Built-In vs. Freestanding Bathtubs

In part 2 of our Bathroom Renovation Guide, we explore a critical decision you’ll need to make before you start: should you opt for a built-in or freestanding bathtub?

Freestanding baths have long been seen as romantic and luxurious. But modern built-in tubs can also make a great statement in your bathroom. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Built-in Bathtub

Built-in bathtubs are the most common style of bathtub. They are typically installed against a wall or in an enclosure of two or three walls. These bathtubs are known as “drop-in” tubs. Built-in tubs are great for saving space in your bathroom, and better equipped for a shower option.

Freestanding Bathtub

As its name suggests, a freestanding bathtub is exposed on all sides and can be placed anywhere in a bathroom where plumbing is available. They tend to take up more room, but make a big statement in your bathroom.


Pros and Cons of a Built-In Bathtub


  • Affordable Price.
    Built-in tubs are generally more affordable than freestanding tubs. The price varies depending on the tub and whether you want a surround and what material you want installed.
  • Space Saving.
    Since they are installed against a wall, built-in tubs can fit snuggly in your bathroom. If your bathroom is small, a built-in is the way to go. Though, if you opt for a built-in tub with a large surround, it can take up just as much space as a freestanding tub.
  • Easier Plumbing.
    Many bathrooms already have plumbing ready for built-in tubs. They are usually tucked out of sight.
  • Easier to Clean.
    Built-in tubs have fewer nooks and crannies, and overall less surface area to clean.


  • Restrictive placement.
    Since they need to be installed to the sides of the bathroom, there aren’t many options for where you can place them.
  • Fewer options.
    There are fewer options for built-in bathtubs so they need to depend on their surround for style.
  • More Installation.
    Built-in tubs need to be mounted and sealed. If you choose to have a surround, that also needs to be created.
  • Less stylish.
freestanding tub

Pros and Cons of a Freestanding Bathtub


  • More options.
    Freestanding tubs come in many styles, such as modern egg shape or the classic claw-foot, so they can fit to whatever style your home is.
  • More stylish.
    Since freestanding tubs don’t have restrictive boundaries, designers can get more creative with their shapes. People who choose freestanding bathtubs often like them because they are unique and make a statement in their bathrooms.
  • Flexible placement.
    You can put a freestanding tub anywhere there’s plumbing.
  • Easier installation.
    Freestanding tubs don’t require as much work to install, as they must only be moved and hooked up to plumbing.


  • Higher Price.
    Freestanding tubs tend to be more expensive than built-in tubs, even after you consider installation costs.
  • Greater Weight.
    Because freestanding bathtubs can be quite heavy, you may need to have your floors reinforced.
  • Showerless.
    Even though it is possible to install a shower to a freestanding tub, you’ll need a wrap-around curtain which makes it look unsightly. 
  • Large size.
    Some freestanding tubs can get quite tall, making it difficult to get in and out of.
  • Less storage.
    Freestanding tubs don’t have ledges where you can put your shampoo and soap products. Though one can always use a rolling caddie or a proper shelf installed in the bathroom.

Bathtub Materials

Most household bathtubs are made with acrylic or fiberglass. Both are lightweight, with acrylic being more durable and retaining heat well. If you want to invest in something more heavy duty or beautiful, consider these options:

  • Marble: beautiful with multiple colors and pattern selection, expensive, and requires maintenance.
  • Copper: beautiful, but expensive.
  • Cast iron: durable, holds heat, and expensive.
  • Steel: looks like cast iron but more affordable, but more prone to chipping.
  • Cast polymer: looks like stone, affordable, holds heat, and durable.

Ready to start on your bathroom renovation?

Whether you choose a built-in bathtub or a freestanding one, you’ll want an expert to install it correctly for you. Get in touch with JMG’s contractors to get started!

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