Bathtub Materials – Pros, Cons and Comparisons

What is a Good Bathtub to Buy?

Are you looking to buy a good bathtub to go with your beautiful new or remodeled bathroom? The decision on what bathtub to buy is not always easy. There are just so many of them to choose from, some great and some not so good.

So, what is a good bathtub to buy? The answer to that question will depend on a variety of factors and hence the reason for writing this article. There are different types of bathtubs, which are also made of different materials.

Bathtubs also come in varying sizes so you must make sure that you buy one which will nicely fit in your bathroom. In this post, I will write in detail about the different types of bathtubs materials, outlining their pros and cons so that you can make a more informed decision.

There are different types of materials that are used to make bathtubs. Some are more expensive than others while some do not last as long as others. The following are the different types of bathtubs materials:

  • Cast-iron
  • Acrylic
  • Fiberglass
  • Porcelain
  • Copper
  • Wood
  • Cultured stones
  • Composite material

The Pros and Cons of Different Bathtub Materials

Before buying a specific bathtub, take your time to know the material it is made from, as well as its advantages and disadvantages. Each of the material used to make bathtubs have their pros and cons.

It is important for you to investigate if the pros are good enough for you to live with or if the cons are too much of a compromise. Let us look at them one after the other.

1. Fiberglass Bathtubs

A fiberglass bathtub is the bathtub to buy if you are squeezed for cash. It is the most inexpensive bathtub in the market. The major disadvantage of fiberglass bathtubs is that they do not last as long as you may want them to.

To make a fiberglass tub, the manufacturer will mold the fiberglass into the desired bathtub shape and size then coat it with a layer of gelcoat resin. As a result, fiberglass bathtubs are thinner and more brittle compared to other types of bathtubs.

If you are remodeling your bathroom to flip your house, a fiberglass bathtub is a good option since it is inexpensive, lightweight and therefore easier and cheaper to install. Fiberglass bathtubs are also the best bathtubs to install in rental properties.

The other disadvantages of fiberglass bathtubs is that they flex and don’t feel very solid. They also fade, crack and scratch way too easily compared to other bathtub materials.

Fiberglass bathtubs are also harder to clean and maintain that condition. They are porous and hence absorb water, meaning that mold/mildew can thrive if proper hygiene is not observed.

2. Porcelain Bathtubs

Porcelain bathtubs which are also known as enameled-steel bathtubs are made from a thin sheet of steel (or sometimes cast-iron) which is then coated with a porcelain enamel. Porcelain enamel is basically powdered glass which is heated to its melting point.

A porcelain bathtub is quite solid and will not flex. Porcelain bathtubs also have a glossy finish that does not scratch or fade easily. They are also so smooth and therefore easy to clean.

Although porcelain bathtubs are scratch-resistant, they chip off easily under impact. They are also so smooth, which can be a slip hazard especially when you factor in how slippery soap and water are.

As you would expect from such a bathtub, it is not the cheapest in the market. That should however not be a problem if you are looking for something long-lasting.

Porcelain bathtubs are not very good at heat retention. You will therefore notice that your bath water temperature will drop faster than you may want it to.

3. Acrylic Bathtubs

Acrylic is a very strong and stiff plastic material. Its sheets exhibits glass-like properties which include clarity, brilliance and transparency. An acrylic bathtub is made by bending and molding an acrylic sheet into the desired bathtub shape and size and then reinforced with fiberglass.

Acrylic bathtubs are very good at retaining the temperature of your bath water. If you like taking your time soaking up in the bathtub then this is a bathtub you want to look into. Another advantage of acrylic bathtubs is that they are non-porous hence will not absorb excess water.

Although acrylic bathtubs are of a more superior quality compared to fiberglass tubs, they are also not very solid and will therefore flex after years of usage. Acrylic bathtubs are moderately priced but are unfortunately prone to scratching although not as much as fiberglass tubs.

4. Cast-Iron Bathtubs

Cast-iron bathtubs have been in the market ever since John Michael Kohler, the founder of Kohler poured enamel on pig trough and sold it as a bathtub. Today, cast-iron bathtubs are made by pouring molten iron inside a mold of the desired shape and size, smoothening it and coating it with a layer of enamel.

Although the cast iron of today is not the same quality as that of the 1900s (low lead), it is still a great material to choose for a bathtub. Low lead cast-iron is brittle and more prone to chipping compared to older cast-iron tubs which had a good quantity of lead.

The main advantage of cast-iron tubs is that they are very durable, and will be more resistant to scratching and chipping compared to other materials in the market. Cleaning a cast-iron tub is a cinch! You do not expect mold/mildew to survive on its surface, meaning you will not have to use any harsh chemical.

Another thing I like about cast-iron bathtubs is that they have a fantastic heat retention. You are therefore guaranteed that your bath water will remain hot for long.

One thing to note about cast-iron bathtubs is that they are quite pricey. Cast-iron material on its own is not cheap. These are therefore some of the most expensive bathtubs in the market.

Another thing to remember is that cast-iron bathtubs are very heavy. This means more labor during installation. Apart from that, you will also need to reinforce your floor if you suspect it will not hold up its weight, especially if it is being installed in the upstairs bathroom.

5. Cultured Stone Bathtubs

If you are looking to buy a not-so-common bathtub you can try a cultured stone bathtub. Stone bathtubs are made when the desired stone material (like limestone) is crushed, mixed with a resin and then molded into the desired tub shape and size. A gel coat is then used to finish off the final product.

It is also important to know if you are buying the actual stone material or a composite tub (resin, plastic and carbon fiber) instead. A stone resin tub is used to mimic the look of a natural stone tub. Although this does not make it cheap, it is not the same as the real thing.

A cultured stone bathtub made of marble or even quartz is quite pricey but beautiful. It will without a doubt standout in your bathroom. You can also have it custom-made to your desired dimensions and shape.

Another advantage is that such stone bathtubs have an excellent heat retention property. You are also guaranteed that your bathtub will maintain its natural look for longer, as they do not scratch easily.

As is the nature with these type of material, cultured stone bathtubs are quite heavy, which means they are also quite expensive to buy as well as to install. They are also not as easy to clean as other types of bathtubs.

If you want your stone tub to maintain its natural look for longer, you will need to clean it periodically. Mold/mildew will form on this type of bathtub easily compared to others such as cast-iron.

Stone bathtubs are also not very common. To get the one you want you will have to check out different places, or have one custom-made for you.

6. Wooden Bathtubs

Wooden bathtubs are not that common, perhaps due to their high prices. They are made from a variety of hardwood, most of the time custom-made to suit the buyer’s needs.

Wood is undeniably very aesthetically-appealing. There is that warm feeling it brings which cannot be compared with other types of materials.

Wooden bathtubs are unfortunately some of the most expensive in the market. Unlike in the production of other types of bathtubs where the process is automated or even semi-automated, wooden bathtubs are handmade from start to finish.

It takes a long time to make just one wooden bathtub. Wood is also not cheap. The woodworkers who are involved in this trade are also some of the best in the country and a charge a premium fee for their craft.

Apart from the high cost, wooden tubs needs a lot of care. As you already know, wood and water are not the best of friends. You will therefore need to keep it dry when not in use as well as undertake regular maintenance to make sure the finish does not peel off, leading to rotting or even shrinking.

7. Copper Bathtubs

Copper bathtubs are usually made from solid pure copper. Several sheets of copper are hammered and curved into the desired shape and size and then smoothened off. Copper bathtubs have an antique feel to them and will look perfect whether you are looking for a vintage or modern bathroom style.

Copper as a material is not cheap. You therefore cannot expect these bathtubs to be cheap. They are actually quite pricey and probably the reason why they are not that common.

Another thing to note about copper bathtubs is that they are all freestanding. Freestanding bathtubs unlike alcove or corner bathtubs do require that you have a big bathroom.

After the initial cost of a copper bathtub, everything else will be a breeze moving forward. To start with, given the quality of copper as a metal, this bathtubs are very long-lasting. Even more than cast-iron bathtubs. Copper is also a very attractive metal.

Cleaning a copper bathtub is a cinch! Mold, mildew, bacteria or even hard water stains will not be something you will have to deal with. Neither will you need to use harsh chemicals to clean it. These tubs are however quite heavy and will require that you have a strong floor.

Best Bathtubs to Buy

Apart from choosing the best bathtub material for your home, you will also need to choose the types of bathroom you want. There are 9 types of bathtubs. These are:

  • Alcove bathtubs
  • Freestanding bathtubs
  • Drop-in bathtubs
  • Walk-in bathtubs
  • Corner bathtubs
  • Undermount bathtubs
  • Claw-foot bathtubs
  • Whirlpool/Jetted bathtubs
  • Soaking/J1apanese bathtubs

The Best Alcove Bathtub

Alcove bathtubs are the most common types of bathtubs. 3 of its sides are in contact with the bathroom wall and are mostly installed as a bathtub-shower-combo.

American Standard 2461002.020 Cambridge Apron is in my opinion one of the best alcove bathtub in the market. Its features and specifications are:

  • Dimensions: 5 feet X 32 inches
  • Porcelain material
  • 14-inch soaking depth
  • 50-60 gallons
  • Right/left drain
  • White, bone and linen color finishes
  • Limited lifetime warranty

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Best Freestanding Bathtub

Freestanding bathtubs as their name suggests are stand-alone bathtubs that are usually installed at the center of the bathroom, away from the walls, although nothing stops you from placing it next to the wall. They are more modern than alcove bathtubs and requires that you have a big bathroom.

The Woodbridge 67″ acrylic freestanding bathtub is great choice for anyone looking for a freestanding bathroom. This contemporary bathtub is also available in 59 inches as well as 71 inches for those with a bigger bathroom.

Here are some of its features and specifications:

  • Material: Acrylic
  • Dimensions: 67 X 32 X 23 inches
  • Style: oval
  • Color: white
  • ASTM-compliant as a non-slip bathtub
  • Up to 1000 pounds weight limit
  • 1 year limited warranty

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Best Clawfoot Bathtub

Clawfoot bathtubs are a type of freestanding bathtub that date from the Victorian era, easily identified by their ball and claw feet that provide support to the bathtub. The claw feet are usually made of different metals, mostly bronze or chrome.

Signature Hardware 917203-59 Lena 59″ Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub with Monarch Imperial Feet is my favorite clawfoot bathtub. It is a little pricey than most of the others in the market but worth every coin.

Its features and specifications are:

  • Material: cast-iron
  • Dimensions: 58.5 x 31 x 26.5 inches
  • Feet: brushed nickel finish
  • Deck/Floor-mounted faucet
  • Hand shower included
  • Double slipper
  • Antimicrobial
  • Drain placement: reversible
  • 328 pounds

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Best Copper Bathtub

Copper bathtub as we have already seen are quite pricey but bring that vintage/antique style in your bathroom and are therefore value for money. They are also quite long-lasting.

Sinkology TBT-6631CL-OF Heisenberg is a fantastic copper bathtub. Here is why it is worth you money:

  • Crafted using the finest 14 gauge pure solid copper
  • Pre-drilled 2.5-inch drain hole
  • Maintenance free
  • Weight: 225 pounds
  • Capacity: 40-50 gallons
  • Dimensions: 67.5 X 32 X 30.5 inches
  • Type: Clawfoot bathtub, brass material
  • Lifetime warranty

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