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Acrylic Vs. Cast Iron Tub: Which Is The Best Tub For You?

what is better acrylic or cast iron tub

Table of Contents

The two most popular bathtubs are acrylic and cast iron. This is mainly due to the luxurious features that improve durability and the bathroom’s appearance. Of course, their long list of popular attributes brings a comparison of acrylic and cast iron tubs.

If you plan to renovate your bathroom shortly, you need to decide which option, cast iron or acrylic tub, is best for your home.

What is an Acrylic Bathtub?

Acrylic bathtubs tend to be lightweight. This means it can be placed at any level of the house without the need for additional support on the floor. They are made from vacuum-formed acrylic sheets and are often reinforced with fiberglass to improve durability.

There are a variety of designs, shapes, colors and sizes. They are usually reasonably priced, easy to maintain, and can be repaired if damaged.

Pros

The advantages of acrylic bathtubs are that:

  • Available in more sizes, colors, shapes, and designs than the cast iron tub.
  • Cheaper than a cast iron tub.
  • Easy care (cleaning and repair).
  • Relatively good heat retention compared to marble.
  • Therefore, because it is lightweight, there is no need to reinforce the floor below.
  • Easy to customize.

When buying an acrylic bathtub, get the best quality to enjoy these benefits.

Cons

The disadvantages of acrylic bathtubs are:

  • Acrylic is more susceptible to scratches than cast iron or enamel.
  • Not as luxurious as the cast iron tub.
  • Sensitive to strong detergents.
  • It is structurally weaker than cast iron and is prone to warping and cracking.
  • Does not increase the resale value of the home.
  • Not good when used with a shower.
  • The colors are unique to the material itself and cannot be overcoated or refinished.

For these reasons, it cannot last for more than a generation and is therefore suitable as a temporary bathtub.

What is a Cast Iron Bathtub?

All bathtubs vary in life, but cast iron bathtubs are known for their durability, longevity, and better heat retention than any other bathtub. Start with iron ore, melt the metal  and shape it into the desired bathtub shape

Pros

The advantages of cast iron bathtubs are:

  • High heat retention.
  • Luxurious and classic look.
  • Resistant to scratches and damage from harsh chemicals.
  • Very durable and can be used for generations.
  • Increase the resale value of your home.
  • It goes well with the shower.
  • The patch costs only $ 20 to $ 30, and the entire hull costs about $ 500 and can be repainted and refinished.

This makes it by far the best bathtub.

Cons

The disadvantages of cast iron bathtubs are:

  • Very heavy and may require bottom reinforcement.
  • Enamel coat cast iron can be tough to repair if damaged.
  • Less design and customization than the acrylic bathtub.
  • More expensive than most types of bathtubs.
  • If the enamel layer is peeled off, the iron underneath may rust.

Cast iron tubs are extremely durable and can easily last for generations with proper care.

These tubs tend to be expensive due to the expensive material base and often add a premium vintage look to the bathroom while being timeless. They are also cumbersome; they need floor support to be installed safely.

Comparing Acrylic and Cast Iron Tubs

Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, but overall they are good choices, which makes the discussion between cast iron and acrylic bathtubs difficult.

The determinants between the two are usually summarized in aesthetic preferences and consumer budget constraints. Consider the following factors to narrow down your bathtub options:

Materials and Durability

Acrylic bathtubs are made by melting acrylic and shaping it into the desired shape. It can be reinforced with fiberglass for added durability. Due to the relatively simple manufacturing process, acrylic bathtubs can be manufactured in various shapes and sizes without significantly increasing costs. Both acrylic and fiberglass are relatively soft materials compared to cast iron. Therefore, poor maintenance or harsh chemicals can cause it to warp, scratch, or break. It may also discolor. On average, acrylic bathtubs last at least 10 to 15 years.

On the other hand,  iron bathtubs are made by melting iron and pouring it into a mold to give it the desired shape. Cast iron bathtubs are relatively more expensive than other bathtubs because this process is so expensive. It also limits the cast iron tub to some fixed shapes. The cast iron will be then enameled and fire polished to obtain a shine.

Both cast iron and enamel are more vital than acrylic and fiberglass, so the rest is a very durable tub. Cast iron bathtubs last for over 70 years.

Acrylic bathtubs are usually 1/4 inch thick, so they are relatively weak and light and break easily. Cast iron bathtubs are typically 1/8 inch thick but are more robust due to the structural strength of iron.

Maintenance

Cast iron tubs are extremely durable, require less maintenance than acrylic tubs, and can be kept in good condition. They should be cleaned weekly with a mixture of soap and water and a soft sponge or cloth. Acrylic bathtubs are durable but tend to get dirty over time. Therefore, acrylic bathtubs need to be cleaned frequently.

Weight

Acrylic is so light that acrylic bathtubs are lighter than cast iron bathtubs. Acrylic tubs weigh only 50 pounds. This makes it easier to move around. Most importantly, there is no need to reinforce the floor before installing the bathtub.

Then, on the other hand, it weighs more than 300 pounds in a cast iron bathtub for medium-sized bathtubs. Therefore, when installing a bathtub on the upper floors (1st floor and above), it is necessary to reinforce the floor.

Cost

If budget is an important factor in your decision, acrylic will be a better bathtub option for you. Acrylic bathtubs are one of the cheapest types, and cast iron bathtubs are one of the most expensive. Cast iron tubs can be two to four times more expensive than acrylic tubs. 

The high cost of cast iron bathtubs is due not only to the materials but also to the installation. Floor reinforcement is required for the proper installation of cast iron tubs. On the other hand, acrylic bathtubs are one of the most accessible types to install.

Heat Retention

Insulated acrylic tubs retain heat better than other materials in a similar price range. Still, most do not compare to cast iron tubs, known for their ability to absorb and transfer heat. It keeps the bath water warmer than the material.

Which Bathtub Material Should I Choose?

Acrylic bathtubs are ideal for homeowners who need customization: unique bathtub size, shape or design, affordable price, and a quick installation process. Cast iron tubs are an excellent choice for homeowners looking for high-quality and durable bathrooms which are not willing to pay for their additional benefits.

Final Thoughts

Cast iron bathtubs are better than acrylic bathtubs. However,  cost, maintenance, and durability are determined for acrylic or cast iron bathtubs. If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-maintain, and easy-to-install bathtub, acrylic bathtubs are the perfect fit for your needs. However, a cast iron tub is better if you need a luxurious tub that will last for generations. There are many cast iron bathtubs you can buy, and you can use them for a long time, whether new or used. Regardless of the bathtub, the bath uses more water than the shower, so always use as little water as possible.

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