Alcove vs Drop-In Bathtubs: The Pros & Cons

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

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When you're installing a new bathtub in your home, it may feel like the options are endless. But one of the first (and most important) decisions you'll have to make is whether you want an alcove or a drop-in bathtub.

Both are popular design choices for different reasons, so it's important to consider several factors when choosing one for your home.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of both alcove and drop-in bathtubs so you can better understand what they are and which one would be right for you.

What is an alcove bathtub?

Alcove bathtub

An alcove bathtub is what you most likely think of when you picture a bathtub. It is a tub that fits into an alcove in your home.

These tubs are designed to fit snugly into an alcove made up of 3 joining walls, with the 4th side of the tub being the open side where you enter or exit the tub. They have a panel on the visible side, which hides the underside of the tub.

What is a drop-in bathtub?

Drop-in bathtub

A drop-in bathtub is a type of freestanding bathtub that can be installed virtually anywhere—no alcove required. It can be placed up against a wall (or walls) if you wish, but it can also be installed in the middle of a room to become a focal point.

Drop-in bathtubs are usually installed on top of a platform of some kind that is made to hold its weight and is dropped into a surround that is made to fit its exact dimensions (hence the name drop-in bathtub). The tub itself is just a shell—no sides are designed to be visible, so the platform needs to hide every side of the tub.

What are the pros of an alcove bathtub?

Space-saving design

An alcove bathtub will fit in almost any home. Most bathrooms are designed with an alcove made to fit a standard-size alcove bathtub. These tubs are just about spacious enough to shower or bathe comfortably, but also small enough to fit in even the most compact bathroom spaces.


Because alcove bathtubs are typically made in only a few standard sizes, they are fairly inexpensive to purchase. You can purchase an alcove bathtub from a local home improvement store or bathroom supply store for under $500 in most places.

Easy installation

Alcove bathtubs are very DIY-friendly. If you're trying to update a bathroom on a budget, chances are you can install an alcove bathtub yourself. Even if DIY isn't your style, because installation is straightforward it is usually inexpensive to have a professional install it for you as well.

What are the cons of an alcove bathtub?

Minimal customization

Alcove bathtubs are only available in standard sizes and colors. You don't have as much design flexibility as you would with a drop-in tub. If you're trying to fit a bathtub in a larger-than-normal alcove, you may need to create a custom design which can be expensive.

Lacking in space

Because alcove bathtubs were designed to save space, they are by nature not the largest and most luxurious feeling tubs on the planet. If you're tall, you may have a difficult time getting comfortable taking a bath in an alcove tub. Even many average-sized adults report feeling cramped in alcove tubs.

What are the pros of a drop-in bathtub?

Lots of design freedom

When you're putting in a drop-in bathtub, the sky is the limit in terms of design. You can choose from multiple different shapes, sizes, colors, and even locations in your bathroom to achieve the exact look and feel you want.

Comfortable and spacious

Drop-in bathtubs tend to be much larger, so they offer space to stretch out and get comfortable while you're soaking in the tub. They are great for anyone who is tall and wants lots of space—or if you want to fit more than one person in the tub comfortably as well.

What are the cons of a drop-in bathtub?


Drop-in bathtubs are wonderful, but they come with a hefty price tag. When you add up the bathtub itself, the materials needed to build the surround, and the professional installation services, some drop-in bathtubs can easily cost upwards of $10,000.

Complicated installation

Unless you're a builder or contractor by trade, chances are you won't be able to install your own drop-in bathtub yourself. You will need to hire a professional to build the platform and install the tub and surround for your bathtub. This can be time-consuming and expensive.

Requires a lot of space

Drop-in bathtubs are large and tend to make themselves the focal point of the bathroom you're installing them in. For this reason, you want to make sure you have plenty of room to accommodate the bathtub's footprint without taking away space you need in other areas of your bathroom.

What is better: an alcove bathtub or a drop-in bathtub?

Alcove bathtubs and drop-in bathtubs are both great options, but the right one for you will depend on your unique situation.

Need to save money or space, or just want a small tub to bathe young kids in? An alcove tub will do just fine. But if you want something more unusual, or you're looking for long soaks with lots of space to stretch out (especially if you're on the taller side) you might want to consider a drop-in.

Take some time to consider all your options before committing to one or the other—I hope this has been useful in helping you decide which type of tub is best for your bathroom!

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