Five Common Materials Used in Bathtubs

Different tub materials affect the look, feel, weight, heat retention--and the price of this high-ticket plumbing fixture. Since tubs are not easy to replace, it really pays to know what you are buying so you can be happy with the tub for many years to come. Here are some basic pros and cons for each tub material to help you make a choice when buying a new bathtub.

  • 01 of 05

    Porcelain Enameled Steel

    Bar soap and towel on ledge of claw foot tub
    Caiaimage/Tom Merton

    This tub material is a very common and inexpensive option. This type of tub is constructed of steel sheeting that is then coated with porcelain enamel. This type of tub is heavier than acrylic or fiberglass but not significantly so.

    PROS

    • Very affordable
    • Relatively light-weight
    • Available in standard sizes (60" x 30") 
    • Durable
    • Easy to clean 

    CONS 

    • Surface can chip when objects are dropped
    • Rust tends to form with even the smallest chip
    • Limited options for color, shape, etc.
    • Can be noisy if not...MORE insulated
    • Loses heat quickly
  • 02 of 05

    Acrylic

    Acrylic tubs are becoming more popular, probably due to the versatility, durability, available options, and economical cost. This type of tub is made from vacuum-formed acrylic sheets that are reinforced with fiberglass. Acrylic tubs are lightweight and relatively easy to install.

    PROS

    • Lightweight
    • Affordable
    • Available in many colors, shapes, and sizes 
    • Durable 
    • Non-porous surface
    • Surface is repairable

    CONS

    • The surface can scratch if cleaned with abrasive cleaners
    • Stress points need to be properly...MORE reinforced during installation
    • Acrylic is more expensive than fiberglass
  • 03 of 05

    Fiberglass (FRP)

    This tub material is another very affordable option. This type of tub is made of layers of surface coat, polyester resin, with fiberglass reinforcement. Fiberglass tubs are less expensive than acrylic but also less durable.

    PROS 

    • Lightweight
    • Easy to install,
    • Very inexpensive
    • Easy to clean and maintain 
    • Surface can be repaired
    • Great option for a shower/tub combination

    CONS 

    • Not as durable as other materials 
    • Surface can crack and scratch 
    • Finish tends to fade
    • Limited color options
  • 04 of 05

    Enameled Cast Iron

    A very durable and heavy tub material is enameled cast iron. This type of tub is made of molded iron coated with enamel. A cast-iron tub is a higher-end option, and it is an investment that will really last. The only real disadvantage (and a serious one) is the weight. A cast-iron tub can be quite difficult to install because it is so heavy and may require structural reinforcement for the floor

    PROS

    • Very durable
    • Thick enamel is resistant to chipping and scratching
    • Can be resurfaced
    • Timeless look 
    • Excel...MORElent heat retention
    • Many color choices available

    CONS

    • Very heavy
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Cast Polymer (Cultured Marble, Granite or Onyx)

    These tub materials are a type of engineered natural stone or solid surface material. This type of tub is made by molding together minerals, polymeric materials and resins to form a solid surface, usually finished off with a gel coat finish.

    PROS

    • Affordable
    • Many color and options 
    • Surface scratches can be buffed out 
    • Easy to clean,
    • Stain resistant

    CONS 

    • Can be brittle
    • If gel coat wears off, it can lead to unrepairable cracks 

     

    Now it's time decide what type of bathtub will best fit your bathroom.