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choosing the right tub for your bathroom - everything you need to know

There are so many important decisions to make when designing a bathroom, and today, let’s talk about one that comes up a LOT: should you install a built-in or freestanding bathtub? And, do you have to do a tub at all?! There are pros and cons to each option, so let’s dive in.

Built In | Freestanding


Built-in tubs have had a bad wrap as of late. They're like the Great Aunt of the bathroom fixture family, the one who comes to visit but stays too long. We saw these garden tubs a little too much in the 80's and 90's and now we're ready for them to be gone. Hey, we've ripped out a LOT of them over here at TLD. But there's a way to do them that doesn't feel dated.

Built-in tubs are typically the most cost effective tub solutions. You can see on the above left we did a drop in tub and set it in a sleek white quartz surround, so the effect is super modern and clean. Not at all Grandma.

You can really make a built in tub sing by undermounting it below a stone countertop, like you would a sink, like we did below. This takes a bit more coordination to get the hole cut just right, and it won't work with a tile surround. Because of that it will cost a bit more, but you get a better look (isn't that true of most things?!).

A really neat trick if the layout works is to have your built in tub deck continue into your shower to become a shower seat. It looks so well thought out and luxurious - a seamless end result.

See more of this bathroom design here.

Plumbing fixtures for a built-in bathtub are also typically less expensive, especially if the tub-filler is deck-mounted (meaning on the tub deck and not coming from the wall).

See more of this bathroom here.

Another big advantage - this type of tub is ideal for aging in place. If you plan to stay in your home for the long-haul, it's worth considering choosing a tub that you can actually use into your later years. Having a tub ledge also help when you have small kiddos because you’ve got a place to sit on the edge of the tub.

AND because the tub touches 3 walls, there's no need to get behind it to clean. A big pro in my book.


  • Least expensive

  • Ideal for aging in place

  • Can integrate into a shower seat

  • Easier to clean


  • Runs the risk of feeling more dated

  • Less popular now (but what's popular is constantly changing so don't over-stress about that)


No doubt about it, the freestanding bathtub can be a real showstopper. It's a huge design opportunity here to show off your own personal style when selecting the tub. There are plenty of great shapes to choose from, so the tub could have a super modern look or could fit perfectly into a farmhouse-style bathroom with a more traditional clawfoot or apron base.

Modern Tub | Traditional Tub

The biggest con is often budget, as freestanding bathtubs nearly always cost more. There's a huge array of price points available, from affordable acrylic options for around $1000-1500, all the way up to volcanic limestone options that can reach $7K or more. The material, level of insulation, and whether you add jets will all impact the price.

Space is another important consideration. Freestanding tubs typically require a larger footprint due to the tub filler and all of the clearances required (especially if your tub filler is floor-mounted). The location of the tub filler has to be very carefully coordinated, whether wall or floor, to make sure it will all work together (aka so the water actually gets into your tub and doesn't splash out onto the floor).

See more of this bathroom here.

For most folks (especially if you're short legged), freestanding tubs can be more difficult to get in and out of, making them a less desirable option for aging in place. They're also more difficult to clean behind (you're gonna need a Swiffer).

It's not all gloom and doom, though. Along with the wide range of styles available, there are also many different heights and lengths to suit your preferences. Are you 6'-6"? There's a tub for that! 5'-0"? Yep, there's' one for you too.


  • Gorgeous

  • Wide variety of size and style options


  • More expensive

  • Larger footprint

  • Difficult to clean behind

See more of this bathroom here.


What if you don't want a tub, or lack the space for one all together?! We get asked this question by our clients all the time. Here's our take.

You need a tub somewhere in your house for resale. The good news is that this doesn't have to be in the master bath. A kid's bath or guest bath is sufficient; you just want to be able to check that box so you don't rule out young families or bath lovers from buying your house. There will be some people who have a tub in the master on their must-have list, but don't let that be your ultimate decision maker, especially if you're not moving anytime soon.

It's OK to sacrifice the tub, BUT you need to replace it with something equally awesome, like an amazing shower. In this bathroom we were able to gain a huge shower, larger closet, and longer vanity by removing the tub that used to sit under this window. Win/win/win. Tara also went this route for her new master bathroom.

It's also a great option if you're really just not a bath person. Many people will admit that they only use their tubs a couple of times a year, if ever. If that's you, why not take that $3K or more and put it towards an amazing shower that you'll use nearly every day?!


  • Gain space for other features, like a larger shower, vanity, closet, or separate toilet room

  • Not wasting money on something you won't use if you're not a bath person

  • One less plumbing fixture to maintain


  • For resale, some people will just want a tub in the master. No getting around that.

There you have it! The long and short of bathtubs. Are you team freestanding? Team built-in? Team no tub?! Let us know in the comments below!


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