​The pros and cons of a sunken bath

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Broad Walk: Winchmore Hill Roselind Wilson Design Modern bathroom
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Ah, the sunken bathtub – one of the most popular bathtub designs adorning the modern bathroom worldwide. Also known as a ‘drop-in tub’, a sunken tub (similar to a sunken shower) may be sunk into the bathroom floor, or even a platform or deck which is specifically created for said tub. Thus, the tub’s outer profile is hidden with only the rim exposed – sort of like a swimming pool.    

And as the sunken bath’s tub is enclosed from all the four sides, its outer surface is left unfinished. This significantly reduces its costs, making it an affordable yet stylish option for bathrooms – and a favourite design feature for many professional Bathroom Designers.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, for like everything else in life, a sunken bath is not that straightforward. True, there are loads of other advantages with drop-in tubs, but also a few disadvantages.

Let’s discover them…  

1. Sunken bath pro: Seamless aesthetics

Broad Walk Master Bathroom Roselind Wilson Design Modern bathroom
Roselind Wilson Design

Broad Walk Master Bathroom

Roselind Wilson Design

The major selling point of sunken tub is probably the fact that they allow for a seamless integration between the bathroom floor and tub. True, sometimes one wants the tub to stand out and become a focal feature, but not always.  

Like swimming pools, a drop-in tub can flaunt a sleek and clean finish, making them especially popular with modern- and contemporary bathrooms. Often, to realise this aesthetic, a few steps need to be installed down into the bathtub. This can be achieved by commissioning a designer to create a pre-cast concrete tub with pre-designed steps. This means that the possibilities with this material become just about endless – ordering a pre-cast concrete bathtub allows you to dream up any shape you wish!

2. Sunken bath con: Invisible edges

But just like a seamless sunken tub is a big advantage for some, to others it is a con – even a hazard. When that drop-in tub is flawlessly integrated into the floor, it becomes almost invisible and creates a safety issue for some, especially children.  

Just imagine stumbling into a bathroom in the dark and accidentally stepping into the tub!

Of course there are ways to combat this caveat, and one of them is adding a subtle lip to the edge of the bath. Another alternative is to use a different floor texture around the edge of the bathtub, making its design more prominent. Just imagine, for example how wooden decking can quietly indicate the presence of the tub while also turning it into a focal point of your bathroom.

3. Sunken bath pro: A vintage throwback

Treasure House, Polzeath | Cornwall Perfect Stays Rustic style bathroom
Perfect Stays

Treasure House, Polzeath | Cornwall

Perfect Stays

Those who like their houses and designs to refer to history are sure to think about exotic cultures and traditions when referring to sunken baths. Just envision the ancient Turkish bathhouses or even the aesthetics of a Japanese onsen. 

One can go even further with that image and team up with bamboo accessories and wooden cladding for the sunken bath, creating a tranquil little spa-like Zen space in the bathroom.

4. Sunken bath con: Too retro?

Of course a vintage throwback is not always popular. Another downside to drop-in tub designs is the fact that they are very much associated with one specific era not that long ago: the 1980s. The stereotypical 1980s bathroom immediately reminds a lot of people of gaudy peach or dull-green avocado suites complete with sunken hot tubs – and it’s a style that most people hope never returns. 

But on the other hand, it’s rather easy avoiding that ugly 1980s look with a sunken bath – just ensure your expert bathroom designer opts for sleek, contemporary finishes which are to your liking.

5. Sunken bath pro: Future benefits

Putting visual aesthetics aside for just a moment, there is one major practical benefit of the sunken bath – it’s very easy to get in and out of. 

Think of individuals with reduced mobility, for example – installing a walk-in bathtub with railing can surely help when it comes to bath time. This is also a great idea if you plan on living in your current house well into your golden years – a great solution for ‘future-proofing’ your home.

6. More pros and cons of the sunken bath

The pros: 

• Sunken baths are very popular with interior designers. Thus, a lot of them are quite skilled at coming up with various designs to help your tub blend in easily with the décor of your bathroom.  

• Walk-in tubs are available in a variety of designs and shapes. Thus, you can rest assured that you will find one which suits your bathroom perfectly. 

• Drop-in tubs’ plumbing arrangements are hidden, ensuring a neater look for your bathroom.  

• Usually, a sunken tub has a rather shallow bathtub with only the rim and inner part of the tub exposed. This makes it easy to clean and maintain.  

• The platform on which your sunken bathtub rests allows you to keep a variety of bath accessories within easy reach.   

• Sunken baths are usually cheaper than other varieties of tubs (depending, of course, on size, style, materials, manufacturers, etc.). 

• A drop-in tub can easily be renewed using a tub liner. 

• Sunken baths are usually suitable for bigger bathrooms as they require more legroom. However, there are variants like the corner tub and alcove tub which can be fitted in space-constrained bathrooms.  

• Not in the mood to be fully immersed in water? With a sunken tub, it’s easier to just sit down and place your feet in the water for some relaxation. Or just opt for an extra shallow bathtub design.  

The cons:  

• Even though they may be cheaper, sunken baths’ installation can be very cumbersome and take quite longer than freestanding ones.  

• As the drop-in tub is a built-in fixture, it’s much more difficult and costly to replace or move when it comes to bathroom renovations. So, keep your bathroom’s long-term look in mind when choosing a sunken bath. 

Is a sunken bathtub right for you?

Microcement Bahtroom Cemlux Modern bathroom Concrete Grey

Microcement Bahtroom


• Do you have the space? Your sunken tub needs to have adequate surrounding legroom enabling one to move around without difficulty. 

• Is accessibility a problem? Even the most glamorous concrete bathtub will be a failure if you’re struggling to get in and out of it. Consider elderly family members and ease of mobility before you start dreaming about a new sunken bathtub.  

• Are you building new or renovating? Installing a sunken shower or –tub while building a new house is easier in terms of making adjustments. Remember that a concrete frame makes supporting a sunken tub much easier, which only adds to the expensive changes (like digging into the floor) to be made during a renovation. 

In need of more architectural inspiration? Find these House improving extensions—18 affordable ideas

Are you big on a sunken bath in your bathroom, or do you prefer a freestanding model?

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