tip Over?

 

A freestanding tub is unlikely to tip over. However, tubs do move slightly with use. One option to help you feel more secure in a freestanding tub, and one that allows you to fit a freestanding tub into a smaller area, is a back-wall freestanding bath.

With this design, the tub is generally oval-shaped. But one of the long sides is filled in and more of what you’d see on a rectangular tub. This allows you to place the tub flush against a wall if you choose. This makes the bath more stable.

While any freestanding tub may shift a little, there are some things that make this less likely. The weight of the filled bath will usually stop the bath from moving, but some people will choose to place silicone sealant under the leveling feet. This will keep the movement restricted but can make maintenance a little more challenging.

In general, you should not worry about freestanding tubs tipping over—not even the antique-style pedestal and clawfoot baths. If you are concerned about movement, ask your plumber about this during installation.  

 

 

Freestanding Tub Styles

 

 

The incredible design statement of a freestanding tub is one of the biggest pros. And freestanding tubs come in a variety of styles. Let’s take a look at the various tub styles and discuss pros and cons of these freestanding tub types:

 

Japanese Soaking Tubs

Japanese soaking tubs are round and designed for small spaces. They are meant for people to sit in, and because they are very deep, the water can cover up to your shoulders. If you have a tiny space in which to work and you love the minimalist look of Japanese décor, this could be an excellent bath choice. Larger, two-person Japanese tubs are also available.

A Japanese Soaking Tub is also called an ofuro. Read more about how to use an ofuro in my post on 3 Japanese Baths That Will Change Your Life.

These tubs are heavy and are likely to require extra floor support. They can also run your water bill high as they hold so many gallons.

 

Infinity Bathtubs

These are ultra-luxury freestanding tubs that create a Zen experience by overflowing the water over the bathtub’s edges. It is collected in a channel and recirculated into the bath. Sometimes you can get an infinity bath with mist, LED lighting and auto-fill. Learn much more about luxurious infinity bathtubs here.

 

Jacuzzi Bathtubs

These have similar disadvantages to the Japanese soaking tub in they are heavy and often quite large.

However, jetted bathtubs can really help you get the most out of your soaking experience. Water jets can provide a targeted massage to aching muscles, while air jets can provide gentle overall body relaxation. Often jetted tubs are freestanding.

 

Clawfoot Tubs

The most familiar is the clawfoot, which is a traditional style. Designers have modern interpretations of this classic theme, so if you look for a clawfoot, you will find many versions to suit your style. If you love the look of a clawfoot tub, my buying guide for clawfoot tubs covers everything you need to know. 

However, an antique clawfoot made of porcelain-enameled cast-iron will weigh a lot! You are likely to need floor supports. There are hidden costs associated with these tubs, too. Read my post on The Hidden Costs of a Clawfoot Tub to learn more.

 

Single and Double Ended Tubs

 

 Single Ended BathDouble Ended Bath
Number of Bathters12
Common TypeInsetFreestanding
Best ForSmall BathroomsLarger Bathrooms
ShowerOften Has Shower Head Affixed to WallUsually Handheld or Shower Wand

 

A single-ended tub has one straighter and one sloped end. The straight side allows for faucets and other fittings, while the long, sloped side lets you relax and lean back.  

With a double-ended tub, both sides are sloped. Faucets and other settings are usually offset toward the middle of a long side. These baths are usually bigger than their single-ended counterparts and allow two people to soak simultaneously.

Be sure to read Single or Double Ended Bath: Which Is Right for You?

 

Slippered Tubs

A single-slippered tub is similar in concept to the single-ended tub, but one end is raised. This elevated end gives the appearance of a slipper. The higher back gives more support, and you may find this a more ergonomic and comfortable design.

A double-slippered tub has same design as a double-ended tub, but both ends slope upwards, giving a higher backrest and more comfort. The lowest part of the long side, the center point, will be where the faucet and drainage outlets are placed.

Double-slippered tubs are usually the largest tub styles, as the sloping edges and higher sides will take up more space. These can be great for two people who like to soak together.

 

Pedestal Tubs

A pedestal tub has a raised plinth to give the bath extra height. This can create an almost bowl-like appearance and is very popular in art-deco bathrooms. This tub type can be harder to clean, especially if it’s placed against a wall.

 

Is a Freestanding Tub Really Worth It?

 

extra-wide cast iron soaking tub

 

After considering the pros and cons of freestanding tubs, are you more inclined to get one? If so, be sure to read my ultimate buying guide for freestanding tubs. You’ll get a lot more critical information to help you make a wise purchase. This comprehensive guide to freestanding tubs addresses the following questions:

  • What is the best bathtub material for you?
  • What bathtub size and shape will fit best in your space?
  • Which freestanding tub style do you prefer?
  • How much weight can your bathroom floor support?
  • What is your bathtub budget and how much will your dream tub cost?
  • What type of faucet or tub filler will you use and how much will that cost?
  • How will you install your freestanding tub and how difficult will it be?
  • Who are the most reputable bathtub manufacturers?
  • Can you add a shower to your freestanding tub?
  • Will a freestanding tub add value to your home, and if so, how much?

 

Pros and Cons of Freestanding Tubs

 

A woman sits in a hot tub with a glass of wine

 

To me, a freestanding bath is the pinnacle of indulgence and the best way to soak in style. But spa-vibes aside, you can have practical reasons for choosing a built-in tub instead. These reasons can include that you:

  1. Don’t have a large enough bathroom to accommodate a freestanding tub.
  2. Definitely want a bath/shower combo, or
  3. Have small children or seniors who need easy access to the tub.

As long as you choose your bathtub knowing the pros and cons in advance, you’re likely to get the model most suitable for you. And whatever it is, once you’re relaxing in that hot sudsy water with your eyes closed, it really won’t matter if you chose a freestanding or not. All that will matter is the hot bath benefits that you experience every time you take some delicious me-time in the tub.

One last thing…If you’re planning a bathroom remodel, be sure to fill out the form below. I’ll send you designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars on your project.

 

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

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