Alcove VS Freestanding Tub, Which One to Choose

Having a bathtub in our bathroom always fascinating. However, you need to know the difference between alcove VS freestanding tub before picking one for your awesome bathroom.

If you have luxurious rain shower or shower panel installed in your bathroom, you may not need a bathtub. However, we all want everything perfect. Without a bathtub, bathroom can’t become complete and self-sufficient.

There are many types of bathtubs based on size, materials, designs and functionality. However, if you sort them according to base settings and requirements, then there are mainly 2 types of bathtub. One is alcove tub or recessed bathtub and another is freestanding tub.

So, what are the base difference between alcove VS freestanding tub? As the name suggests, freestanding tubs are stand alone tubs without any support. Moreover you can set them anywhere in your bathroom.

Alcove tubs are meant to have support. In addition, you have to install corresponding support to fully set this tub in your bathroom. Usually, you set this type tub at a side of your bathroom. However, if you have a large bathroom, you can set alcove tubs at the middle with necessary support building around it.

Basic Appearance


Usually alcove tubs are built or fully fitted in the bathroom. It needs wall or full support at least 2 sides. However, some tubs have 2 small walls for top and bottom support. After that, a full wall at the side.

Generally, alcove tubs settled at a side of the bathroom and a shower may be around its top or bottom side for easy access. However, if the tub comes with built in shower or hand shower, then setting it around shower isn’t necessary.

The average size of an alcove bathtub is 5 feet. However, it can be 4 feet to 7 feet long. Corner alcove tubs must be based on a corner. Moreover, corner tubs usually have large size for 2 persons. In other words, it will take more space both length and widthwise.


Built with heavy base to support the whole tub weight while full of water freestanding tubs are generally strong. Have many sizes, colors, designs, styles, materials and shapes. Moreover freestanding bathtubs are longer. It has an average size between 5-7 feet.

Freestanding tubs outer walls have great finish and designs to have a better appearance. Usually, freestanding tubs don’t have built in shower. However, some high quality freestanding tubs come with hand shower installed for better user experience.

Setting Area

Freestanding means you can get into the tub from all sides. That’s why, you must have a large bathroom to have enough free space around the tub. Therefore, we can easily say, freestanding tubs take more area comparing with same size alcove tubs.

However, you can set freestanding tub anywhere without the need for a water wall. Therefore, you can change the design and overall layout according to your bathtub position. Making change the layout frequently is also possible with it.

Alcove tubs are installed around a wall. That is to say, it is space saving and best fit for any small sized bathroom. However, you can’t change the tub position after installation, so other parts layout must be accordingly. Moreover, you can’t change the layout after the setting is complete.

Installation Process

We may think bathtubs require same installation process and cost for all types. However, we are wrong to thin like that. Based on materials, functions and types the cost will vary. Moreover, when it is an alcove design, it costs way higher than the freestanding tubs.

For an alcove bathtub whether acrylic or metal tub, you need a water wall. Firstly, you do the plumbing in the water wall. After that, set the tub, then drain and plunge setup completely. Lastly, set the alcove done to complete the process. As all the processes must be done one by one. Its a complicated process to follow. Moreover, it will require many hours of hard work.

However, for freestanding tub, installation process becomes easy. Set the tub on the bathroom floor. Add the tub filler with the water connection and drain setup, all done. Usually, the tub faucet or filler connects with water connection on the floor or ceiling. For floor connection, you must complete the plumbing finish after connection.

Whether its a complex or simple tub installation task, you must hire a professional to do that. Otherwise, you may face unnecessary or unwanted complexity while installing the tub. If you are installing a corner tub or walk-in tub with water or air jets, then you may need extra setting for that. Also, if floor leveling required also extra work. All these will increase the installation cost exponentially.

Average Cost

Tubs prices may differ based on sizes, materials, functionally and brands. However, for regular comparison purpose we will set a fixed amount for the tub prices and installation fees.

Suppose, we are buying an acrylic alcove tub. Its price may vary from $300 to $2000. However, lets set the price $400 for a simple 5 feet long soaking tub with 20 inch height. If no other functionality involve, then installation fee for it will be around $1000. So, total cost $1400.

Freestanding acrylic bathtub costs around $500 to $2500. Lets fix it at $500. And installation fee for this tub is around $600. So, total cost around $1100. Way below the cost for an alcove tub. However, the cost depends on many other agents or variables. Installing shower, water or air jets, inline water heater connections and many more. Every function and requirement added will increase the installation along with base bathtub price.

Flooring Options

Tubs have different weight for different types of materials. Acrylic tubs are lightweight comparing with metal or stone tubs. You can easily set it on the current floor without any extra floor reinforcement.

However, stone or metal tubs are heavy. Moreover, they can add an extra ton or two when you fill the complete tub. For this, you have to reinforce the bathroom floor.

If your bathroom is new and built thinking about heavy tubs with reinforced floor, then you may not need additional floor reinforcement. However, for older home with less floor strength, surely you will need extra reinforced subfloor for the heavy bathtub.

Consult with an structural engineer to check whether your bathroom floor needs reinforcement or not. The engineer will make decision while taking into account about the empty tub weight and full tub weight. This whole flooring options will increase the overall tub installation cost.

Shower Addition

Generally, people use shower along with alcove tub. However, some tubs may not come with built-in shower. You have to install shower separately or set the tub close to the bathroom built-in shower. If your bathroom already have hand shower installed then its not needed.

However, if you have rain shower or shower panel installed then you need extra shower installed for the bathtub. For freestanding tub, extra shower isn’t mandatory. That is to say, many top notch freestanding comes with built-in hand shower. If you want to install extra shower with freestanding tub, you can add it will tub filler to minimize the cost.

Required Maintenance

Tub maintenance depends on many things. Acrylic or fiberglass tubs require simple but regular tub cleaning. Stone or metal tubs require special cleaning material. Moreover, if the tub has water jets or air jets, then cleaning those jets will need more care and special cleaning.

Tubs with built-in hand shower requires less maintenance. But alcove tubs required extra wall cleaning. Moreover, alcove tubs under fixed shower head requires more wall area cleaning.

It may seems freestanding tubs need less maintenance, but that isn’t true. For alcove tubs, you need to clean the interior only. However, freestanding tubs require both interior and exterior cleaning. Moreover, freestanding tubs exterior may need special polishing to keep it shiny and new.


Alcove tubs are set within walls so it has spaces around to store shampoos, conditioners and others. Moreover, the wall arounds provide options for shower baskets, shelves, niches and other storages. In addition, adding hot water is another thing. If you have already installed tankless water heater, you should add the connection too.

However, freestanding tubs have sleek and smooth designs. Therefore, you can’t store anything on it or around it. Moreover, these freestanding tubs mainly set in the middle of the bathroom. So, you can’t store other things around it. It will ruin the elegant look.

End Words

As we have discussed already, both alcove tubs and freestanding tubs have advantages and disadvantages. So, there is no certain winner for alcove vs freestanding tub comparison.

Therefore, we strongly suggest you to research about your needs and requirements. Following your own criteria you can easily decide which one you really need.

As both tubs have pros and cons that can certainly be harmful if not satisfied fully. You must be careful while choosing one. If you misjudge then there will be a lot of waste for both money and efforts.