bathtub-materials

Selecting the right bathtub for your home is a serious process. You likely have a specific size, style and color in mind that will perfectly complement your style and fulfill your bathing needs.

Before making your decision, consider this other important factor: the materials the bathtub is made with. Material affects appearance, durability, heat retention and more, so it’s a significant factor in your long-term investment.

Here are the nine common materials used in bathtubs:

  1. Fiberglass
  2. Porcelain over steel
  3. Acrylic
  4. Cast iron
  5. Solid-surface
  6. Cast polymer
  7. Ceramic tile
  8. Stone
  9. Wood

We’ll cover the pros and cons of each one, and by the end, you’ll be armed with the information you need to choose the best bathtub for your home.

1. Fiberglass

fiberglass-bathtub

“Stained fiberglass tub, BEFORE” https://www.flickr.com/photos/verymom/12144591954 Image courtesy of verymom, according to license Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

 

Fiberglass is easy to install and maintain, but is among the least durable of bathtub materials.

Made of a fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), bathtub fiberglass is layered into the tub’s shape and then coated with resin.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Easy installation
  • Easy maintenance
  • Repairable surface

Cons:

  • Thin/flexible
  • Unstable feel
  • Surface fading/discoloration
  • Surface crack/scratch
  • Porous and brittle

2. Porcelain Over Steel

Porcelain over steel is long lasting and affordable, but it’s also heavier than fiberglass or acrylic and prone to rusting and chipping.

Also called enameled steel, this common bathtub material combination is a sheet of steel coated with porcelain enamel.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Long-lasting
  • Stable feel
  • Easy cleaning
  • Standard sizes
  • Chemical-resistant finish

Cons:

  • Limited design options
  • Surface chipping
  • Somewhat heavy
  • Exposed steel rusting
  • Heat loss
  • Sometimes noisey

3. Acrylic

acrylic-bathtub

Acrylic is a durable material that comes in plenty of design options, but it is a little more expensive than fiberglass or enameled steel and can scratch with the use of certain cleaners.

In a bathtub, acrylic sheeting is molded into shape and reinforced with fiberglass for a strong, waterproof surface.

Pros:

  • Not water-absorbent
  • Retains heat
  • Easy installation
  • Design variation
  • Lightweight
  • Easy repair
  • Relatively affordable
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Slightly unstable feel
  • Surface scratching
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Lacks high-end appearance

4. Cast Iron

cast-iron-bathtub

Image courtesy of Max Pixel https://www.maxpixel.net/Claw-Foot-Tub-Vintage-Antique-Bathtub-Bath-Retro-2095751Cast iron is durable, efficient and classic. It’s also quite heavy and expensive. Cast iron tubs are a true investment.

Made by pouring molten iron into a mold and covering that with thick, enameled porcelain, a cast iron tub is going to last a long, long time.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Scratch/chip resistant
  • Retains heat
  • Design variation
  • Resurfaceable
  • Classic look

Cons:

  • Extremely heavy
  • Require additional support
  • Expensive

5. Solid Surface

solid-bathtub

Solid surface materials are relatively new to the bathtub market. They are durable and efficient, but also heavy and relatively expensive. Due to the newness of solid surface materials, it may be harder to find information or even place an order.

Comprising synthetic, polymeric materials, solid-surface bathtubs are available in a wide range of design types.

Pros:

  • Design variation
  • Durable
  • Retains heat
  • Repairable finish
  • Natural-look options

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Hard to get

6. Cast Polymer

cast-bathtub

Cast polymers, such as cultured marble, granite or onyx, area relatively affordable and easy to maintain, but they can be brittle (slightly better than fiberglass) and develop cracks that can’t be prepared.

The components involved in cast polymer include engineered natural stone and solid surface materials, such as limestone and resin. Typically, the materials are finished with a gel-coat on top.

Pros:

  • Often affordable
  • Design variety
  • Buffable surface
  • Easy cleaning
  • Stain-resistant
  • Relatively durable

Cons:

  • Can be expensive (cultured marble)
  • Sometimes brittle
  • Unrepairable cracks

 

7. Ceramic Tile

ceramic-tile

 

Ceramic tile offers the widest range of design and size options (thus, also price options), but it is relatively high-maintenance. Further, the unevenness of multiple, individual tiles and grout could be uncomfortable on bare skin.

Available in all shapes, sizes and colors, individual ceramic tile will need to be laid on a prepared surface with appropriate mortar and grout.

Pros:

  • Design variety
  • Can be inexpensive

Cons:

  • Complex installation
  • High maintenance
  • Can be uncomfortable
  • Can be expensive

 

8. Stone

stone-bathtub

Image courtesy of designmilk https://www.flickr.com/photos/designmilk/21044330483/ according to license Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

 

Stone tubs have a high-end appeal and are a great investment, but they are extremely heavy and may require extra structural support and maintenance.

Your natural stone options may include granite, onyx, marble, basalt, sandstone basalt and travertine.

Pros:

  • Natural look
  • Custom-ordered
  • Sturdy
  • High-end investment

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • Extra support required
  • High-maintenance

9. Wood

wood-bathtub

“Sugarwood Bathtub” https://www.flickr.com/photos/indogemstone/16162583632 Image courtesy of Indo Gemstones IndoGemstones, according to license Attribution 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Wood bathtubs are unique, attractive and customizable, but can cost a lot and require a great deal of maintenance.

Some of the woods you may select for a bathtub include African or Honduran teak, walnut, ash, cherry and maple.

Pros:

  • Natural look
  • Custom ordered
  • High-end investment

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • High-maintenance

A bathtub is something you use frequently, and investing in durability is wise. Fortunately, with a range of long-lasting, affordable options on the market today, you can find a bathtub that suits your style, needs and budget.