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Freestanding vs. Built-In Bath: Which is Better for Your Design?

ABI Interiors

The debate between freestanding vs. built-in baths is a common concern among renovators, as committing to this large fixture permanently impacts your day-to-day experience. 

Freestanding, otherwise known as an island bath, is merely a bathtub that sits wholly alone and isn’t affixed to any walls. The general attitude of a freestanding bath is that it creates an air of luxury in the bathroom — the standalone visual becomes the main feature of that space. 

A built-in or inset bath is installed along a wall, with a portion of the bath concealed in an alcove. These are the most common design choices due to their practicality and are generally a bath for small bathrooms.

In this article, we dissect the advantages and disadvantages of both. There are a lot of aspects that go into making the best decision for your project, so we have listed five main design points to consider. 

Revise what is highest in priority to you and work from there.

Best Bathtub for Aesthetic Impression

ABI Interiors

Winner: Freestanding

When it comes to aesthetic impression, it’s no surprise that the hero of the freestanding vs. built-in discussion is an island configuration. Having your bath detached from surrounding walls creates immense focus on the fixture. To visually understand its impact, browse our freestanding baths to see how they would look in a space and see what freestanding bath sizes are available. Island baths also invite another impressive design element into the scheme: the freestanding bath filler. The dramatic arch of these spouts pairs elegantly together and is a wonderful combination for those who want to focus on the visual effect of their bathroom. 

That’s not to say that built-in baths cannot have the same impact. They offer a chance to be adorned with tile work and fixtures, allowing encompassing accents to emphasize its impact.

Best Bathtub for Small Spaces

ABI Interiors

Winner: Built-In

If you’re deciding between an island vs. inset bath in your space, you must always consider what available space you have. After measuring your area, if you have found that your dimensions are more on the compact side, a built-in bath idea is typically best. This is because they sit parallel to the wall, becoming a part of the borders of the room without demanding more space than their freestanding counterparts. 

Another advantage of built-in baths for small bathrooms is that their placement means storage is more readily available. Whether it’s nearby shelving or on the ledge around the bath, it’s easier to keep your bathing items nearby.

With that said, it is possible to have freestanding baths in small bathrooms. We suggest opting for one that’s rectangular in shape to work seamlessly with most room arrangements and keeping it closer to the wall.

Best Bathtub for Design Flexibility

ABI Interiors

Winner: Freestanding 

Assuming you have the dimensions that entice more design flexibility, a freestanding bath will create more options for your space. Let it take centre stage under a skylight or next to a window. They’re especially versatile if you are opting for a wetroom where an open-plan flow is celebrated, as freestanding baths can be placed wherever you like. 

Freestanding baths are generally the best fixture for those who want a balcony or outdoor tub, as they can be enjoyed under the sun without having to be affixed to a wall. Just ensure that your flooring can handle the weight of your freestanding bath. 

Though, if the focus for your space is not to have a bathtub hero piece, a built-in may provide more design flexibility in that regard, allowing you to focus on other ideas for your bathroom.

Best Bathtub for Cleaning

ABI Interiors

Winner: Built-In

Is cleaning your bathtub particularly bothersome for you? A built-in bath may be best for your needs. As these baths are encircled by either two or more walls and recessed into the enclosure, all you need to focus on is the internal face of the bath. 

This means that the chance for dust and grime to gather underneath and on the outside of the bath is non-existent when compared to an island bath. 

However, if you would like a freestanding bath but want to minimise the amount of cleaning, choose one that sits on the floor rather than a clawfoot, and make sure there’s some room around the perimeter of the bath to wipe away any mess.

Best Bathtub for Easy Installation

ABI Interiors

Winner: Both

The topic of easy installation in the freestanding vs. built-in bath debate can go down both avenues, it depends on your build. 

A freestanding bath is easier to install for new projects as it doesn’t require an extra enclosure to be created and inset into. You may just have to ensure adequate plumbing and drainage is available in your space. 

If you are renovating an existing home, the chances that plumbing is already configured to suit a built-in bath are generally high. You won’t have to run new piping into the area, but you may have to rejig your enclosure if you want a different style of built-in bath.

 

After more bathroom tips and tricks? We have a whole section of articles dedicated to bathroom advice.

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