Acrylic vs. Cast-Iron Clawfoot Bathtubs

Clawfoot bathtub in custom designed bathroom.
David Papazian / Getty Images

Many homeowners renovating houses built in the early 20th or late 19th centuries often want to add a clawfoot tub. Whether or not the tub is historically accurate to the home, it brings up powerful feelings of times past. It's a feeling that the typical modern 60" alcove tub just cannot evoke.

The classic cast-iron clawfoot tub still exists and can be purchased new. It has many advantages. But acrylic clawfoots have been giving cast-iron tubs a run for their money. Which is best for you? 

When Clawfoot Tubs Were Always Cast-Iron

In the late 1800s, American Standard produced the first clawfoot tub. It was made of heavy, sturdy cast iron, and covered in a hard enamel surface which made it easier to clean. As the twentieth century progressed, the freestanding clawfoot tub fell out of fashion, replaced by one-piece units.

Older clawfoot tubs are made of enameled cast-iron. One drawback of older clawfoot tubs is that their enamel surface can chip easily. Plus, cast-iron can be cold in the winter, and the tubs are extremely heavy. It'll take several helping hands to move them, and probably some extra-strength joists will be needed under the floor area where the tub is placed.

If your enamel is chipped, don't worry – many cast-iron tubs can be effectively refinished. If you are in the market for an antique cast-iron clawfoot, one place to look is at architectural salvage yards.

However, cast-iron tubs are not always antiques. Some manufacturers still make clawfoot tubs in the cast-iron variety.

Today's New Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs

One alternative to some of the cast-iron clawfoot tub's failings is to purchase an acrylic clawfoot. These tubs look exactly like their cast-iron kin, except they work even better. Not only are they lighter and easier to move, but minor scratches on their surface can be buffed out. In colder months, the tub won't feel as cold initially. And the surface has a slightly "softer" feel than original cast-irons.