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What is a Drop In Tub? 2019 Guide to Drop in Bathtubs

by Badeloft | September 26, 2018

Looking for a new bathtub can be quite a daunting task. There are a multitude of questions to ask and each of them quite pertant and pressing-How large of a tub do I want? What sort of material should it be made of? Do I want a Drop in bathtub or a freestanding? Fortunately these questions are quite common, and are easily addressed with time and understanding of your own bathroom needs. For today, we will be discussing a drop-in tub, defining its uses, advantages and disadvantages to help your purchasing needs.

What is a drop in tub?

A drop in bathtub is a bathtub that has been finished on all sides with a lip or rim, allowing it to be fastened or secured to a finished alcove or structure commonly referred to as a surround. This design allows you to simply ‘drop in’ your bathtub, obscuring the outside of the bathtub completely by the surround so only the interior of the bathtub is visible.The surround can be constructed from anything ranging from natural stone to wood, and can be raised high or constructed at feet level. This install method is what separates this bathtub design from a freestanding bathtub which can be placed and installed anywhere there is room in your bathroom.


Common drop in tub materials

Drop in bathtubs are typically constructed from a variety of materials, most commonly fiberglass, acrylic, cast iron and solid surface materials. Fiberglass is very affordable, but the material isn’t physically durable and will tend to warp and become unstable due to its porous nature. Acrylic is constructed from fiberglass mixed with resin and a more durable coat, making it a bit more expensive than fiberglass, but the material is non-porous, making it much more durable in the long term. However, acrylic does not have excellent heat retention when compared to a material such as cast iron which is a bit more expensive, but the material is very durable, able to weather quite a bit of physical and chemical punishments while retaining excellent heat retention. And last are the solid-surface materials or Stone Resin. Constructed from smashed stone and resin bonded together, this material is non-porous and has a comparable heat retention to cast iron.

What is the average depth in a drop tub

Average depth of a drop in bathtub ranges anywhere from 16-18 inches commonly, or 1.3-1.5 feet. They typically will start with an overall dimension of 5 feet in length and 2 and a half feet in width. This of course can grow larger with higher end drop-in bathtubs ending at 6 feet in length, with a final width of 3 and a half feet. There also exists a size variant for those with more modest bathroom accommodations, with the lowest being 4 feet in length with an overall width of 2 feet. However, for as much as the size of the bathtub grows, the overall water depth will still sit at the normal 16-18 feet or 1.3-1.5 feet respectively.

Drop in tub vs. Alcove tub

Contrary to popular belief, alcove bathtubs actually refer to the location which the bathtub is installed in. Drop-in bathtubs are installed anywhere a carved out deck or structure is implemented, often times in the center of the bathroom. Alcove bathtubs on the other hand, are installed in a recess, against the wall or an alcove. As a result, alcove tubs are typically more rounded and smaller, whereas drop-in tubs are longer and wider as the area they fill is quite different. The purpose of the alcove is to help those with movement issues navigate the bath easier. With an alcove installation, a handlebar can be installed for additional support to guide the movement impaired. Of course a drop-in bathtub can be fitted with the same functions, but it will require additional work in creating a surround flush to a wall.


Drop in tub vs Freestanding Tub

The most common question in choosing a bathtub as both have been quite popular since modern bathing has existed. As stated previously, drop-in bathtubs are installed in a previously constructed recess in your bathroom as they are ‘dropped in’. Freestanding bathtubs are quite different as it allows you to place your bathtub just about anywhere in your bathroom. With the drop-in method, plumbing is a bit more difficult to access as your bathtub is flush with the constructed deck or tiled area. Many people install an access panel for easier access down the road. Freestanding bathtubs on the other hand, enjoy the benefit of having easy to access plumbing with the majority of it being quite visible and outside of the bathtub. Due to the installation differences, this also determines the size of each. Due to the limitations of the installation method, drop-in bathtubs are typically smaller with very little variance in water depth. Since freestanding bathtubs do not necessitate an area to install, they can be much larger, with greater water depth for personal soaking. This freedom also extends to the shape of them as drop-ins are typically either rectangular, circular or triangle shaped. Freestanding bathtubs can fit in any part of that spectrum from being large and oval shaped, to more space saving circular shape.


Drop in tub vs Garden tub

Another variant of the freestanding bathtub, garden bathtubs are freestanding bathtubs with much greater water depth available. Most drop-in bathtubs have a general water depth between 1.3-1.5 feet whereas smaller garden tubs enjoy a water depth of 2 feet. This of course can grow to 5-6 feet on larger higher end models. The purpose of the increased water depth is that the garden tub is seen as a soaking bathtub, so it fills more of a luxurious purpose then general bathing. Size wise they still tend to be larger and more circular in shape as they are freestanding bathtubs still and retain much of their installation freedom. Where drop-in bathtubs are still limited to the size of the constructed recess or surround available.


Cost of the average drop in tub

Drop in bathtubs tend to be a popular option as they are perhaps the most affordable bathtub on the market with starting prices ranging from $500-750 on the low end. This is comparable to your standard walk-in shower, shower/bathtub combo and alcove as the installation for these is very similar, meaning the price points are nearly identical. For higher end drop-in models and larger sizes, the prices can shoot up to around $2,000-10,000 for just the bathtub alone. However, many high quality models still exist between $700-1,500 which makes it quite affordable for just about any home. Freestanding is roughly the same, with many models starting at around $700, with a mid range of roughly $1,200-1,500 with some higher end models ending in the tens of thousands. Garden tubs sit roughly at the top of being the most expensive as the starting price is around $2,000 not including installation considerations such as additional water weight and increased water usage.

Who are drop in tubs for?

With their popularity, drop-in bathtubs are for all ages. They enjoy a large spectrum of utility with many of them converted into shower/bathtub combinations, giving you the convenience of a normal shower with the option of more relaxed bathing down the road. And with many drop-in bathtubs being flush to the wall, they allow for easier access for children and the elderly as they have more support when compared to a normal freestanding bathtub. With the wall present, hand holds and supports can be installed for more safety measures against falling or slipping.

How hard is it to install?

The most important step to installing a drop-in bathtub is to construct your recess or surround. If you are unsure of this step, it is best to consult a professional. Whether it is elevated or flush to the floor, you need to measure out the appropriate length and width of your area. This will ultimately determine what size bathtub your bathroom can handle before purchasing. Please account for water depth when the tub is filled and make sure that your floor and support can handle the additional weight of your bathtub. Afterwards, installation will comprise of adjusting your plumbing before placing your bathtub directly over or under the recess you have carved out. After you make sure your bathtub is flush with the recess, then simply fasten it down and secure it. Compared to most bathtub installations, drop-in bathtubs are the middle ground. The process is simple, but more complicated than installing a freestanding tub. If you unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the process, it is advised to seek a professional to help you install this type of bathtub.

When considering what bathtub to purchase, be sure to consider your needs carefully. Who exactly is using your bathtub and what purpose do you have in mind? Do you need a convenient way to bathe or would you enjoy a more luxurious soak for those special occasions? Do you have a large household or a small one? What type of budget do you have? Address these questions and you will easily find the right bathtub in no time.

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