Looking for a new tub can be challenging because there are so many options. But acrylic and cast-iron tubs are so different that picking between them should be easy, once you consider your decor, budget, and long-term plans.
Acrylic tubs are light, easy to install, affordable, and highly customizable. Cast iron bathtubs are heavier and not as easy to install due to their weight. They also do not come in many shapes, so customization is limited. However, cast iron bathtubs are more durable than acrylic tubs and retain heat longer.
I spoke to Terin Lewis, a showroom sales consultant at Expressions Home Gallery by Reece in Austin, Texas. She told me:
“Acrylic is more what we sell on the day-to-day and a more modern look. Cast iron is great for someone who wants a more traditional look with a lower step-over.”
Let’s take a deeper dive into the vast differences between these bathtub materials so that you can feel confident that you’re making the right choice for you.
Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub: About Acrylic Bathtubs
Acrylic tubs are made from acrylic sheets. These sheets are then vacuumed into their bathtub shape before they’re sold.
Because of how easy it is to mold acrylic tubs into different shapes, you can buy them in many different sizes, colors, and shapes.
This means acrylic tubs are perfect if you’re looking for a colorful tub or a bathtub that’s not rectangular. But you can also find many acrylic bathtubs that look like traditional ones, so you have plenty of choices!
Other than customization, here are some other qualities of acrylic tubs you’ll want to be aware of:
Acrylic Tubs Are Affordable
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a new bathtub is price. Luckily, acrylic bathtubs are some of the most affordable ones.
For example, you can find acrylic tubs beginning around $300. So if you’re not looking to spend hundreds or thousands on a tub, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn about the affordability of acrylic bathtubs.
That’s not to say they can’t be expensive, though. If you want a higher-end acrylic bathtub (like one with added features), you can easily spend upwards of $1000.
Acrylic Tubs Are Lightweight
You might be wondering why the weight of the tub matters. Well, it matters because the heavier the tub is, the more costly it’ll be to transport and install. Luckily, acrylic tubs are lightweight, so they’re relatively inexpensive to put in your bathroom.
On average, an empty acrylic tub weighs around 100 pounds (approximately 45 kilograms).
Because of how light an acrylic tub is, you likely won’t need to install additional floor supports.
Plus, the tub will be cheaper to have delivered because heavy items come with extra transportation fees.
Due to the lighter weight of acrylic tubs, they’re appropriate for most homes and can usually be installed on a second floor or patio. This is different from bathtubs made of some heavier materials.
Acrylic Tubs Don’t Retain Heat Very Well
One downside of acrylic tubs is that they don’t retain heat very well. This can be a significant issue if you like to take long hot baths.
If you like to constantly keep the water hot during a long bath, consider the impact on your utility bill.
With an acrylic tub, you may find yourself continuously adding hot water to warm up the tub again.
However, if you don’t mind the water cooling down after a brief soak, acrylic shouldn’t be a problem.
Acrylic Tubs Require Great Care
While acrylic tubs are highly customizable and affordable, they aren’t the most durable option.
These tubs can get damaged over time, and suffer from cracking and staining. To avoid any significant issues, you should clean your bathtub regularly.
However, it would be best to be careful when cleaning it. Try cleaning your acrylic tub with products like baking soda or a very mild soap rather than harsher, more abrasive chemical agents. Watch the video above for details.
Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub: About Cast Iron Baths
Now that I’ve talked about acrylic tubs, let’s move on to cast iron bathtubs. To make a cast iron bathtub, the manufacturer pours liquid iron into a bathtub mold.
Cast iron products aren’t as customizable as acrylic ones, and as a result, most cast-iron units come in a standard bathtub shape.
There are many other essential things to know about cast iron bathtubs, so let’s look at them below.
Cast Iron Bathtubs Are Expensive
Compared to acrylic products and bathtubs, cast iron ones are more expensive.
On Wayfair.com, you can find cast iron tubs starting at $750 and going all the way up to $10,000, with most falling into the $1,500-$3,500 range.
But keep in mind, these prices are just for the bathtubs. While they sometimes come with free shipping, prices won’t include installation, or any additional required floor supports.
Cast Iron Bathtubs Are Heavy
Unlike acrylic, cast iron bathtubs are extremely heavy. This means that, in many cases, extra support needs to be installed in your home before the bathtub is placed down.
The average cast iron bathtub weighs approximately 300 pounds (around 136 kilograms) before water is added.
While some standard-sized cast iron bath units may not need added support, some heavier models will.
It’s highly recommended to have a professional look at your floors and ceilings before installing a cast iron bath. This’ll ensure the floor can handle the tub’s weight, factoring in water and the person using the tub.
Cast Iron Baths Retain Heat Well
If you like to take long hot baths—and you’ve got the budget—a cast-iron tub might be an excellent investment.
Cast iron bathtubs retain heat much better than many other materials (including acrylic). This means you can enjoy a hot bath for longer than in an acrylic tub.
According to an article by the Washington Post, a cast iron skillet will take longer to heat up, but it will also take much longer to cool down. The same principle applies to cast iron bathtubs. Once they get hot, they retain heat for much longer than other materials.
Cast Iron Bathtubs Are Highly Durable
Terin Lewis, the showroom sales consultant, told me that cast iron is long-lasting and highly durable, so if longevity is important to you, you might want to consider this material for your bathtub. Although cast iron bath units are durable and aren’t likely to crack, they’re still prone to scratches, staining, and rusting.
To prevent these issues, you’ll need to keep the tub clean by wiping it after every use and making sure there’s plenty of ventilation in the bathroom so it can dry thoroughly.
Consider adding a smart bathroom fan that will automatically turn on when the bathroom humidity reaches a preset level.
More on how long a cast iron bathtub will last coming up shortly…
Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub: Comparisons
Now that I’ve discussed acrylic and cast iron bathtubs in-depth, let’s compare them in an easy-to-read table.
|Acrylic bath unit
|Cast iron bath unit
|Can start from as little as $300, but many can cost upwards of $1000.
|Cast iron bath units are generally expensive. You can expect to pay around $2000, but spending more than that figure is common.
|100 pounds (45 kilograms).
|300 pounds (136 kilograms).
|Highly customizable. You can find acrylic tubs in many different sizes, shapes, and colors.
|Not highly customizable. Most cast iron baths come in a standard bathtub shape because they're more difficult to mold.
|Not highly durable. Acrylic tubs crack more easily than cast iron ones. They can also stain.
|Cast iron tubs are highly durable and aren't prone to cracking. However, they can still stain and rust without proper care.
|Installing an acrylic bathtub is easier and cheaper than installing a cast-iron one,
|The installation is generally more expensive because of the weight of the tub. Often, more than one person will
How Long Does a Cast Iron Bathtub Last?
A cast iron bathtub lasts decades in most cases because the material is durable and strong. Even though they can visibly begin to look old and worn out, they will remain fully intact for many years.
Of course, this will depend on how the tub was installed. It’ll also depend on how you have treated it over the years. But a well-cared for properly-installed cast-iron bathtub can easily last as long as you do – 70 years! (Read more about the lifespan of various bathtub materials.)
When iron is made, it’s combined with carbon. The carbon is what makes it so strong. This is true for all kinds of iron, including cast iron. So no matter what cast iron bathtub you choose, you can rest assured that it’ll contain carbon — and therefore, it’ll be strong and durable.
Fun fact: Diamonds — the hardest gemstones on Earth — are made of pure carbon, so anything that contains carbon like your cast iron bathtub is sure to be hardy.
How Long Does an Acrylic Tub Last?
An acrylic tub lasts around 10 to 15 years if it is maintained in the best way possible. However, it may begin to crack or get damaged before this time. If you take extra great care of your acrylic bathtub, it can last for more than 15 years, though this is rare.
As I mentioned earlier, acrylic tubs are susceptible to the following:
As these issues worsen over time, the bathtub will decrease in overall quality and eventually get damaged beyond repair. Even if you take excellent care of your acrylic bathtub over its lifetime, it’ll still need to be replaced eventually — generally within 20 years of the initial installation.
There are several reasons your acrylic bathtub might crack. Two common ones are lack of support and a heavy object falling into the bath. These issues won’t be as prevalent with a cast iron bath.
But for many people, 10 to 15 years is plenty of time to enjoy a bathtub before replacing it with a new one.
Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub: The Best One for You
If you’re on a tight budget, an acrylic tub will be better. Although it won’t be as durable as cast iron, it’ll do the job. Plus, you can choose a style that best suits your home because acrylic comes in a range of colors.
And even more cost-efficient than acrylic is a fiberglass tub. Read my post about fiberglass vs cast-iron tubs for more information.
If budget isn’t an issue and you’re looking for something long-lasting, and you’re installing the tub on a ground floor, a cast iron bath may be better.
Also, consider how important a long, hot soak is for you. If the answer is “very important!” then consider a heat-retaining cast iron tub.
If you want to consider other bathtub materials—and there are many!—be sure to read my post THIS Is the Best Bathtub Material.
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