When it comes time to remodel your bathtub, one simple swap can change everything. One tub style to consider for any modern bathroom remodel is the drop-in tub. A drop-in tub is a type of bathtub that is made to fit inside an elevated platform enclosure, in turn allowing the user to “drop into” the tub.
These tubs are popular among homeowners today for many reasons. They are a great space-saving alternative to the classic alcove tub, and offer flexibility when it comes to the different surrounding walls and platform materials. Other advantages of drop-in tubs include their fairly low cost compared to other more intricate tub styles, and the variety of shapes, styles and features available — like massaging jets.
At Modernize, we specialize in helping homeowners understand everything they need to know ahead of a bathtub remodel. On this page, you will learn all about the popular drop-in bathtub style, and what you need to know before choosing this type of tub for your bathroom.
What is a Drop-in Tub?
A drop-in tub can be defined as any bathtub that fits within a framed enclosure. Normally, drop-in tubs are installed against a bathroom wall, much like alcove tubs. The enclosure frames the tub itself and can be constructed using a wide variety of materials. This makes these tubs great space saving alternatives, while still allowing you to get creative with materials for the framed enclosure to show off your design taste.
The drop-in bathtub’s enclosure — which is constructed separately — is usually the star of the show. Typically all that is exposed is a finished rim or lip going all the way around, but this can vary depending on your bathroom’s specs and the look and feel you are aiming for. Enclosures can be made from natural stone tiles, marble, or solid materials like wood.
Drop-in tubs are ideal for homeowners that enjoy soaking in the tub for a long time — whether for relaxation purposes or even to nurse sore muscles. Their fit within an enclosure platform allows the tub to host deeper waters than most freestanding bathtubs.
Drop-in Tubs vs. Alcove Tubs
The major difference between drop-in tubs versus another popular bathtub style — the alcove tub — is that the tub walls on alcove tubs are still visible. This is because alcove tubs hinge on being directly attached to at least one wall. In contrast, drop-in tubs are unfinished on all four sides, but have finished edges since they sit within a frame. The added frame gives you the chance to show off decorative tile or coordinate the tub with the rest of your bathroom aesthetic.
In comparison to the alcove tubs, drop-in tubs also better lend themselves to soaking and retaining more water within the tub.
Drop-in bathtubs have so much versatility in size options, that they can really suit almost any sized bathroom. The length of a drop-in tub can range anywhere from 34 to 90 inches in length. The width can range between a standard 25 inches to an oversized width that can accommodate a couple. The tubs are lauded for their depth which can start at around 20 inches.
It’s worth noting that when opting for a drop-in tub, your shower situation could change. A standard shower enclosure can be added if it is against a wall. An easier alternative can be adding a handheld showerhead fixture to the drop-in tub to make it a tub and shower combo.
How Much Do Drop-in Tubs Cost?
The cost to purchase and install a drop-in tub will vary depending on the material and size of the tub you select. As noted in the materials section, prices start as low as $600 and can go as high as $5,000+ for higher-end models.
Popular, modern tub style for any bathroom size
Your choice of surround style and design
On average, it’s wise to budget for about $1,200 to $1,500 for a standard drop-in with a jet feature. Factors to consider when budgeting for a bathtub remodel include your personal needs versus what you can afford. You can use Modernize’s Bathroom Remodel Cost Calculator tool to get a sense for your larger bathroom remodel project cost.
Features of Drop-in Tubs
Drop-in bathtubs are ideal because of their versatile design and polished final look. If you are considering this type of tub, the following features and bonuses will be available to you:
- Extra storage space. The enclosure area offers extra space for bathroom essentials. Think about how convenient it will be to have extra space alongside the tub to place your soap, razors, book, and more.
- Jacuzzi and jets. You can customize your drop-in tub to include massage jets – either heated whirlpool jets or air jets.
- Soaking tub style. You can also opt for a full-body soaking tub style with benches built in (such as the Japanese style soaking tub).
- Shower wand. As mentioned, it is typically fairly simple to install a shower wand or showerhead to the tub to get the best of both worlds.
- Heated headrest. You can heighten your comfort while in the tub by adding a heated place to rest your head.
- Grab bars. These can be installed on the walls as an additional safety feature.
If these features appeal to you, simply talk to your local contractor and they will help to add them to your installation plan.
Popular Drop-in Tub Materials
As mentioned, drop-in tubs are popular thanks to their versatility, and that includes the materials they can be composed of. The tub itself will be made of a different material than its surrounding structure.
For the tub itself, materials range in affordability, durability and maintenance needs. Below you will find a brief overview of the most popular bathtub materials. Keep in mind that costs vary depending on your bathroom specs, the size of the tub, and more.
Typically, acrylic and cast iron on steel are the most popular material options for a drop-in bathtub setting.
Among the most popular bathtub materials, fiberglass — a reinforced plastic coated in resin — is praised for its affordability and flexibility. The material is lightweight and comes in a huge range of colors and styles to fit any design.
It is often the favored choice for keeping remodeling costs low. Still, it comes with some disadvantages. Because of its brittle and porous nature, fiberglass can deteriorate or crack over years of use, but should last at least 15 years before a replacement is needed. Fiberglass bathtubs can start at costs as low as $250.
Acrylic bathtubs are fairly durable and come in a wide range of colors and styles. But, they usually come with a higher price tag, typically starting at around $700.
Unlike fiberglass, acrylic is non-porous and will not absorb water. It is praised for its ability to withstand use from pets and children over time. Still, they are less stable than stone or porcelain materials and can be prone to some scratching.
One of the more expensive options, cast iron bathtubs are made of molten iron that is later smoothed and coated in enamel. They are praised for their ability to retain high heat, creating an optimal situation for long soaks in the drop-in tub.
Costing an average of $1,500, these are certainly an investment in comfort and home value. They are also very heavy — which is worth considering if your bathroom is not on the ground floor, or depending on the enclosure you are having built for the tub. They are highly scratch resistant and easier to clean than a fiberglass tub.
Porcelain on Steel
Porcelain on steel bathtubs are another inexpensive and popular option because of how lightweight and durable they are. However, their easy-to-clean porcelain finish can be very slippery and not ideal for an aging-in-place or accessible household. Additionally, the surface itself can be prone to rust. Porcelain on steel bathtubs start at around $160.
When it comes to a drop-in bathtub, the enclosure is really the main event. With tons of customization, design and storage options, platforms can be built to showcase a bathroom’s beauty and style.
Of course, the materials you choose for the enclosure will impact the cost of a project and its durability to the elements including regular use and time. Different types of tile are popular choices for drop-in tub surrounds. Here’s a general overview of your choices.
A natural stone surround is a great choice to create a luxurious feel across your bathroom. Stone has among the longest lifespan compared to other materials and is incredibly durable and strong. This means it won’t easily fall victim to chips or damage.
However, keep in mind that stone materials are often heavy and could call for reinforcement if they are the main material used for your tub’s surrounding enclosure. Additionally, natural stone is an expensive material and is not optimal for a tighter budget.
The price of a natural stone enclosure will range vastly depending on the project details, including the size of the enclosure and type of stone. Natural stone tiles cost about $4 to $16 per square foot on average to install.
Like other natural stones, marble is lauded for its high-end, luxurious appearance. As a very hard stone, it is incredibly durable and can last for more than 25 years without damage.
But, it comes at a price. Marble is heavy, expensive and somewhat porous. It is also hard to work with for any sort of DIY setting. Marble tends to be higher maintenance when it comes to upkeep compared to other materials, as it needs to be resealed occasionally and cleaned gently. Prices for marble enclosures start at about $5 to $10 per square foot.
Solid Surface and Miscellaneous Materials
There is a lot of versatility when it comes to a solid surface enclosure for a drop-in tub. Materials can include anything from wood to a solid platform finished with tile.
In general, some of the most popular materials for a solid-surface drop-in tub surround include acrylic and fiberglass. At the end of the day, your final decision will depend on conversations you have with a trusted contractor about your vision, needs and budget for the space.
Depending on what materials you decide on, prices will vary greatly. Still, you can have an enclosure built for as little as $500.
Drop-in Tub Dimensions
The average dimensions of a drop-in tub are about 60 inches long by 32 inches wide and 20 inches deep. On average, they have slightly more depth than a standard tub – 20 inches versus the standard tub’s 18 inches.
But these measurements can change dramatically and be customized depending on your needs. Drop-in tubs come in a range of sizes to accommodate most bathroom sizes. In fact, they are ideal for smaller bathrooms because they are deeper than an average tub, and still sit snug against the wall to save space.
That said, drop-in tubs are not the same as deep soaking tubs, where a user can fully submerge. Soaking tubs tend to be 24 inches deep compared to the standard 20 inches for drop-in tubs. However, homeowners can opt for a soaking style drop-in tub if additional depth is desired.
|Tub Style||Standard depth|
|Standard alcove bathtub||18 inches|
|Drop-in tub||20 inches|
|Soaking tub||24 inches|
When it comes to the enclosure itself, it’s important to factor in how much space will be needed around the tub. Typically, contractors suggest accommodating for at least 6 inches on all sides of the tub. But in reality, the specifics will hinge on plans you develop with your bathroom contractor.
Other Bathtub Options
Drop-in bathtubs are an acquired taste and may not work for your space — or they could be the perfect fit. It’s important to understand all of your options and the advantages and disadvantages that come with each style before committing to buildout.
Other popular bathtub remodeling options include the following:
- Freestanding tubs: As their name suggests, freestanding tubs do not include a shower and serve as a standalone fixture. They have no enclosure and usually highlight their shape with clawfeet or slipper shapes. Soaking tubs – such as a garden tub – are popular styles of freestanding tubs.
- Shower/tub combo: A shower and tub combination uses the bathtub enclosure and builds a shower around its space. This option is lauded for its versatility and the ability to accommodate multiple needs.
- Massage bathtub: Jetted bathtubs, also known as massage bathtubs can be used for hydrotherapy and relaxation, as they massage the skin and body.
- Alcove bathtub: Similar but not quite as dramatic as drop-in tubs, alcove bathtubs are pushed alongside a wall with the finished material partially exposed. They are the standard in bathtubs and quite affordable.
Finding a Professional Tub Installer
A bathtub remodel can come with many questions, and you may feel overwhelmed. Modernize is here to help you navigate every step of your bathroom remodel project. Use our network of local, reputable contractors and narrow down the top three to four contenders that fit your project and budget needs.