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- When shopping for a bathtub, consider the size of your bathroom and how you intend to use your tub.
- The best bathtubs come from brands like Delta, Kohler, and Rejuvenation.
- Consider calling a professional to install your new tub since it can involve tricky plumbing.
Whether you enjoy an occasional deep soak or regularly treat yourself to bubble baths, a comfortable and well-built bathtub is an essential fixture of your home. It’s a big investment, so it’s important to carefully weigh how you intend to use it, your budget, and the amount of available space.
The most common kind of bathtub is an alcove tub, which is surrounded by walls on three sides. You can add a showerhead to an alcove tub to maximize space and utility. Other types of bathtubs include drop-in, corner, freestanding, and walk-in tubs.
The best bathtub for you depends on many factors. The biggest things to consider are the size of your bathroom and where you’d like to place the tub. Certain materials, like cast iron, are heavy and you may need to reinforce your floor. The location of your plumbing and the size of your water heater may also impact what type of tub you buy. Finally, you’ll want to consider whether you want certain features, including massage jets or accessibility options such as grab bars or seating. Learn more about the differences among bathtub types, factors and features to consider, how to install a bathtub, and other bathtub FAQs.
For each type of bathtub, we included a few options so you can find the best one for your needs, budget, and style. Alex Rennie contributed previous reporting to this piece.
Here are the best bathtubs of 2021
- Best alcove bathtub: Delta, Bootz, Kohler
- Best drop-in bathtub: American Standard, Kohler
- Best corner bathtub: Clarke, Ariel, Laurel Mountain
- Best freestanding soaking bathtub: Birch Lane, Wyndham Collection, Vanity Art, Rejuvenation
- Best walk-in bathtub: Universal Tubs, Access Tubs
We consulted Kerrie Kelly, National Board Chair of the American Society of Interior Designers, and Tricia Fraser, a merchant and bathtub expert at The Home Depot, for insights into the bathtub-buying process.
Taking their advice and our own research and experience into account, we chose two to three options covering a variety of materials, budgets, and styles for each category. We also looked at whether the retailer offered home installation and other services that make it easier to buy a bathtub.
The best alcove bathtub
You’re probably most familiar with the ubiquitous alcove bathtub. There are plenty of options to choose from, and we love them because they’re usually pretty affordable.
The best drop-in bathtub
A drop-in tub requires a little more space than an alcove tub because it doesn’t touch your walls. It has a slightly more sleek look and tends to be more expensive.
The best corner bathtub
Corner bathtubs make the most of limited space. These days, they commonly have built-in jets so you can enjoy a bath and massage without going to the spa. Extra features like jets or lights do make corner tubs more expensive.
The best freestanding soaking bathtub
Freestanding bathtub styles range from vintage and elaborate to modern and minimalist. Whatever your personal style is, keep in mind that freestanding tubs take up a lot of space and can be heavy since many tend to be made from cast iron.
The best walk-in bathtub
Walk-in tubs are designed with accessibility and ergonomics in mind, so you don’t need to lift your leg over a ledge. Not only are they easier to enter, they often feature comfortable benches, a grab bar, and other add-ons to enhance your bathing experience.
What are the different kinds of bathtubs? How do I know which one is best for my bathroom?
Alcove bathtub: An alcove tub is surrounded on three sides by walls, so you get in on the exposed side. It’s usually the most affordable and space-efficient.
Drop-in bathtub: A drop-in tub is “framed by materials like cabinetry, tile, or solid surface slabs and ‘drop-in’ to a deck,” said Kerrie Kelly, National Board Chair of the American Society of Interior Designers. Although it might be surrounded by walls like an alcove tub, its sides do not actually touch the walls directly.
Corner bathtub: A corner tub is often three-sided or heart-shaped, with two of the sides in the corner of your space. It’s best for small spaces.
Freestanding bathtub: A freestanding tub can be placed anywhere in the room and is often the focal point. It can stand directly on the floor, on a low pedestal, or on claw feet. It takes up a lot of space and tends to be heavy, so you might need to reinforce your floor, but it has the most eye-catching and elegant look of all the tub types. Both Kelly and Tricia Fraser, a merchant and bathtub expert at The Home Depot say freestanding tubs are growing in popularity and the biggest trend in bathroom design recently.
Walk-in bathtub: A walk-in tub is for people who can’t step into a regular tub. It has a watertight door and “typically has safety features, like a grab bar, slip-resistant textured flooring, and ADA-compliant seating. These tubs can also offer a therapeutic massage experience with features like jetted whirlpool or jetted air,” said Fraser.
What to consider when buying a bathtub
The main factors to consider as you decide which bathtub to buy are:
Bathroom size: Take measurements of your bathroom and doorway. Depending on the amount of space available, you may only be able to buy certain tub styles.
Plumbing location: The location of your plumbing rough-in limits where you can place your tub. The drain location needs to work with your tub’s design.
Water heater size: “Confirm that your water heater can handle the size of tub you are looking to fill. Make sure your water heater is large enough to fill about 2/3 of your tub with warm water,” said Kelly. This is especially important if you opt for a deeper soaking tub.
Material: Material affects the price, feel, and longevity of your tub. The most common bathtub materials are acrylic, fiberglass, porcelain-enameled steel, and porcelain-enameled cast iron. Acrylic is long-lasting, lightweight, affordable, and widely available in many colors and styles. Fiberglass is the most affordable but not as durable. Both enameled cast iron and steel are very durable and resistant to scratches and stains, but cast iron has even greater heat retention, keeping your bath water hot for a longer period of time.
Weight capacity of your floor: If your tub is going on the second floor, you might need to reinforce the floor based on what materials you choose. Acrylic tubs are lighter in weight, while cast iron tubs are a lot heavier.
Extra features: Features like whirlpool jets, grab bars, and seating will bring the price of your tub up but add to the overall experience of your bath.
What are the standard measurements for a bathtub?
According to Fraser, a standard tub measures 60″ x 30″. The average water depth is 16 inches. Corner, freestanding, and walk-in baths tend to be deeper. As you look at different sizes, consider the heights of anyone who will use the tub, how many people will usually be in the tub at once, and if you prefer to curl up or splay out in the water. If you’re in a physical store or showroom, it always helps to climb into the tub to test the ergonomics and feel out the size for yourself.
How much does a bathtub cost?
It all depends on the materials and features, but a bathtub usually starts at $200 and averages around $300 to $500. Corner, freestanding, and walk-in tubs tend to be more expensive and can cost thousands of dollars.
Should I install a bathtub by myself or call a professional?
We love a DIY project, but it’s best to call a professional for this one. Because bathtub installation involves plumbing and tiling expertise, “incorrect installation can result in water damage or an unleveled tub,” said Fraser.
If you do have prior plumbing experience, Fraser’s advice is “to double check the door width to make sure you can move the tub into the bathroom, be knowledgeable on basic plumbing and framing, and know your existing flooring and plumbing’s condition.”
Check out our other home renovation guides