“My clients are putting freestanding tubs into their homes, even if they never intend to use them,” a realtor in an upper-income market recently told me. “Freestanding soaking tubs are showpieces,” she said.
Freestanding soaking tubs are bathtubs that are not attached to the walls of your home–they stand freely. They are ultra-contemporary, with the exception being clawfoot tubs, which can be antique. Freestanding tubs can increase the value of a home.
After reading this guide, you’ll be fully prepared and informed to buy your own freestanding tub—either right now or when the time is right.
Freestanding Tub Materials
Freestanding soaking tubs come in a wide variety of materials from cast iron for a clawfoot to acrylic, fiberglass, stone, stone resin, and copper. Heavier weight materials like stone and porcelain-enameled steel may require the installation of additional floor supports.
Every material has pros and cons, and so you’d be wise to get familiar with each one, and because we’re nice, here’s a quick cheat sheet:
For more information about various freestanding tub materials, see 8 Best Bathtub Materials: Pros and Cons.
Freestanding Tub Dimensions
The average freestanding tub is 67 inches long and 32 inches wide with a soaking depth of 15 inches. However, a Japanese soaking tub has an average depth of 35 inches. Additionally, contractors recommend leaving 4 inches of space around the perimeter of the freestanding tub for easy access.
Although the typical length of a freestanding tub is 67 inches, you can find a range between 35 inches and 80 inches. That said, with careful planning, it may be possible to fit a freestanding soaker tub in a small (but not extremely small) bathroom.
The widths of these tubs also range from 20-59 inches, with 32 inches being most common. The soaking depth is measured from the overflow drain to the bottom of the tub on the interior.
What people love about these bathtubs is the extra depth. You can find freestanding soaker tubs with a depth of 14-25 inches with 15 inches being most common. Compare this to a standard tub that usually offers 12 inches of soaking depth.
Then again, if you’re all about the deep soak, consider a Japanese soaker tub that registers about 35 inches deep. In this case, the will come up to your neck.
How to Position a Freestanding Tub
Unlike a built-in tub, the freestanding soaking tub doesn’t come with shelves for shampoo and other bath products. Either you’ll want to order a bathtub caddy or you’ll need to plan for how you’ll store bathing items near the tub.
This might involve installing a cabinet, which of course, takes up more room. It’s also likely that you won’t want a toilet anywhere too close to your tub, so that’s additional space needed as well.
A standard bathtub requires 13 square feet of space. A freestanding soaking tub will likely take up more square footage when you consider leaving empty room around it for maneuvering. And if you plan to use a standing tub filler (more on this soon), you’ll need a bit more space as well.
Shapes of Freestanding Tubs
Most freestanding tubs are oval, rectangular, or egg-shaped. However, the Japanese soaking tub is circular. (For much more about Japanese soaker tubs, also called ofuro, see 3 Japanese Baths That Will Change Your Life.)
As you shop for a freestanding tub, don’t be afraid to hop on into the tubs on the showroom floor. This will help you to really get an idea of how your body fits inside it.
Considerations for Small Bathrooms
If you do have a small bathroom, consider a freestanding back-to-wall tub. You’ll get the extra soaking depth without giving up quite so much floor space.
7 Common Freestanding Bathtub Styles
Freestanding tubs come in a wide variety of styles. A tub that sits flush against the floor or on risers will give a contemporary feel to your bathroom, while a freestanding tub on claw feet can provide a traditional or rustic sensibility. Here are some common styles that you will find for freestanding soaker tubs:
1. Back to Wall
This style offers benefits of both a freestanding and an alcove tub. It is technically a freestanding soaker tub but it is placed against a wall. This saves space in small bathrooms and allows for easy placement of cabinets flush against both ends of the tub.
2. Double Ended
Each end of the tub is rounded. This is typically to accommodate two bathers. The overflow drain is in the center of the tub, and the faucet will be positioned in the center as well. For much more about the difference between single and double-ended tubs, read my post Single or Double Ended Bath: What’s Right for You?
A pedestal tub is flush on the ground but looks as if it’s on a platform or stage. This gives the raised look of a clawfoot with sleek, contemporary lines.
4. Roll Top
Typical of traditional clawfoots, the rim of the tub appears rolled over all the way around.
A slippered tub is raised on one end only, with the overflow drain a few inches below the rim on the non-raised end.
6. Double Slippered
Both ends of the tub are raised to accommodate two bathers. The drain is in the center.
Clawfoot tubs are freestanding for sure, but there is so much to know about them that they deserve their own separate discussion. If you know that you want a clawfoot, be sure not to miss Clawfoot Tubs: The Ultimate Buying Guide and The Hidden Costs of a Clawfoot Tub.
Why You Need to Know the Weight of Your Tub
The weight of a freestanding tub will depend on the material from which it’s made. Acrylic and fiberglass are generally the lightest weight materials with stone and porcelain-enameled cast iron being the heaviest.
The weight of the tub is important to know in advance of your purchase for several reasons:
- Do you have enough people power to lift the bathtub from the delivery truck to your bathroom?
- Will your floor require extra reinforcements to support the weight of the tub when it is filled with water and a bather (or two)?
- If you answered yes to either question, you may be looking at additional costs.
How to Calculate Total Weight on Your Bathroom Floor
There’s a simple formula you can use to calculate the weight of your full bathtub before you get it. You’ll need three bits of information to figure this out—or grab the closest middle school student to do the work for you!
Here’s what data the problem-solver will need:
- Weight of the empty bathtub. (This should be readily available from the manufacturer.)
- Number of gallons held by your bathtub when it’s filled (to just below the overflow drain).
- The weight of the heaviest bather who will use the tub. (If your free soaking tub will be used by two people at once, we’ll need their combined weights.)
Now here’s the cool part: 1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, so multiply the number of gallons held by your tub x 8.34. This will give you the water weight when the tub is filled.
Next, add the weight of the empty bathtub. And then add the weight of the heaviest bather(s) likely to use the tub. Voila! You’ve done your bath math and now you know the weight in pounds that your floor must be able to support.
A ground floor bathroom is less likely to need additional supports added to the joists, while an upper-level bathroom can usually support less weight. The wise thing to do is to ask your contractor before the bathtub arrives to check the floor of the bathroom in which you intend to install the free soaking tub.
If you do need to add support to the floor, expect to pay $100-$300 per joist.
Cost of a Freestanding Soaking Tub
The tub material is the biggest factor in the price of a freestanding tub An average-size freestanding soaking tub in acrylic will start at $600. The same tub in stone resin will start at $1,600, while the cast iron version is $1,900 and the same-sized tub in copper is $4,700
Don’t forget, with the heavier materials, you may need to pay to reinforce your bathroom floor, especially if you’re in an older house or the bathroom is on an upper level.
Generally, a freestanding tub will cost more than a built-in, but it is much easier and cheaper to install a freestanding tub. In the end, including installation, the cost is likely to be similar.
Add-Ons to Cost of Freestanding Tub
There are other factors that impact price. One is bells and whistles like whirlpool jets, air bubblers or built-in LED lights. An acrylic tub of the same dimensions with 10 whirlpool jets will go for around $1,600 rather than $600. Get the idea?
Faucet May Be Included in Price of Freestanding Tub
And one more factor is what the tub comes with: Sometimes the bathtub faucet and overflow drain are included in the price. This is nothing to sneeze at because faucets (also called fillers) can be extremely expensive. In fact, sometimes they can cost more the tub itself. Let’s take a look at various types of freestanding tub fillers and how much they cost.
Cost of the Tub Filler
The cost of a freestanding tub filler is determined not just by what you see on the outside of the faucet, but also by what’s inside. Some have plastic coils while others are made of ceramic. The plastic will wear out many years sooner than the ceramic.
Additionally, it’s not an exaggeration to say that some freestanding fillers are true works of art constructed of fine metal. This is a factor in the cost of the filler as well.
If you review the Houzz.com list of the 50 most popular freestanding tub fillers, you’ll see the cheapest standing filler is $378 and the most expensive is $4,072.
You can also purchase a freestanding tub hardware kit for around $350 that includes a deck-mounted tub filler with hand shower, shower hose, drain, supply-line, shut-off valves.
Freestanding Tub Faucets
Take a long hard look at the faucets that you are going to purchase for your freestanding soaking tub. The hardware is very important for several reasons:
Freestanding faucets come in a variety of metals from polished chrome to nickel. Designer Kathleen Finley says it’s fine to mix finishes – you can use brushed and satin – in the same bathroom. But you do want to stick to the same metal. So take note of any existing hardware before you make your choice.
If you’re getting a clawfoot tub to fit an antique house, you may want to select a vintage-looking faucet. But not necessarily. It’s perfectly in vogue to mix a contemporary filler with an older tub and vice versa. Here’s one of our favorite freestanding tub fillers that will work well with a clawfoot or contemporary soaking tub.
Third, since the faucet pipe on a freestanding bathtub filler is exposed, it’s as much a part of the look as the tub itself.
There are three types of faucets for freestanding soaking tubs named for where the faucet is installed. Which one you select will depend on a variety of factors, including the placement of the drain in the tub and whether the tub will be against a wall.
Note that some tubs come with the holes for the hardware already in place, so make sure that your desires for faucets align with the tub you plan to buy. That said, let’s take a look at three types of faucets:
1. Freestanding Faucet
Standing on the floor beside the tub, the neck of the freestanding filler loops over into the tub. This requires installation in the floor, so you’ll need to remove flooring and then rebuild it.
2. Deck-Mounted Faucet
If conserving space is an issue, consider a deck-mounted faucet. It’s built onto a ledge on the tub, often at the center of the rim rather than either end. It will take less space than a freestanding faucet.
3. Wall-Mounted Faucet
This kind of faucet is built into an adjacent wall, so it is only an option for a “back against wall” freestanding soaker tub. This will have a faucet and two knobs.
Many of the faucets come with a handheld shower or handheld shower wand. Check out The Bathtubber’s guide to bathtub faucets. And if you want to add a Zen-like feel to your bathroom, consider installing a waterfall bathtub filler.
How to Install a Freestanding Tub
How do you install a freestanding tub? With a plumber!
No, really. People who install things for a living say that installing a freestanding tub is much easier than putting in a built-in. After all, a built-in requires that the plumbing is concealed behind a nearby wall.
But I’ve watched many youtube videos about installing a freestanding tub, and to me it definitely does look like rocket science. That’s why I would never attempt it myself. But that said, there is some prep work involved that I could definitely handle.
Not-Too-Hard Steps to Prep for Install
Here are the things I could definitely do, and you can too:
1. Before ordering the tub make sure your floor will support the weight. Contact a structural engineer to assess if you’re in an old home or ordering a heavier weight bathtub material, such as cast iron or stone resin.
2. You’ll also want to make sure a freestanding tub is in compliance with state, county and local building codes.
3. Use a level to be sure your floor is even across the bathroom.
4. Measure all the doorways your tub will need to fit through. Compare this to the size of your tub to make sure there are at least three inches on either side. Remember the tub will come in packaging and a box, all of which will add to the total width you’ll need to maneuver through.
5. When the tub arrives, bring it to a hallway just outside the bathroom in which it will be installed. Or, if you have a spacious bathroom, bring the box right in. Then take out the bathtub. Leave the protective film on the tub until after the installation is complete.
6. Many tubs come with faucets included in the price. Do you know what’s supposed to be included with your purchase? Good! Now check to see that you have all the parts. Look in the assembly guide for a list of parts and compare that to what came in the box. If anything is missing, call the manufacturer right away.
7. Call a plumber!
DIY Freestanding Tub Installation, If You Insist
If you really want to attempt the installation yourself, check out this video. (This is the second in a two-part series.)
In general, you’ll need to prep the floor by removing tile and subflooring, set up the filler, attach the water pipe below the floor to the drain in the tub with a new pipe, and then repair the flooring, set the bathtub in place by placing silicone around the bottom rim, and then checking for leaks. (Easier said than done!)
After installation, you’ll wait 24 hours before using the tub. (The waiting is the hardest part!)
These are some freestanding bathtub manufacturers that have excellent reputations:
AKDY – These soaking tubs with unique finishes are most definitely works of art. Breathtaking!
Ariel – Designed in Europe and manufactured in the US, these elegant tubs project luxury.
Maykke – This manufacturer offers competitive prices on high-end tubs.
Victoria + Albert Baths – This company is frequently recognized for its outstanding tub designs.
Wyndham Collection – If you’re set on an acrylic freestanding tub, the Wyndham Collection offers a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Comfortable and pretty.
Woodbridge – These acrylic tubs with reinforced fiberglass consistently earn rave reviews for being beautiful, durable and easy to clean.
How to Add a Shower to a Freestanding Tub
Most freestanding faucets come with a handheld shower hose or shower wand. But let’s say this isn’t quite the same as a regular shower for you. You long for hot water pounding the top of your head, and you’re not prepared to hold your arm up there for minutes at a stretch. What to do?
You can install a suspended ring above your freestanding tub. This will allow you to put in a regular showerhead. But there are several issues to consider with that.
1. You’ll Need a Shower Curtain Instead of a Door
Unlike with a built-in tub where you can install a shower door, you won’t have that option. You’ll need to use a shower curtain.
2. You Might Get Chilly
If you’ve put your freestanding tub in the middle of an open space rather than against the wall, it could get a bit chilly when you’re standing up.
3. The Floor Might Get Wet
You may put the curtain inside the rim of the tub, but it can be uncomfortable with the shower curtain blowing in on you. And if you put the curtain outside the rim, you may end up with wet bathroom floors.
This may be why freestanding bathtubs are more common in luxury homes that have the space for both a walk-in shower and a tub.
If you still want to do it, then opt for a sturdy shower curtain rather than a flimsy one, and then search for a shower conversion kit to match the size of your freestanding tub.
Trends in Freestanding Tubs
Some people enjoy using unexpected materials for their freestanding tubs, and while acrylic and fiberglass are most common, what about stainless steel or copper?
One of the coolest trends in freestanding tubs is the ability to color customize. For example, The Tub Connection will let you pick any Sherwin Williams paint color and then paint the outside of your tub. Imagine hot pink or black! Cool. Cool. Cool! Victoria + Albert’s A World of Color program allows you to do the same.
A Freestanding Tub Adds Value to a Home
The bottom line is that in higher-income zip codes, having a master bath with a showpiece soaking tub is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. Or a luxurious necessity, to be exact.
The Cost vs. Value Report on remodeling.hw.net does a great job explaining how much you can expect to recoup on an upscale bathroom remodel that includes a freestanding tub. The study crunched 2019 data for projects that invested an average of $64,743 on the bathroom renovation. Upon resale, remodelers got a return of $38,952 or 60.2% on their investment.
For much more on this topic, see Will a Tub Add Value to My Home?
What Are Some Freestanding Tub Tile Ideas?
You might want to build a tile surround. The height should extend beyond the height of your tub. 48 inches from the floor is typical to showcase a freestanding tub. To create a truly intimate feel in the bathroom, consider tiling all the way up from floor to ceiling. However, if you’ve placed your tub against the wall then the tile will serve as a backsplash. In this case build the tile at least one foot up from the edge of the tub toward the ceiling. For much more on how to tile a bathroom with a freestanding tub, see 10 Tips for Choosing Bathroom Tile That’s Perfect for You.
How Can I get an Eco-Friendly Freestanding Tub?
Some stone resin tubs are 100% recyclable, so that’s a good start. Keeping in mind that a freestanding tub is usually deeper than a built-in and holds more water, you may want to consider ways to reuse bathwater. With a high-tech grey water system, you can rig up your plumbing to send gently used bathwater to your garden or washing machine. For more on this, read Reuse Bath Water to Save Money and the Earth.