Drop-In Bathtubs

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If you’re renovating your bathroom, you’re probably thinking about floor tiling, wall colors, and more. But the type of bathtub you choose can also have a major impact on your bathroom’s overall aesthetic.

One interesting bathtub type you might consider is the drop-in bathtub. What is a drop-in bathtub? It’s a tub that is effectively a shell. You usually drop it into a raised platform deck. The deck covers the sides of the tub, creating a sophisticated aesthetic and a place to sit.

Drop-In Tub vs. Alcove Tub

The drop-in bathtub is a lot different from what we think of as a “traditional” bathtub. It’s also different from a similar-sounding type of bathtub — the alcove tub. An alcove tub is a tub that is surrounded by walls on three sides. Usually, this means that it’s recessed into a wall.

Alcove tubs are great for bathrooms with limited space. Because the tub’s outer edge is flush with the wall, you’ll get more floor space than you would with a freestanding or drop-in tub.

Some people confuse the drop-in tub with the alcove tub. But the difference comes down to location: an alcove tub needs to be able to fit into a specially-sized, recessed wall space. A drop-in tub can be placed anywhere — you just need to build a custom platform to drop it into.

Drop-In Tub vs. Freestanding Tub

Have you ever seen a vintage-style bathtub with claw feet? That’s a great example of a freestanding tub (although these tubs come in plenty of modern designs, too). Freestanding tubs are so named because they stand on the floor of your bathroom with all sides exposed. You can put them anywhere you want.

That definition may cause some confusion, as you can place a drop-in bathtub just about anywhere, too. But with a drop-in tub, the sides are not exposed. A drop-in tub can’t stand on its own without the surrounding platform deck (also called a “surround”). A freestanding tub can.

What Materials Are Used for the Tub and Surround?

Like any other type of bathtub, a drop-in bathtub can be made with a range of different materials. Before making your purchase, make sure you understand these materials and their differences.

Tub Materials

There’s a drop-in bathtub material to fit every budget. Here are some of the main materials for the tub shell itself:

  • Acrylic: durable and non-porous, but does not retain heat well
  • Fiberglass: affordable, prone to warping, and not great for heat retention
  • Cast Iron: very good for retaining heat, but heavy and expensive
  • Solid Surface: Somewhat expensive, but retains heat much like cast iron

The tub material isn’t the only consideration. Drop-in bathtubs come in many different shapes. Most are rectangular, but you can find circular tubs and tubs with irregular shapes, too.

Surround Materials

Make sure to choose the materials for your surround carefully. After all, since this material will be covering the sides of the tub, it will be a focal point in your bathroom. Here are some common surround materials to consider:

  • Wood: good for creating a natural touch, but must be properly waterproofed
  • Stone: looks beautiful and high-end but is more expensive
  • Tile: can be time-consuming to install, but perfect for creating a vintage look
  • Acrylic: More affordable, but doesn’t generally have a high-end look

When you choose your surround material, don’t miss the chance to be creative! Take some time to brainstorm drop-in bathtub ideas before you start. With the availability of different wood finishes, colors and types of stones, and tile designs, you can create a truly striking bathtub that you and your guests are sure to appreciate.

The Complexity of the Installation

Despite the simple-sounding name, drop-in bathtubs are fairly complex to install. If you don’t have experience installing bathtubs and sinks, it’s probably best to hire an experienced contractor. If the tub is installed incorrectly, it may break, grow mold, or simply not look good.

So what makes installation so complex? One of the main challenges is building a secure mortar bed for the tub to rest on. Filled tubs can weigh hundreds of pounds, and that weight usually can’t be supported by the surround alone.

Generally, the installation process starts with building a frame for the surround and installing the drain assembly. Then you add the mortar bed, drop in the tub, and seal the rim.

Once you do this, you aren’t done yet. You still need to build the surround itself and hook up the plumbing.

What Other Accessories Will You Need to Complete Your Project?

Your bathtub is of course an important part of your bathroom’s overall aesthetic, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Your bathroom accessories — think towel racks, robe hooks, and drain assemblies — can help set the tone and complement your color scheme. If you’re ready to give your bathroom the finishing touch it needs, check out our wide selection of bath accessories!

Choose the Perfect Tub for You

Are you ready to update your bathroom? The options for your new bathtub are vast! Check out our wide selection at Seconds & Surplus today.