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8 Different Types of Bathtubs Explained

Find The Perfect Bath For Your Home

Yvonne Harbison
Yvonne Harbison

Bathtubs aren’t all created equal, as you learn quickly when trying to take a relaxing soak in a tub that’s the wrong shape or material. Bathtubs do a lot of hard work in the home, not just in facilitating cleaner family members, but also cleaner pets, and maybe even some laundry in a pinch. Because you want the tub that’s perfect for your home and how your family uses it, we’ve created this guide with the different types of bathtubs explained.


Jacuzzi Cetra Three alcove whirlpool bathtub.

The classic tub most of us grew up with, the alcove configuration is a bathtub that has three walls and often doubles as a shower. The tub may be part of the molded material that makes up the tub surround or installed as a separate piece. Either way, alcove tubs are built against the wall to help maximize the available space in any bathroom. They are inexpensive and come in many different styles. The downside, however, is that they often are not much longer than about 60 inches, which may be too confining for someone who enjoys a long, luxurious soak.


Jacuzzi Cappella drop in soaking tub, Fuzion drop in corner rub, ocean view

Much like the alcove bathtub, the corner configuration still has a wall attachment, though it may only be on one or two sides rather than three. Again, this style is about making the most of every square inch of real estate in the bathroom. It’s not as common to see a corner tub used as a standing space for showering. The corner tub invites creative design. You’ll often find cabinetry surrounding a corner bathtub on the sides that are not connected to a wall, or glass walls may stand in for sheetrock walls in some cases.

Clawfoot and freestanding

Jacuzzi Contento freestanding soaking tub, Signature Hardware clawfoot tub.

Often viewed with nostalgic fondness, clawfoot tubs are a popular choice for bathrooms in a vintage style. The classic silhouette involves a slanted back portion with tall, straight sides for reclining while bathing. Usually made of cast iron or similarly durable material, this soaking tub is held up with four decorative feet, making for an elegant yet extremely heavy bathroom feature.

A related style is the freestanding tub, which is also capable of being placed away from a wall. These are usually attached to some sort of pedestal for support and stability. The pedestal design also allows for luxury features in some designs, such as whirlpool or air effects. Freestanding tubs make an elegant, modern design statement while welcoming a comfortable soak.


Duravit, DuraStyle drop in soaking tub. Jacuzzi Sia soaking tub.

The standard installation configuration for drop-in tubs is to have them mounted into an existing surround. This results in a lifted edge, or a “lip,” where the tub edges meet the surrounding surface, whether that is marble tile, wooden cabinetry, or another surface. These bathtubs are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and often include built-in storage shelves with room for shampoos and soaps.


Jacuzzi Fuzion drop in tub and Elara soaking tub.

In bathrooms with a lot of marble or other stone, you can’t go wrong with an undermount bathtub. These are installed by attaching them to the underside of the counter rather than the top. There is no lip to interrupt the beautiful lines of the tile or marble, making for an elegant, spa-like appeal that is inviting, yet practical.


Signature Hardware Cathleen Japanese soaking tub, Copper Products tub.

The ultimate in luxury, Japanese soaking tubs take the idea of a freestanding or deep clawfoot tub to a new height - literally. These deep, round tubs have a smaller footprint, making them great for smaller bathrooms, as they are designed for the bather to relax while sitting upright. They are not only fantastic for getting a good soak, their sleek lines elevate the style of the bathroom overall. Japanese tubs are often the showpiece of the room, situated in the middle of the space or in a place of distinction. Although traditionally, you are supposed to only soak in the tub, rather than wash yourself as with the western idea of an indoor tub, it is up to you how you actually use it.


Jacuzzi Elara drop in whirlpool tub, Fuzion spa bathtub.

Whirlpool-style, jetted bathtubs are known to work magic on sore muscles or aching backs. Many drop-in or corner bathtubs may feature jets, which can be adjusted to hit your body in all the places that need soothing. The hydrotherapy that jetted tubs offer makes them attractive to people who suffer from chronic pain or arthritis. But ultimately, everyone loves a relaxing soak, and that is exactly where whirlpool tubs excel.


Jacuzzi Finestra walk-in bathtub. Dark blue walls, black and white tile.

For people with mobility issues, a walk-in tub might be just the solution. With a built-in seat at chair height as well as grab bars for stability, walk-in tubs combine the convenience of easy access with the therapeutic advantage of multiple jets for pain relief. They can be installed in the same amount of space as conventional tubs, though an alcove bathtub space would likely be too narrow.

What’s a Tub Made Of?

Now that you’ve seen the different types of bathtubs explained, let’s take a look at some of the different materials they might be made of. Here are a few common options:

  • Cast iron: Most popular for clawfoot tubs or freestanding models, this material is extremely heavy but equally durable. It is coated in enamel for a smooth, comfortable feel.
  • Fiberglass: A popular choice because of its low cost and moldability, fiberglass is prone to scratching over time. An acrylic coating can buy fiberglass bathtubs some extra time.
  • Acrylic: This material can be molded into specific shapes, making it the go-to material for jetted tubs, which need a lot of contouring. It is also popular for walk-in bathtubs as it allows the seat and other considerations to be built in.
American Standard Cadet soaking tub, woman smiling in bathtub.

Bathtubs come with a lot of different specifications - material, shape, style, and size are just a few. Homeowners will get the maximum enjoyment out of their bathrooms, and find higher resale value, if they are strategic about the choices they make when it comes to tubs. Whether you want an inexpensive, functional tub for getting clean, or a luxurious tub for soaking away the demands of the day, there are many choices to make for your home. Make sure you know everything you and your family may need from a tub, and what the different tubs offer, before picking the right bathtub.

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