Can a Drop-In tub be installed in an alcove?

lee676May 30, 2012

I'm designing a bathroom with a 6' x 36" tub, which will double as a shower. It will be surrounded on three walls either by tile or a tub surround. Ideally a skirted alcove tub would be used here, but though 5' alcove tubs are common, the selection of 6' alcove tubs is relatively scant. Alcove tubs extend behind the tile some to ease the transition; drop-in tubs don't have this. There's no room to build a tile deck around the tub.

If installed carefully, can a drop-in tub be installed in an alcove, carefully caulking the three walls where they meet the (rectangular) tub, and tiling the front section where the apron would have been? This will be a straight soaking tub, no air or water jets. It looks alot like the one pictured here, although without the slight bevel on the edges where the three walls would meet.


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Sophie Wheeler

If you are OK with the thin line of caulk being the only barrier between the eventual water behind your walls rotting things out and the continual water shed out onto the floor from the deck while being used as a shower, then go ahead.

It would be better to turn the whole thing into a shower than to try to frankenstein a drop in into being something it's not.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 9:54AM
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Why would water shed outonto the floor any more than with alcove tub? Whether used with a curtain (most likely) or a door, I don't see how makes much difference, assuming the tiled wall serving as an apron is well constructed.

As for the other three walls, I assume the lower few inches just above the tub rim would be backed with something more than drywall or such. I know there are some drop-in tubs out there that have manufacturer-supplied alcove installation kits, although the one I'm looking at doesn't.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Any apron will not be sloped to direct water into the tub like a tub with a flange will be. Water will sit on the deck or run onto the floor. And the deck will be yucky, moldy, and difficult to clean.

Tile is NOT waterproof. The grout line is porous, even if sealed. Water will wick through it. That's why a properly constructed shower will have a moisture barrier that lips over the tile flange. Any water that makes it through the tile will be able to evaporate out or shed into the tub.

A properly constructed shower is like a properly constructed roof. Everything overlaps the lower course to shed water. You don't have a straight cut line of shingles at chimney with just caulk at the joint to keep out the water. You have a flashing underlayment that goes underneath and then the singles go on top. That's what a tile flange is. It's your flashing to keep water out. Without it, gravity and surface tension are not on your side. Caulk will eventually fail. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when the water damage will occur.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 12:11PM
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OK, so let's say I go with a proper installation into a raised tile bed. Is there a minimum size the channel between the rim of the tub and the surrounding walls need to be? I usually see at least 6" or so, but could I probably make the tub fit the space I have if I had only 2" in front and in back of the tub. The long side of the tub could have a larger space between the tub flange and the wall. My main concern would seem to be cleanability of the 2" channel, but the tub is raised only about 1-1/2" above the surrounding tile surface so it would be easy enough to run a sponge through it.

I'm being offered a free 72" x 36" tub from someone's remodel I'm trying to use, and I find its shape comfortable. I would probably have to forgo a shower if I went with this setup though, I'm assuming (except maybe a handheld spray, which would have to be used carefully).

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:43PM
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Glad I found this, since I have exactly the same question! I'm faced with the potential quandary of installing a six-foot, non-jetted drop-in in an alcove, and have found precious little information on the subject.

I know it's been a while since you posted this, but I was wondering what you did in the end. Did you install the drop-in, or did you go with an apron?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:10AM
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We installed the Kohler Greek tub into an alcove, using a tile beading kit to create the flange. A drop-in tub does not have the flange that directs the water back into the tub. But some tubs (including the Kohler Greek) can be installed either as a drop in or as an alcove if you add the flange.

Our installation is over a year old and we have had no issues.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:33PM
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Did you try the kohler archer.. I'm going with the 5x32" but I think they make larger sizes too.. This style has a small lip (.375" about) and the edges slope towards the tub. I've seen this one houzz a bunch of times and this woman used it in her bathroom

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:42PM
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There are more alcove tubs than you think. Try Hydrosystems and MTI. Those tubs can be ordered with flanges on none, 1, 2, 3, or all 4 sides and with skirts on none, 1, 2, 3, or all 4 sides. They're expensive, however. You'd have more options if you were going with a standard length tub, but there's the Archer, too, as kali noted.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 11:06PM
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just to clarify-- what is it that makes it an "alcove tub"? I was thinking it was the front finished side. I honestly had not thought of the tile flange issue. I was also hoping to do either a drop in or undermount that has a wall on 3 sides, but I really wanted the front to be tiled the same as the walls (it's not a large room). Are you saying it's not possible, not a good idea, or has to be done carefully?

And what is the minimum "deck" width people find feasible?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 7:14PM
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I once did this. We dropped the tub into a plywood deck, then built up the deck with (I think wonder board) to match the height of the tub. Then used a liquid membrane waterproofing system to go from the middle if the tub edge and up the wall. Remark, the tub had a flat top and was suitable for both drop in and undermount. Then we added a concrete (but any stone would do of course) countertop over that. I loved the clean lines of an undermount tub, matching the undermount sink. I have since moved and hate that my current tub is drop in with the edge higher than the deck. So hard to clean, and it can't double as a shower.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Drop in tubs are for tub only applications.

You don't want any deck at all with a tub/shower. If you have a deck, then water won't drain back into the tub. That water has to go somewhere. That's why all of the tub/shower combos that you see that are designed from the beginning to actually work, do not have a deck at all. They have the integral tile flange that allows water that might hit the wall to drain back into the tub rather than go behind your walls or out onto the floor.

And that is why 99% of the time, this is a disaster waiting to happen. If you want a tub/shower, then you HAVE to get a tub with a tile flange. Or budget for a tearout due to moisture problems at some point in the future.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 9:57AM
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It only really matters if you're using it as a shower. You could certainly put a drop in or an undermount tub in an alcove situation because water is not going to get everywhere or, for normal bathers, overflow during a bath. But when you shower, water goes everywhere. The built-in tile flanges will help dramatically because you can get the look of an undermount (not so much a drop in) and then tile up using the flange to built a small deck in the front (or also the sides and back) and then tile straight up the wall on the sides and back. Or you could do what I mentioned above and did myself, which is get an alcove tub with a skirt on one or more sides and flanges on the others where you'd want tile. The open sides would need a shower curtain or glass panels.

Height does start to become a problem, too, when thinking about showering in deep tubs, so keep that in mind, too.

Here's what I did, but I'm not using this as a shower. If I had wanted to spend another $1200 on a tub, I would have purchased the Hydrosystems Lacey with two finished sides so that I didn't need the knee wall with the cat on it at the one end (which would have made it not an "alcove" tub). But I didn't want to spend the money, and it would have forced me to install the pump for the airbath remotely in my linen closet--more expense there, too.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 10:04AM
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I missed that the original poster was doing a tub/shower combo. Our room will have a shower that you walk through with the tub on the far side next to the window. One remaining question: are there alcove tubs with the flange but without the "front"? I want to tile the front of the tub. Or would a drop-in or undermount work OK in this installation? (I'm looking at the Americh Madison at the moment.)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Lori.. there are plenty of tub with a flange and without an integral skirt. Just depends on how much you want to spend and what style you're looking for.
here's a drop in..

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 8:10PM
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And here's an under mount.. I've asked around on Houzz and the builders said that they used a water proofing membrane all the way down to the tub then affixed it to the tub so that water that gets behind the tile runs down the membrane and into the tub. I think you'd be able to do this, just get a pro.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 8:14PM
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Kevin MP can you post a pic or email me of how you treated the left side of your vanity against the paneling? It looks like it just blends in (from another post) but I can't tell in that pic.. Can you take a head on shot of the left side of you vanity and a close up? PS you're bathroom is awesome! My email; Thanks.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 10:58AM
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My contractor installed the wainscoting first and then set the vanity in (with the exception of one piece of cove moulding by the left side backsplash return, which was installed at the end after the counter top had been installed). I ordered an extra high backsplash (5.5") in order to ensure that the backsplash went all the way to where the solid part of the wainscoting began.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 10:16PM
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Lisa Lornie

I am using a drop in soaker in an alcove . It will look something like this.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2015 at 6:57PM
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Sophie Wheeler

And it will have water problems if installed like that. The deck will allow water to spill onto the floor, and the interface of the deck and wall will have the caulk degrade and leak.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2015 at 4:39AM
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