In my line of work, you see a lot of really beautiful bathrooms, from vintage to ultra modern and everything in between. But there’s one design I don’t see very often, despite the fact that I fall in love with it all over again every time I do – in floor tubs. These are regular drop in tubs that, instead of being installed in a frame, mount, or deck, are installed directly into the floor, so you can step down into your tub from floor level. This creates a beautiful, unusual, spa-like look that will add a major wow factor to your bathroom.
In case you’ve never seen in floor tubs before and can’t quite imagine them, I’ll start you off with one of my personal favorites: this Ambrosia Tub from MAAX. Now, okay, the tub itself might not be anything life changing – it’s a simple, egg-shaped whirlpool with a slim rolled rim. But the staging should give you an idea of just how gorgeous this type of design can be. Here, it has a natural, slightly Asian-inspired vibe, with beautiful wood flooring and a panoramic view of nature.
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At their heart, in floor tubs are really just drop-in tubs, but rather than having a large above-floor mount (which are often as obtrusive, and which don’t always look so great in the center of your room), in floor tubs sit either just on top of or right at floor level, like this Caresse tub from Atlantis. This creates a seamless, open, uncluttered look that you can’t get from any other kind of bathtub. Even decorative freestanding tubs “intrude” into the center of your bathroom, shrinking the space – especially if you have lots of visible plumbing.
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With in floor tubs, your whole bathroom stays open, allowing you to have a much larger tub without making your bathroom look crowded. Better still, even though they sit perfectly even with the floor, in floor tubs are an excellent showcase piece for the center of the room – immediately eye-catching without taking up any space at all. Something like this Sok Infinity Tub from Kohler can help you turn an ordinary bathroom into something with a rich, lagoon-like atmosphere, or even a poolside spa vibe. I especially like in floor tubs with a ceiling-mount filler if you can pull it off, as it creates basically the coolest waterfall/cascade effect you can get.
I also like overflow or infinity tubs when used as in floor tubs. Infinity tubs designed to fill all the way up to the rim and then some, literally overflowing over the edge of the tub and into a rim on the outer edge of the tub. This allows the deepest soaking you’ll find on any bathtub – all the way up to your chin! – and a spectacular overflowing waterfall sensation that’s one part beautiful, one part nature-inspired, and one part unprecedented childhood wish fulfillment. Something like this Purist Tub (pictured above the floor, but so much cooler on the floor!) looks all grown up – sleek, sophisticated, and highly designed – but the second it spills over, you’ll feel like a kid again – only there won’t be anyone to yell at you to turn off the water, and there won’t be any mess to clean up later – a very nice bonus for an in-floor tub as you’ll never have to worry about spillage.
So why doesn’t everyone and their mother have one of these fantastic in floor tubs? Well, I’ll be honest – it’s because they’re kind of a pain to install. As you might expect, since you’re putting your tub into the floor, a bathtub-sized chunk of your floor needs to go – as in, power tools and sledge hammers. Then you need to build a hefty support frame inside the hole in your floor to support your tub before you can install it. You can imagine that this is a lot more invasive and messy than just plopping in a shower wall, and depending on how much open space you have below your floor (and, of course, your local building codes, which should be the FIRST thing you look at!), something like this Beverly Vista Tub from Americh might not be viable at all.
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That said, if you’ve got the space, got the permits, and have a lot of DIY experience (or a good friend who happens to be a plumber or contractor), in floor tubs are only slightly more complicated than your average drop in, and they don’t require you to build an elaborate frame for the tub to rest on, which can mean cost savings in terms of raw materials (if you choose wood or stone) or labor (for tile). Plus, even a slight, step-size mount like the one on this Atlantis Whirlpool can create a grand, regal appearance without taking up too much space
Remember, though, that all drop in tubs can double as in floor tubs, you simply have to build the reinforcement and framing that would typically be above floor underneath it, so the lip of your tub rests evenly at floor level. So while many drop in tubs are pictured in more conventional above-ground installations like this Eterne Tub, you shouldn’t assume that that’s how they have to be installed. Especially in a very large scale renovation where you might be ripping out sections of the floor to reroute plumbing anyway, in floor tubs are a lot more doable, since you won’t have as much existing finished bathroom to work around.
Would you go to the extra effort and expense to get an in floor tub? Is the style of in floor tubs worth it, or are you happy with your freestanding or deck-mounted tub? Let me know in the comments!
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