Freestanding Tubs: What To Know Before You Buy

Updated: Oct. 07, 2021

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Freestanding bathtubs in one form or another have been around for thousands of years. Once the only way to bathe in a bathroom (think clawfoot tubs), freestanding tubs fell out of fashion in the 20th century when showers became popular.

Now freestanding tubs are making an impressive return, combining a touch of luxury with form and function, and options you never had before. Is there one in your future? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Freestanding Tub?

Like its name implies, a freestanding tub stands alone, unattached to walls. All sides of the tub are finished, unlike the more common alcove tub, which is only finished on one side.

A freestanding tub can be placed close to walls or in an open area of the bathroom. The location might take advantage of a pleasant feature, like a nice view out a window or a fireplace.

“Location is dependent on access to plumbing,” says James Bruno, chief construction officer of Curbio, a home improvement company in Potomac, Maryland. “Usually the plumbing for a freestanding tub comes up through the floor.” That’s different than alcove tubs, where the plumbing comes through the wall.

Another distinction about today’s freestanding tubs? “They’re usually just for baths,” Bruno says.

Types of Freestanding Tubs

Lucky you! Freestanding tubs come with plenty of options. Choose from fiberglass, acrylic, cultured marble, solid surface material, cast iron, copper, stainless steel and even cedar. Shapes and features vary as well, including:

  • Single- or double-ended tub: These have one or two sloped, rounded ends to rest against. The single-ended has the plumbing at the opposite end, with double-ended in the middle of the tub.
  • Slipper tub: The name comes from its shape, similar to a high-heeled shoe. Choices include a single slipper tub, where a raised interior at one end creates a comfortable seating area, or a double slipper tub, which is raised at both ends.
  • Pedestal tub: The tub rests on a base that matches or complements the tub.
  • Footed (clawfoot) tub: Four feet support this style, with the traditional clawfoot the most familiar. That name reflects the feet, which resemble a claw wrapped around a ball.
  • Freestanding corner tub: Triangular with two straight sides that fit into a corner.
  • Freestanding tub with shower: “Most bathrooms with freestanding tubs have a separate shower,” says Bruno. But you can add a shower feature by installing a circular shower rod to enclose the tub with curtains. That was often done with clawfoot tubs before alcove tubs became popular.
  • Freestanding soaking tub: This can be round or oval, and it’s deep. A Japanese soaking tub may have a smaller footprint and usually an integrated seat. But what it might lack in length, it makes up for in depth: It’s deep enough to sit in with water up to your shoulders.
  • Freestanding jetted tub: Jets in the tub provide hydrotherapy.

Freestanding Tub Sizes

Like style options, sizes of freestanding tubs vary. They’re typically deeper than alcove tubs and can be longer and wider. “But it’s really about matching the size of the tub with the size of your bathroom,” Bruno says. “Be careful that you don’t go too narrow in the width — 32 inches is usually good.”

What To Consider When Shopping for a Freestanding Tub

You have the space for a freestanding tub, and now you’re ready to shop. But before you buy, consider the following:

  • Cost: “This is key,” says Bruno. “There’s no use looking at a tub that’s over your budget.”
  • What it’s made of: Consider the aesthetics of the various materials and what’s required to maintain them.
  • Dimensions: Let the size of your bathroom guide you in choosing a right-sized tub.
  • Plumbing location: Do you need the plumbing to be at one end of the tub? In the middle? Choose a tub that matches your plumbing restrictions.
  • Shape and style: Choose a shape that matches how you’ll use a tub and the design style of your bathroom.
  • Weight: If you go with a heavy material like cast iron, make sure your bathroom floor can support the weight. “And weight means when the tub is filled with water,” Bruno says.

Freestanding Tubs Pros and Cons

Is a freestanding tub a no-brainer investment? Not necessarily. You need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.


  • It’s a luxury feature that can be affordable.
  • A deeper tub makes it easier to have a relaxing soak.
  • You have lots of style and material options.


  • Freestanding tubs cost more to install because the tubs and faucets are more costly. “In the D.C. area, a normal alcove tub including a new faucet costs between $1,300 and $1,900 to install, not including a new tile surround,” says Bruno. “A freestanding tub and a floor-mounted faucet can cost between $3,000 and $4,500.”
  • If you’re remodeling an existing bathroom, you may need to move the plumbing from a wall to the middle of the bathroom.
  • Deeper tubs can be harder to clean.
  • You’ll need a separate shower unless you like the look and function of the shower curtain apparatus.
  • If anyone with mobility issues needs to use the tub, it can be difficult or impossible to install grab bars.