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Choosing the

Best Bathtub

By: Kelly Burgess on September 26, 2017

Editor's note:
Looking to replace an old bathtub or find a stylish new tub for a remodel or as part of a new construction? This buyer's guide will walk you through the process. We explain the three installation options -- alcove, drop-in and freestanding -- as well as the types and styles available within those categories.
$150 and up

  • Available with many features
  • Come in a variety of styles/sizes
  • Alcove and drop-in tubs must be supported on two to four sides
  • Freestanding tubs need to be placed where plumbing is

These are the three main installation options for bathtubs. Alcove tubs are the most common, and are supported by walls on two or three sides. Drop-in tubs can be wall-supported, or "dropped in" to a pedestal or other frame. Freestanding tubs can be placed anywhere in the bathroom where the appropriate plumbing fixtures are located. These tubs can be very basic, or offer upgraded features such as soaking depths or whirlpool jets. Many also have molded armrests, backrests and shelves to add to your comfort level while bathing. Read more »

$500 and up

  • Deeper for fuller immersion
  • Can be freestanding or drop in
  • Available with whirlpool jets
  • Comes in a variety of sizes, styles, materials
  • Need a lot of hot water
  • Heavier than standard tubs

Soaking tubs are a good choice for those who enjoy immersing themselves in warm water. They are deeper than conventional tubs, but may be wider or narrower, depending upon their purpose. Some soaking tubs are made to accommodate two adults, others are designed for sitting upright and soaking. Soaking tubs can be very heavy and might require a reinforced floor. They also require a lot of hot water, so a separate hot water heater or some other dedicated system to provide sufficient hot water may be necessary. Read more »

$500 and up

  • Can relieve stress; soothe aches
  • Available as alcove, freestanding or drop in models
  • Many sizes, styles, materials available
  • More expensive to operate
  • Water jets attract mold, bacteria
  • Installation can be more complex

Also commonly known as Jacuzzi bathtubs, after the most well-known manufacturer of this type of tub, whirlpool tubs use jets driven by a pump to agitate the water, or an air system to create bubbles; some use a combination of the two. Many people find them extremely relaxing. If you have frequent muscle or joint pain, or just enjoy the luxury of a spa, you may want to consider a whirlpool tub. Whirlpool tubs are available in a wide range of sizes and types, from very small to soaker-size. Read more »

$2,000 and up

  • Good for those with limited mobility
  • Variety of shapes, sizes, designs
  • Some have whirlpool jets
  • Expensive
  • Must enter, exit while empty

For those with limited mobility, stepping over the side of a conventional bathtub (typically 14 to 16 inches high) can be difficult. Walk-in tubs reduce that hurdle to about 4 inches, in addition to providing other features that prevent slipping and help the user stay comfortable and safe. However, you need to get into the tub and close the watertight door before filling it with water, then let it drain before getting out, which may be a chilly wait. They're expensive too, both to purchase and to install. Read more »

Bathtubs come in a variety of styles and materials

There are plenty of choices when it comes to bathtubs, but if you are looking to replace an existing tub, either because you need a new tub or as part of a bathroom remodel, you will probably find your bathtub choices are limited from the beginning. The placement of walls and plumbing fixtures may mean you have to replace the old tub with one that's very similar. This makes the cost if a new tub difficult to estimate because there are so many variables. A very basic, alcove-style bathtub can be had for as little as $200, but super fancy models can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. And that doesn't include the cost of the tub's installation, which can add $1,000 to $3,500 -- or more -- to the bill. And if you're renovating an existing bathroom, the price tag can run even higher if you decide to relocate plumbing fixtures. Knowing this, it's easy to see why it's important to do your homework when choosing the best bathtub for your home.

As for materials, the choices are similarly endless. Acrylic, fiberglass, enamel-coated steel or cast iron are the most common, along with proprietary materials specific to each manufacturer that are an amalgam of steel and iron. In addition, it's possible to find tubs made from copper, wood and stone, or composite materials made to look like stone.

We don't name the best individual bathtub models in this report because the variety of products is far too vast, and variables, such as installation requirements, are far too complex. Instead, this buyer's guide is intended as an educational tool to explain many of the factors related to purchasing the right tub. We delve into installation options, which include alcove style, drop-in and freestanding bathtubs. Then, we discuss the most popular types of tubs more specifically, giving you in-depth information on soaking bathtubs, whirlpool bathtubs and walk-in bathtubs. We hope this guide will be a great tool to help you find the best bathtub for your home and lifestyle.

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