The material of your bathtub effects the durability, weight, look, and price of your bathtub.
Because bathtubs can be expensive, and hard appliances to shop for, knowing the pros and cons of different materials can be a game changer. This will also ensure you’re happy with the bathtub you get instead of dealing with something you don’t like for years.
But what is the best material for a bathtub?
Keep reading to learn how to choose the right bathtub material for your needs.
Many manufacturers tend to call this material one of three different names: fiberglass, FRP, and fiberglass-reinforced plastic. They make this type of tub by forming layers of fiberglass into the right shape and covering the layers with Gelcoat resin. This makes fiberglass the least expensive bathtub material out there.
Fiberglass tubs are cheap, lightweight, easy to install, and easy to repair. But the trade for these benefits is durability. Because fiberglass bathtubs are so thin, they tend to flex, fade, crack, and scratch. They don’t feel stable, and they aren’t as strong as other materials.
You also can’t find a lot of color variation with fiberglass. If you choose this type of bathtub, you might have to settle for a color you don’t like.
2. Porcelain-Enameled Steel
Porcelain-Enameled Steel, or just enameled steel, is one of the most common bathtub materials. Though not as cheap as fiberglass, it’s still affordable and is much more durable than fiberglass.
The inside of these bathtubs is a piece of shaped steel. This steel has a coat of porcelain enamel over the top that makes it glossy. Because the finish is resistant to many cleaning chemicals, this material is easy to maintain.
Porcelain-enameled steel tubs can chip if you drop something on their surface. If a chip forms, that place will start to rust, even around small chips. These tubs need the right insulation if you don’t want them to be too noisy, and they tend to lose heat faster than other materials.
These tubs are similar to fiberglass tubs. They use sheets of fiberglass to reinforce the outer layers of vacuum-formed colored acrylic. This gives acrylic bathtubs similar advantages to the normal fiberglass tub.
They are both lightweight and easy to install. Though they do cost more money than fiberglass tubs, they are inexpensive when compared to other tub materials.
Some of these tubs can scratch or stain over time. But if you find a high-grade acrylic bathtub, you won’t have to worry about this problem as much. You can get an acrylic bathtub in all kinds of different sizes, colors, and shapes.
Acrylic is a good bathtub material overall, but it’s not as high quality as some people might want.
4. Cast Iron
To make a cast iron tub, manufacturers have to pour molten iron into a mold formed into the right shape and size. They then smooth the iron out and cover it with a coating of thick, porcelain enamel.
A cast iron bathtub is one of the most expensive bathtub materials, but it’s a high-end tub that will last a long time. It is more durable than any other bathtub material, and the surface is scratch, chip, and dent resistant. You can clean it with any type of chemical you want and not cause any damage.
The heat from your bath will stay inside the tub, and you can pick a cast iron tub in any color you want. It’s hard to match the quality of a cast iron bathtub.
But a cast iron tub is incredibly heavy. In most cases, installing it will take extra labor. In fact, your floor may even need extra reinforcement to hold it.
5. Ceramic Tile
You can make a ceramic tile bathtub in whatever size and shape you need. In many cases, you can even create the bathtub on site to make sure it fits where you want it. Ceramic tile gives you more freedom and options than any other bathtub material.
But a bathtub made of tile has grout. This can be a bother to maintain, and it might feel rough and uncomfortable on your skin.
Cast-polymer bathtubs use engineered natural stone and other solid surface materials to replicate the appearance of granite, onyx, marble, etc. Manufacturers mold these minerals, resins, and other materials together like they do with solid-surface countertops. They coat the outside layer of cast-polymer with a gel finish.
You can get one of these bathtubs in a wide range of colors. They are more expensive than acrylic, but they aren’t as durable. For example, if the gel coat gets brittle, it can expose the underlying material. This can lead to cracks that are difficult and sometimes impossible to repair.
However, you can buff out normal surface scratches, and the entire surface is resistant to stains.
What is the Best Material for a Bathtub?
This all depends on how you plan to use the tub. If you just need a tub to take quick rinses, materials like fiberglass or acrylic might be suitable for you. If you’re looking for something more high-end, you’ll want to pick porcelain-enameled steel or cast iron.
But again, it comes down to how you want to use your bathtub.
Instead of focusing on the material alone, there are a few other questions you should ask yourself. These will help narrow down your choices and streamline your process.
How Much Space Do You Have?
Most bathtubs are 14 inches deep, 30 inches wide, and 60 inches long. While your bathtub might fit a traditional bathtub size, it might be too small for something else, like classic clawfoot tubs.
Measure your bathroom before you start shopping so you know what sizes can fit into your space. Make a note of where your drain is in the bathroom so you can get the right design. Some bathtubs can’t have a shower feature, so figure out if that’s a priority before picking anything.
Where Is Your Bathroom?
The location of your bathtub won’t be a problem in most cases, but it might be an important consideration if you’re thinking about buying a cast iron tub.
Depending on the layout of your home, you might not be able to get a cast iron tub up a flight of stairs to your second story bathroom.
Is the Material Comfortable?
It’s okay to climb into a tub and test it out before you buy it. You don’t want to end up with a bathtub you don’t like. Make sure the bathtub is comfortable enough for you before you make any final decisions.
Finding the Right Bathtub Material for Your Home
So what is the best material for a bathtub?
That depends on what you’re looking for. Want something high-end that’ll last a long time? Go for a cast iron tub. Just need something cheap that gets the job done? Pick a fiberglass tub. Make sure you know what size, shape, and style you need before you start shopping.
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