Best Alcove Bathtubs

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
100 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best alcove bathtubs

Last Updated September 2019

What is an alcove bathtub, and why might you want one? The answer is both simple and complex because the two parts of the question are mutually dependent on each other.

In its simplest form, an alcove bathtub is designed to fit into a three-sided area in your bathroom. There will be a wall on the front, back, and along one side. The other side will be open to the bathroom. This is where you would install shower doors or a shower curtain. Most alcove bathtubs have shower heads these days, necessitating the installation of a water barrier of some kind. In short, an alcove bathtub is the kind of bathtub most people grew up with. It is the kind of bathtub you find in the average hotel room.

Alcove bathtubs are fairly standard in size. Even small bathrooms are designed to have one installed in them, so if space is an issue, an alcove tub is probably your best option. They are also less pricey than most other bathtub designs.

If an alcove bathtub sounds like the right choice for your space, read on to learn more about your choices. We’ll point you in the direction of our favorite alcove bathtubs, too.

Marble and tile bathtubs are almost always custom-made. These are the most expensive alcove bathtubs you can get.

Key considerations

Left-handed vs. right-handed

One of the primary facts you need to know before buying an alcove tub is whether you need a left-handed drain or right-handed drain. Alcove tubs have a wider rim on the outer side of the tub than they do on the wall side of the tub. This means the drain, which is centered on the interior of the tub, will be offset to the left or right of the bathtub overall (outside to outside).

Once the plumbing is in place, moving it is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. It can be done, but it’s better to get a tub that matches the existing plumbing. This means you need to determine which way the plumbing is oriented and which bathtub you need.

  • Stand in the alcove where the bathtub will be installed so you’re facing the drain. If it is slightly to the left of the center of the alcove, you need a left-handed bathtub. If it is slightly to the right of the center of the alcove, you need a right-handed bathtub.

  • Determining the “handedness” of the tub is just as easy. Step into it as if you were getting into it normally, facing the faucet. If the drain is to the left of the tub overall, it’s a left-handed bathtub. If the drain is to the right of the bathtub overall, it’s a right-handed tub.

Size

The standard alcove bathtub is 60 inches long, 32 inches wide, and 19 inches high. These are the exterior dimensions, and the alcove you’re fitting your new bathtub into should be just large enough to accommodate those measurements.

This “standard” is unofficial, though. There is nothing mandating that all alcove bathtubs be that size. In fact, many are not that size. There can be variations by as much as two or three inches. Some alcove bathtubs, advertised as soaking bathtubs, might be as much as 10 inches wider than the standard. Take care to measure the alcove you’re putting your new bathtub into, or you’ll have a lot of extra work on your hands to make it fit.

Depth

Closely related to the dimensions is the depth of the bathtub. The deeper the bathtub, the more water it will hold, which is good if you like to soak. However, the deeper the bathtub is, the more difficult it will be for elderly or handicapped people to get in and out. Before getting the tub, have everyone who will be using it step over a practice barrier to determine whether they’ll be able to manage it safely.

Slab vs. pier and beam

A slab house has a concrete foundation that can handle enormous amounts of weight, but a house with a pier and beam foundation will be more limited, particularly if it is an older house. If your house has a pier and beam foundation and was built before 1960, you should have a contractor crawl under it to inspect the beams and joists. Water is very heavy at 8.3 pounds per gallon, and you need to make sure the weight of a new and perhaps heavier bathtub wouldn’t damage your foundation.

Some bathtubs are made purely from fiberglass, but they have a tendency to flex when you put your weight on the sides as you’re getting in and out. They’ve lost a lot of popularity because of this flexibility.

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Features

Once you’ve got all the practicalities out of the way, you can spend some time looking at the bells and whistles that make your bathtub more than just a tub.

Slotted overflow vs. round overflow

Alcove bathtubs have two basic styles for the interior shape of the tub: rectangular with straight sides and rectangular with convex sides. Tubs with convex sides curve out, but they actually have less interior room than the other sort, and they hold less water. This is because the ends of the rectangle are smaller than the middle of it, reducing the overall volume. Rectangular tubs with straight sides generally have the same width as the middle of rectangular tubs with convex sides for their entire length, thus increasing the interior volume.

Style

Another stylistic feature centers on the tub’s overflow holes. Round overflow holes are the standard shape. Some manufacturers use slotted overflow holes with brushed metal sides to give it a more modern look. The purpose is the same either way, but a sideways slot looks more elegant than a round one.

Non-slip bottom

After John Glenn successfully returned from space after being the first American to orbit Earth, he slipped and nearly split his head open in the bathtub at his own house. It’s a story that’s been retold countless times, and it’s amusing until you’re the one who slips.

For years, bathtubs didn’t have non-slip bottoms that were rubberized or textured. Now, it is difficult to find a bathtub that doesn’t have this type of bottom. As showers have increased in popularity, the demand for non-slip surfaces has also increased. Soaking tubs are the main bathtubs that don’t have a non-slip or non-skid surface in them because they’re just not that comfortable for sitting.

If you’re buying a soaking bathtub, get a separate bath mat you can put in there when you’re taking a shower. You can remove it for those long, relaxing soaks. Otherwise, consider a tub with a non-slip bottom.

Material

Bathtubs are generally made from one of three durable materials: steel, porcelain, and acrylic. There is a fourth option, as well — fiberglass — but it’s not as popular.

  • Steel: Old-time clawfoot bathtubs were made from steel or galvanized steel, as were the old-fashioned wash tubs. As alcove bathtubs became more popular, the industry naturally kept on using it.

  • Porcelain: Over time, porcelain began to dominate the industry, chiefly because it was cheaper and somewhat lighter than steel.

  • Acrylic: Today, acrylic is the new kid on the block. It’s lighter, easier to manufacture, and less expensive than porcelain or steel. It’s new only in relative terms, since the material itself has been around for quite some time.

  • Fiberglass: This fourth material was once popular, but its use has since declined and is seldom used anymore.

Color

White, pink, and yellow were the main colors available for bathtubs for a long time. Lately, though, the available colors have expanded to include various shades of gray, tan, and black.

DID YOU KNOW?

Acrylic bathtubs use sheets of fiberglass for added strength beneath the acrylic exterior.

DID YOU KNOW?

Porcelain tubs are actually made of thin sheets of steel covered with porcelain enamel. They are relatively inexpensive.

Alcove bathtub prices

The low prices for alcove bathtubs sit in the $400 to $500 range. These will normally be porcelain tubs with low sides, not much depth, and no fancy overflow holes.

The mid-range prices stretch from the mid-$500s to the upper $600s. Soaking bathtubs are generally found in this range. They may be wider than 32 inches, and acrylic is a common material.

Anything above $700 is considered to be at the high end of the price range. Here is where you’ll find bathtubs with modern colors and slotted overflow holes with brushed metal. Deeper tubs are also common.

Tips

  • Never replace a bathtub by yourself. Because of the size and weight of a bathtub, this is always a two-person job.

  • Even acrylic bathtubs can be difficult to maneuver due to the lack of handholds. Despite the lighter weight, it can still be dangerous if you drop it on your toes.

  • When removing an old bathtub, cut the drywall about six inches above the rim of the tub, all the way around. This gives you room to work when removing it and a nice even cut when you’re installing new drywall at the end of the job.

  • You’ll need caulk and a caulk gun to reseal the new bathtub after you have installed it. Get at least three tubes of caulk to make sure you have enough.

Other products we considered

Another bathtub we like is the American Standard Evolution Bathtub with Dual Molded-In Arm Rests. It is a soaking tub that can be installed several different ways. It has concave sides to create molded armrests and comes in white, linen, and arctic shades.

Another tub we like is the Kingston Brass VTAP663222R Aqua Eden 66-Inch Acrylic Alcove Tub. It’s longer, wider, and deeper than the ordinary alcove bathtub, making it a soaking tub worthy of its name. The size will require some extra work to install it, though.

Cast iron tubs, with a thick exterior coating of enamel, are the heaviest and most durable type of bathtub there is. They are also the most expensive bathtubs on the market.

FAQ

Q. How long should it take to replace an alcove bathtub?

A. Under ideal conditions, the project should take three to five days. If there are foundation issues or you have to knock out a wall, it could take a couple of weeks.

Q. How much does a contractor charge to replace a bathtub?

A. This is the most common question and the hardest to answer. Depending on your city and state, it could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 to hire someone for the job.

Q. What is the best shower curtain rod for an alcove bathtub?

A. A curved metal shower curtain rod creates more space inside the tub when you’re showering, and a metal rod lasts longer than a plastic one.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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