Do You Tile Before or After You Drop in a Tub? Pros & Cons

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Did you know that proper tile placement around a clawfoot tub can make a significant difference in the overall look and functionality of your bathroom? Whether you're using the tub for a relaxing soak or a quick shower, the right flooring around it can enhance your experience. Deciding whether to tile before or after installing a bathtub, especially clawfoot tubs, is crucial for your bathroom renovation. Don't forget to consider the impact on your shower and flooring.

Many assume that it doesn't matter whether you tile before or after installing the bathtub and shower. However, it is important to consider waterproof flooring when making this decision. However, this misconception about the frame, flooring, bathtub, and shower can cost you time, money, and headaches down the line.

Lets discuss key factors to consider when tiling around a drop-in bathtub and shower and how it can impact both the aesthetics and functionality of your bathroom. This includes the flooring and frame. So let's dive in!

Flooring Options for Bathtubs and the Importance of Tile Placement

Do you tile before or after you drop in a tub? by Bathrooms by RUPP

There are several factors to consider. From functionality to aesthetics, the right choice of bathtub or shower can enhance your bathroom experience. Whether you prefer a clawfoot tub or a waterproof shower, selecting the right option is essential.

One crucial aspect that often gets overlooked in flooring is tile placement. Whether it's in the bathtub, shower, or any other area, the frame of the room should be carefully considered. Properly positioning the flooring tiles in relation to the shower is essential for achieving a seamless transition between the shower and the waterproof floor frame.

Different Flooring Options Are Available For Bathtubs


Tile is a popular choice for bathroom floors and bathtub walls due to its durability, water resistance, and versatility in design. It can also be used for shower walls and the frame around the bathtub. It comes in various materials, such as ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone like marble or slate.

Whether you are looking for a bathtub, shower, or frame, there are options available in these different materials. Tiles offer a wide range of colors, patterns, and textures to suit any style preference for your bathtub, shower, or frame.

Vinyl Plank

Vinyl plank flooring is another option commonly used in bathrooms with bathtubs and showers. The frame of the bathroom can benefit from this type of flooring. It is waterproof, affordable, and easy to install. With advancements in technology, vinyl planks now come in realistic wood or tile designs that mimic their natural counterparts without sacrificing durability.

These vinyl planks are perfect for any room in your home, including the bathroom, where they can withstand the moisture from the bathtub. Additionally, their sturdy frame ensures long-lasting performance. 

Other Materials

While tile and vinyl plank are popular choices for bathroom floors, other flooring materials like laminate or hardwood can also be considered with proper sealing and maintenance. The addition of a frame can enhance the aesthetic appeal of these flooring options.

Why Tile Placement Is Crucial

Proper tile placement plays a vital role in ensuring a seamless transition between the bathtub and the floor while providing functional benefits:


The bottom area of a bathtub, where it meets the floor, is prone to water splashes and spills during bath time. Incorrect tile placement can lead to water seepage into the subfloor, causing damage over time. By correctly positioning tiles around the tub deck area, you create a watertight seal that prevents moisture from reaching vulnerable areas like plywood or the ceiling below.


Well-placed tiles enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of your bathroom by creating visually pleasing lines and symmetry around the bathtub. Whether you opt for a contrasting or complementary tile design, proper placement ensures a polished and cohesive look.


The area around the bathtub can become slippery when wet. Properly placed tiles with adequate grout lines provide better traction, reducing the risk of accidents caused by slipping on a smooth surface.

Ease of Cleaning

Tiles are relatively easy to clean and maintain compared to other flooring options. Correct placement ensures that there are no hard-to-reach corners or gaps where dirt and grime can accumulate, making cleaning more efficient.

Timing Considerations: Installing the Tub Before or After Tiling

Deciding when to install a tub in relation to tiling can greatly impact the overall installation process. We will also discuss important factors to consider when making this decision.

Installing The Tub Before Tiling

One option is to install the tub before beginning the tiling process. This approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


  • Easier access: Installing the tub first allows for easier access to all sides of the tub, making it simpler to connect plumbing fixtures and ensure proper alignment.
  • Efficient waterproofing: With the tub in place, it becomes easier to properly waterproof the area surrounding it, reducing the risk of water damage.
  • Seamless integration: By starting with a clean slate, you have more freedom to choose tile sizes and patterns that seamlessly integrate with your tub.


  • Risk of damage: There is a possibility of accidentally damaging or scratching the tub during subsequent tiling work if it is not adequately protected.
  • Limited flexibility: Once installed, any adjustments or modifications to the tile layout become more challenging due to the fixed dimensions of the tub.
  • Longer installation time: The overall installation process may take longer since tiling must be completed around an already-installed fixture.

Installing The Tub After Tiling

Alternatively, some homeowners prefer installing their tubs after completing most or all of their tiling work. Let's explore why this approach might be beneficial and its potential drawbacks.


  • Greater design flexibility: By completing most or all of your tile work beforehand, you have greater flexibility in adjusting tile layouts without the constraints imposed by an already-installed bathtub.
  • Reduced risk of damage: With tiles already in place, there is less chance of accidentally damaging or scratching them during tub installation.
  • Faster installation: Installing the tub after tiling can potentially speed up the overall installation process, as you won't have to work around an already-installed fixture.


  • Challenging access: Accessing plumbing fixtures and ensuring proper alignment may be more challenging with tiles in place, requiring extra care during installation.
  • Waterproofing concerns: Extra precautions must be taken to ensure proper waterproofing around the tub area, as tiles are already installed.
  • Limited tile options: The choice of tile sizes and patterns may be limited due to the fixed dimensions of the tub.

Alcove Tubs vs. Drop-in Tubs: Why Tiles Should Not Be Installed Underneath

Differences Between Alcove Tubs And Drop-In Tubs

Alcove tubs and drop-in tubs are two popular options for homeowners looking to upgrade their bathrooms. Alcove tubs are designed to fit snugly into a three-wall enclosure, while drop-in tubs are installed into a deck or platform. Understanding the differences between these two types of tubs is crucial before deciding on the best option for your bathroom.

One key distinction is the placement of tiles. With alcove tubs, tiles are typically installed directly around the perimeter of the tub and up the walls of the enclosure. This creates a seamless look and provides a waterproof barrier against moisture. On the other hand, with drop-in tubs, tiles should not be installed underneath the tub itself.

Reasons Why Tiles Should Not Be Installed Underneath Drop-In Tubs

There are several reasons why installing tiles underneath a drop-in tub is not recommended:


Installing tiles under a drop-in tub makes it difficult to access plumbing fixtures and make potential repairs in the future. Without direct access to these components, any maintenance work becomes more challenging and time-consuming.

Moisture Damage

While tiling underneath an alcove tub helps prevent water damage by creating a watertight seal, this approach is unnecessary for drop-in tubs. The area beneath a drop-in tub is typically enclosed within a deck or platform that acts as a protective barrier against moisture.


By avoiding tiling under a drop-in tub, you have more flexibility in terms of design choices and future modifications. If you decide to change your bathroom layout or replace your existing bathtub down the line, it will be much easier without having to remove and reinstall tiled flooring.

Alternative Methods For Finishing The Area Beneath A Drop-In Tub

If tiling underneath a drop-in tub is not recommended, you may wonder how to finish the area effectively. Here are a few alternative methods:


One popular option is to build a deck or platform around the drop-in tub. This creates a seamless transition between the tub and the surrounding floor, providing an aesthetically pleasing look while also protecting against moisture.


Another approach is to use skirting panels or other materials to cover the exposed area beneath the drop-in tub. Skirting can be made from various materials, such as wood, tile, or acrylic. It not only conceals the space but also adds visual appeal to your bathroom.

Waterproof Membrane

Applying a waterproof membrane directly on top of the subfloor beneath the drop-in tub can provide an extra layer of protection against potential leaks or moisture damage.

Understanding Alcove Tubs and Drop-in Tubs: Differences and Installation Methods

Definition And Characteristics Of Alcove Tubs

Alcove tubs are a popular choice for bathrooms, especially in smaller spaces like apartments or condos. These tubs are designed to be installed against three walls, with only the front side exposed. They typically have a rectangular shape with straight sides, making them easy to fit into tight spaces. Alcove tubs come in various sizes, ranging from standard 60-inch lengths to larger options for those who prefer a more spacious bathing experience.

One key characteristic of alcove tubs is their seamless integration with the surrounding walls. This creates a clean and cohesive look that enhances the overall aesthetic of the bathroom. Another advantage of alcove tubs is that they often come with built-in shelves or ledges for storing bath essentials such as soap, shampoo, and loofahs.

Definition And Characteristics Of Drop-In Tubs

Drop-in tubs offer a different style and installation method compared to alcove tubs. As the name suggests, these tubs are dropped onto a deck or platform rather than being installed against walls. This design allows for more flexibility in terms of placement within the bathroom. Drop-in tubs often have a more luxurious appearance with their exposed rims and decorative finishes.

One notable characteristic of drop-in tubs is their versatility. Since they don't rely on surrounding walls for support, homeowners can choose various materials for the deck or platform where the tub will be placed. This opens up possibilities for unique designs using materials such as tile, stone, or even wood.

Overview Of Different Installation Methods For Each Type Of Bathtub

There are several options depending on personal preference and budget:

  1. Standard Installation: The most common method involves securing the bathtub directly onto studs using nails or screws. This ensures stability and prevents any movement during use.
  2. Tile Surround: For a more decorative look, many homeowners opt to tile the walls surrounding the alcove tub. This not only adds visual appeal but also provides a waterproof barrier, protecting the walls from moisture damage.

On the other hand, drop-in tubs require a different approach to installation.

  1. Deck-mounted Installation: This method involves building a deck or platform where the tub will be placed. The tub is then dropped into this structure and secured in place using brackets or adhesive.
  2. Customized Design: With drop-in tubs, homeowners have the freedom to create unique designs by choosing different materials for the deck or platform. From sleek tiles to natural stone slabs, the options are endless.

The Relationship Between Tile Placement and Bathroom Vanities

One important consideration is how the tiles should interact with the bathroom vanity. The placement of tiles can greatly impact the overall aesthetics of the vanity and the entire bathroom space.

Tile Placement Considerations When There is a Bathroom Vanity Present

The presence of a bathroom vanity introduces several considerations. One key aspect to keep in mind is the size and shape of the vanity. If you have a large vanity that extends from wall to wall, you may need to plan your tile layout accordingly. On the other hand, if you have a smaller vanity or one that is located in a corner, you might have more flexibility in tile placement.

Another factor to consider is whether you want your tiles to extend beneath the vanity or stop at its edge. Adding additional tiles under the vanity can give it a seamless appearance and guard against water damage from any potential leaks. However, stopping tiles at the edge of the vanity can make it easier to replace or modify the vanity in the future without disrupting the tiled area.

The Impact That Tile Placement Can Have on Overall Aesthetics

Tile placement plays a significant role in enhancing or detracting from the overall aesthetics of bathroom vanities. By carefully planning where your tiles meet your vanity, you can create visually pleasing transitions between different surfaces.

One option for creating an aesthetically pleasing look is aligning grout lines with specific features of your vanity. For example, if your vanity has decorative trim along its edges, aligning grout lines with those edges can help highlight and accentuate these details.

Considering how tiles interact with other elements in your bathroom design can also contribute to overall aesthetics. For instance, coordinating tile colors and patterns with other surfaces, such as the shower or walls, can create a cohesive and visually appealing look.

Factors to Consider When Determining How Tiles Should Interact with Bathroom Vanities

When deciding how tiles should interact with bathroom vanities, there are several factors to consider. These include:

  1. Vanity material: The type of material used for your vanity can influence tile placement decisions. For example, if you have a solid-surface vanity, it may be easier to cut tiles to fit around its edges compared to a vanity made of porcelain or other fragile materials.
  2. Water pressure and deck space: If your vanity has a deck space where the sink is placed, you'll need to ensure that water pressure from the faucet won't cause water to splash onto nearby tiles. Properly positioning tiles in relation to the deck space can help prevent water damage.
  3. Wall studs and corner trim: If your vanity is attached to the wall, you'll want to locate the wall studs before tiling. This will allow you to secure the vanity properly and avoid any issues with tile placement later on.

Should You Tile Behind Bathroom Vanities?

Tiling behind bathroom vanities is a common practice in many home improvement projects. However, it's important to consider the proper approach, potential benefits or drawbacks, and the factors that may influence your decision. Let's explore these aspects further.

The Proper Approach to Tiling Behind Bathroom Vanities Explained Briefly

There are a few essential steps to follow for a successful outcome:

  1. Preparation: Before starting the tiling process, ensure that the wall surface behind the vanity is clean and smooth. Remove any existing tiles or wallpaper if necessary.
  2. Measurements: Take accurate measurements of the area you plan to tile. This will help you determine how many tiles you need and how they should be arranged.
  3. Tile Selection: Choose tiles that complement your overall bathroom design and are suitable for wet areas such as bathrooms.
  4. Installation: Apply an appropriate adhesive to secure the tiles onto the wall surface, ensuring they are level and evenly spaced. Use spacers between each tile for consistent grout lines.
  5. Grouting: Once the adhesive has dried, apply grout between the tiles using a grout float. Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge and allow it to cure.

By following these steps diligently, you can achieve a professional-looking tiled backsplash behind your bathroom vanity.

Benefits or Drawbacks Associated with Tiling Behind Bathroom Vanities

Tiling behind bathroom vanities offers several advantages:

  • Aesthetics: A tiled backsplash can enhance the overall appearance of your bathroom by adding texture, color, and visual interest.
  • Protection: Tiles provide an additional layer of protection against water damage on walls exposed to splashes from sinks or faucets.
  • Easy Maintenance: Tiled surfaces are generally easier to clean than painted walls or other materials, making it convenient to maintain hygiene in the bathroom.

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • Cost: Tiling can be more expensive than alternative options such as wallpaper or paint.
  • Time-consuming: Tiling requires careful planning and execution, which may take longer compared to other methods of wall finishing.
  • Difficulty in Replacement: If a tile gets damaged or cracked behind the vanity, it might be challenging to replace it without removing the entire vanity.

Making the Right Decision for Tile Installation Around Drop-In Tubs

Installing tile around drop-in tubs requires careful consideration to ensure a visually appealing and functional result. By taking various factors into account, such as proper planning, measurements, and the choice of materials, you can achieve a seamless tile installation that enhances the overall aesthetic of your bathroom.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Tile Installation Around Drop-In Tubs

Assessing Tub Conditions

First and foremost, you need to assess the condition of your existing tub. If you have an old clawfoot tub that requires refurbishment or replacement, it is recommended to address those issues before proceeding with tile installation.

Presence Of Mold Or Water Damage

Another factor to keep in mind is the presence of mold or water damage in the surrounding area. It's crucial to thoroughly inspect the walls and floor near the tub for any signs of moisture or mold growth. If these problems exist, they must be remedied before installing tiles to prevent further damage.

Size And Shape Of The Tub

The size and shape of your drop-in tub also play a significant role in determining how best to approach tile installation. The dimensions of the tub will influence the layout and design options available for tiling. Considering whether you want a full tile surround or partial wall coverage will help guide your decision-making process.

Importance of Proper Planning and Measurement for Seamless Tile Installation

Proper planning and precise measurements are essential for achieving a seamless tile installation around drop-in tubs. Before starting any work, take accurate measurements of both the tub and its surroundings. This step ensures that you purchase enough tiles and helps determine where cuts may be necessary.

To create a visually pleasing outcome, plan out your design beforehand. Consider using different colors or patterns that complement your bathroom decor while keeping practicality and ease of maintenance in mind.

Once you have gathered all the necessary materials based on your measurements and planned design, it's time to prepare the surface. Ensure that the area around the tub is clean and free of any debris or loose material. This step allows for better adhesion and longevity of the tile installation.

Achieving A Visually Appealing And Functional Result When Tiling Around Drop-In Tubs

To achieve an aesthetically pleasing and functional result, follow these guidelines when tiling around drop-in tubs:

  1. Start by applying a waterproofing membrane to protect the underlying structure from moisture damage.
  2. Use a high-quality thinset mortar to securely adhere the tiles to the surface.
  3. Consider using larger tiles for easier maintenance and fewer grout lines, which can be prone to mold growth.
  4. Opt for non-slip tiles or add a non-slip coating if safety is a concern.
  5. Seal the grout lines with a quality sealant to prevent staining and water penetration.

Do You Tile Before Or After You Drop In A Tub?

Now that we've explored the various aspects of tiling around a bathtub, it's time to answer the burning question: do you tile before or after you drop in a tub? The answer depends on whether you have an alcove tub or a drop-in tub.

For alcove tubs, it is recommended not to install tiles underneath, as they can be difficult to replace if any repairs are needed. On the other hand, for drop-in tubs, it is best to tile before dropping in the tub to ensure a seamless and professional-looking installation.

So, if you're considering renovating your bathroom and installing a new bathtub, remember these key points. Alcove tubs should be installed first and then tiled around, while for drop-in tubs, tiling should be completed before dropping in the tub. By following these guidelines, you'll achieve an aesthetically pleasing result that will stand the test of time.

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