10 Types of Bathtub Materials With Pros and Cons To Know
written by: Michael Lamew
Did you know that today you can buy a “suspended carbon fiber bath tub-hammock” for your home? (More on this later).
This is just one of the many creative bathtub materials that manufacturers are using these days.
With so many types of bathtub materials emerging on the market, it’s crucial to know their differences.
On this page, you’ll find out bathtub materials pros and cons to help you choose the perfect tub for you.
Let’s get started, shall we?
An acrylic bathtub is made of malleable compressed acrylic sheets.
Due to its affordability and functionality, acrylic is one of the most sought-after bath tub materials in the market, especially for alcove tubs.
Acrylic bathtubs can come in various shapes and sizes, including two-person options that are perfect for couples. They typically come with a reinforced fiberglass base, making them lighter than most other common bathtubs.
This means easier installation (especially when they're best-rated freestanding bathtubs) and less pressure on your bathroom floors.
However, their lightweight material can make them less stable, but this is mitigated when installed properly with secure framing. Also, they also have excellent heat-retaining properties. This makes them ideal for longer baths, and commonly used for most of the top-rated whirlpool tubs with inline heaters.
Acrylic tubs may easily scratch if you’re not careful. But this can be easily avoided with better-grade finishing.
- Retains heat
- Low maintenance
- Easily installed
- Easily repaired
- Cheaper option
- Lots of designs to choose from
- Easily scratched
- Slightly unstable
- Lack of high-end feel
2) Cast Iron
Cast iron is made from molded molten iron material. It is then coated with thick, enameled porcelain, making it extremely durable compared to most other bathtub materials.
Choosing the best cast iron bathtub that is highly-reviewed will help to give your bathroom a classic feel that can last decades. If you've always dreamed of getting a metal bathtub, cast iron is a great option.
But appearance aside, a cast iron bathtub is great for a lot of things, they're: scratch and chip-resistant, customizable, and will almost last you forever (not really, but a long time).
The only two downsides: A cast iron bath tub is heavy—literally and a bit in the pocket. But for the look, feel, and durability, it’s definitely worth it.
- Durable and long-lasting
- Scratch and chip resistant
- Timeless and classic look
- Heat retention
- Resurface-able/ Customizable
- Low maintenance
- Can rust if enamel cracks or chips
- Requires additional support
3) Porcelain Enameled Steel
Porcelain-enameled steel tubs are made with steel sheeting that are coated with porcelain enamel. This bath tub material is one of the most inexpensive options without sacrificing durability.
The pros and cons?
Steel tubs are lightweight and easy to clean. But the porcelain enamel material does not hold well, making it rust easily with even the smallest chip. With the right cleaning materials and quick, easy fixes—like patching or waxing—you can easily avoid this from happening.
- Very affordable
- Easily cleaned
- Available in standard sizes
- Chemical-resistant finish
- The surface can chip and rust
- Limited color/design options
- Noisy (if not insulated)
- Weaker heat retention
A stone luxury bathtub is definitely a looker and can be a gorgeous centerpiece for your bathroom.
They’re made out of granite, cultured marble and other natural stone materials and is a fantastic choice for homeowners who are willing to invest.
However, stone tubs are heavy, so you must ensure your floor can hold the weight. Maintaining a natural stone tub also requires a bit of knowledge.
Cultured marble, in particular, is a material that needs special attention. Most of the time, though, you can do minor repairs with an abrasive pad.
- High-end investment
- Can be custom-ordered
- Very heavy (needs a strong foundation)
- Requires some maintenance
Fiberglass is made of reinforced plastic material. It’s the perfect choice for anyone who doesn’t want any additional fuss.
If you’re living in a starter home or need immediate bath tub replacement (like if you were replacing a traditional tub with a top rated walk-in tub), fiberglass tubs won’t make a huge dent on your emergency savings.
Fiberglass is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to install. But keep in mind that fiberglass is porous, which means lesser heat-retention.
This also makes the tub more prone to cracks and warping. However, maintaining a fiberglass bathtub is straightforward, as most flaws are simple to fix.
- Easy to install
- Easy to maintain
- Fiberglass self-repair kits available
- Prone to discoloration
- Can scratch/Crack
- Weak heat retention
Copper is an almost perfect bathtub material, but there’s some things you should know. It’s durable yet extremely malleable and can be molded without cracking.
It looks and feels expensive. It’s also rust-proof, mold-resistant, long-lasting, eco-friendly, and—wait for it—anti-bacterial. It’s a win-win for environmentally-conscious homeowners who want guilt-free luxurious baths.
Sounds perfect right? There are only some slight disadvantages to copper bathtubs. They need more maintenance as they are sensitive to abrasive cleaning materials. But their rust and corrosion-proof qualities definitely more than make up for it.
- Beautiful, classic look
- Corrosion and rust-proof
- Gets more beautiful with age (unique patina finish)
- Requires a but more maintenance
- Sensitive to acids and abrasive materials
Glass bathtubs are relatively new in the bathroom scene. Let’s admit: it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Not everyone is comfortable enough for see-through baths.
As San Francisco architect Anne Fougeron puts it:
“To some people, that might be absolutely unacceptable.” (1)
The base is usually reinforced with another material like acrylic or metal, with laminated safety glass walls. So you don’t have to worry too much about its durability. It can also come with various designs, shapes, and sizes you’ve never imagined before.
- A modern and unique look
- Completely customizable (spa features, even audio players)
- Different shapes and designs
- Easy to clean
- Can be difficult to find (made-to-order in high-end furniture companies)
- Some designs may be uncomfortable
8) Stainless Steel
A stainless steel bathtub is also a great and practical choice. Overall, they look great, they’re relatively stress-free when compared to other models on this list and are extremely durable.
You’ll also be glad to know that stainless steel keeps its shine and appearance consistently over the years.
Like copper, stainless steel is a bathtub material that is capable of self-healing, which makes it easy to maintain.
- Contemporary look
- Appearance remains consistent
- Tarnish and rust-resistant
- Contains hygienic properties
- Great heat retention
- Limited choice of designs
9) Solid Surface
According to Gray Uhl, director of brand education at American Standard, comfort is one of the top things homeowners consider when buying a tub.
“It used to be that bathtubs were just a tub-and-shower combination, with the primary goal being showering and cleansing the body. Today, bathtubs are often separate from the shower, with the sole purpose of soaking to relax and unwind.” (2)
If comfort is exactly what you’re looking for, a solid surface tub might be perfect for you. From counters, sinks, bathtubs, solid surface is famous for its comfort and luxuriously smooth texture.
Solid surface is a man-made material composed of synthetic resins and natural minerals. It can be made in any form or size imaginable and is very easy to maintain. Its heat-retention properties are great for anyone who loves to take their time in the bath tub.
- Seamless single-piece surface
- Excellent heat retention
- Smooth and comfortable
- Naturally resistant to mildew, mold, and stains
- Easy to maintain
- Retains brand-new look for a years
- Cool color options
- Hygienic properties
- Can be expensive
- Heavy (although some varieties are more lightweight)
10) Carbon Fiber
When it comes to high-end futuristic appeal, not much can beat a carbon fiber bathtub.
Carbon fiber is a bathtub material made of organic polymers, which are long strips of molecules held together by carbon atoms.
And yes, it does sound like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. In fact, there’s a “suspended carbon fiber bath tub-hammock” available that could cut you back a whopping $34,000. (4)
But for anyone looking for that dream bathroom with an edge, carbon fiber bath tubs could be your “it” factor.
- Futuristic look
- Extremely durable
- High heat retention
- Can be molded into any shape
- Comes in different colors
- Rigid (but some designs have comfortable foam-like layers)
- May require expensive repairs if damaged
- Might induce skin and breathing irritation for sensitive people
Final Thoughts and What To Do Next
Choosing the right bathtub material is essential for a number of reasons.
Aside from aesthetics, it's important to consider longevity, installation, maintenance, comfort, cost, and many other factors.
After seeing our top 10 types of bathtub materials available in 2020, and their pros and cons, you’re well equipped to choose the best bathtub that’s right for you.
Then, once you find the perfect tub for you, check out our simple bath bomb without citric acid recipe and begin repeating the benefits!
Are you still looking for ways to elevate your bathroom?
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