Choosing the best bathtub material is a lot like picking a mate. You likely won’t find everything in one person—or tub—so prioritize your desires.
Fiberglass is the best bathtub material for a lightweight, inexpensive and easy-to-clean tub. Porcelain-enameled steel and wood retain heat extremely well, while the best bathtub material for a quiet sound while filling is porcelain-enameled cast iron.
I spoke to Terin Lewis, a showroom sales consultant at Expressions Home Gallery by Reece in Austin, Texas. She told me:
“The best bathtub material depends on what you’re looking for. Cast iron is great for retaining heat just like stone composite tubs. Cast iron models typically have a more traditional look, whereas stone resin tubs come in different shapes and sizes. Acrylic tubs tend to be lighter and available in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles.”
So when determining the best bathtub material for you, it’s probably a good idea to put the following in priority order:
- not prone to mildew
- resistant to chips and crack
- easy to clean
- finish stays glossy over time
- luxurious aesthetic
- retains heat well
If there’s anything else you want in a bathtub material, add it to your ordered list. Next, consider the pros and cons of 8 of the most popular bathtub materials. Be on the lookout for the material that most closely aligns with your prioritized list of the best bathtub material for you. For more on how long a bathtub material will last, read my post about the expected lifespan of your bathtub.
The Best Bathtub Material for You
This list progresses from some of the most inexpensive bathtub materials through the average-priced materials to some of the most expensive and unique.
|Lightweight||Material may flex when standing on it|
|Inexpensive||Finish can fade over time|
|Simple to Install||Easy to crack|
|Easy to Clean||Susceptible to mold and mildew|
Many people will tell you this is the best bathtub material. It’s also called FRP or Fiberglass-Reinforced Plastic. It’s made with resin and fiberglass and coated with gel. One brand name of this sort of polyresin fiberglass tub is Vikrell. Elijah Gilkerson is a sales specialist in plumbing at Lowe’s in Austin, Texas. He says:
The most popular bathtub material with our customers is the solid Vikrell material.
|Lightweight||Can scratch easily|
|Easy to install||Pricier than fiberglass|
|Retains heat well||May flex when you stand on it|
|Finish stays glossy over time|
|Mildew and mold resistant|
The acrylic bathtub is also a popular choice. It’s made from petrochemical resins and fillers, which are then reinforced with fiberglass. Terin Lewis, the showroom sales consultant, told me:
“At a showroom level, we typically only sell acrylic tubs. This is a much stronger material and will not discolor over time. Fiberglass is typically sold in big box stores and is all about cost savings.”
To get a full comparison between fiberglass and acrylic tubs, read my post Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tube: How to Pick a Winner.
3. Porcelain-Enameled Steel
|Average Price||Heavier Than Fiberglass or Acrylic|
|Longevity||Prone to chip and rust|
|Easy to Clean|
This tub is made by layering porcelain on top of steel or cast iron. While the word “porcelain” might bring to mind a museum-quality installation, this fixture is actually quite inexpensive.
Gilkerson, the sales specialist in plumbing from Lowes, tells me:
The only issue with the porcelain-enameled steel is that it’s prone to chipping.
4. Stone Resin
|Moderately priced||Heavy - may require floor supports|
|Retains heat well|
For me, this is one of the best bathtub materials. In fact, I’m leaning toward it for my new installation. It’s got the look of luxury, as it’s made from ground natural stone and polymer resin made to look like stone.
And I’m not the only one who thinks this is a great bathtub material. According to Terin, composite stone tubs are trending:
“Stone composite tubs tend to have a more modern look and retain heat as a cast iron would. But they’re not as heavy as a cast iron bathtub, so you can probably put it on a second floor.”
You can find stone resin tubs made from materials that are 100% recyclable. This offsets the guilt I feel if I accidentally fill up my tub extra high and wastewater. Also, this is a more affordable option than a real stone tub made of marble or travertine.
|Retains heat||Heavy - likely to require floor support|
Unlike Stone Resin, the Stone Tub is made from actual granite, marble, sandstone or travertine. The stone is crushed, shaped and finished with a gel coat. You can see some gorgeous examples of stone tubs here.
We’re talking true luxury, and as you’d expect, your budget could get soaked with this purchase. Then again, a bathtub might be your top priority in life—more important than a car, a house, your kid’s college fund. Here at The Bathtubber, we totally understand if you’re getting ready to take the plunge for the true stone tub.
6. Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron
|Chip and scratch resistant||Can crack if heavy object drops on it|
|Retains heat well||Very heavy - 300-500 pounds empty - likely to require floor supports|
|Quiet while filling|
A layer of porcelain is coated on top of durable cast iron. Vintage clawfoot tubs are made of porcelain-enameled cast iron, and many newer clawfoots come in acrylic or porcelain-enameled cast iron. If you’re in the market for a clawfoot tub, be sure to read my post Clawfoot Tubs: The Ultimate Buying Guide .
Many antique clawfoot tubs are 5 feet long, so they’re ideal for a small bathroom. However, if you’re in search of an extra wide porcelain-enameled cast iron tub, be warned: They are extra hard to find but I’ve been searching. For more on this, read The Extra Wide Cast Iron Soaking Tub: A Rare Jewel!
|Unique aesthetic||Very expensive|
|Retains heat well, especially if double-walled||Heavy - likely to require floor supports|
|Mildew and mold resistant|
|Easy to clean|
If you’re looking for a real showstopper for your bathroom, a luxury copper tub might tickle your fancy. Just like a hammered copper pot hanging over the sink can add an upscale farmhouse feel, the hammered copper tub can do the same. For a certain buyer, this can be one of the best bathtub materials of them all.
|Excellent heat retention|
Tubs made of wood are custom-designed, require ample space as they tend to be larger than standard bathtubs, and with proper maintenance, can be gorgeous. Consider coating your wood tub with clear fiberglass in order to maintain the beauty of the wood over time.
Many types of wood will work, so pick the one that makes your heart flutter. Wood tubs are prevalent in Japan where a relaxing and communal soak is embedded in the culture. For much more about beautiful Japanese baths and bathtubs, read my post 3 Japanese Baths That Will Change Your Life.
Best Bathtub Material for Heat Retention
While many bathtub materials will retain heat well, they don’t all work the same way. An empty porcelain-enameled cast iron tub may be cool to touch. But as it fills, the material will slowly warm and then retain the heat of the water for a long time. So no worries about very long hot soak in a porcelain-enameled cast iron tub. Wood tubs also are known for retaining heat, which is why they’re often used in Japanese ofuro or soaking tubs.
Both acrylic, copper and porcelain-enameled steel tubs come single or double walled. The double walled tubs do a much better job of retaining heat.
If you looking for a bathtub material that has good heat retention, but can’t decide between an acrylic bathtub l or a cast iron tub, read my post Acrylic vs Cast Iron Tub: An Easy Choice to learn which material will work best for your bathroom.
Best Bathtub Material for the Environment
Stone resin is an ecofriendly bathtub material made from 100% recycled materials. The manufacturing process is entirely green and because the material is so durable, it may last for decades preventing the need of replacing with another tub. Relative to a stone bathtub, this lightweight bathtub material saves on fuel costs during transport.
While a wood tub requires cutting down trees, it is ecofriendly in the sense that users often cover the top with a heat-retaining lid after use. This prevents draining the water and refilling each time, so that water is not wasted.
A Word About Bathtub Weight
The weight of your bathtub is related to the cost in more ways than one. First, heavier bathtub materials tend to be pricier, so there’s that. But on top of the obvious, a heavy bathtub material can require the installation of extra floor supports. Expect to pay $100-$300 per joist. It’s more common to require additional floor support when you place the heavy bathtub on an upper level floor or deck.
To find out if you will need more floor supports, it’s best to contact a structural engineer or contractor before you purchase the heavyweight tub of your dreams. This way, you won’t get any unwanted surprises.
Additionally, very heavy tubs made from porcelain-enameled cast iron, stone or copper might require additional movers to transport it from the store or refurbishing shop to your home. This will also increase the overall cost. For more on heavy bathtubs, read the Hidden Costs of a Clawfoot Tub.
So What’s the Best Bathtub Material?
Most people agree that the best bathtub material is durable, easy-to-clean, mold and mildew resistant and retains heat well. Beyond that, it must meet your desired aesthetic and price point. For much more help on how to find your dream bathtub, read this guide. I’ll show you how to find the right material and tub type on budget.
And if you’re remodeling a bathroom and want genius designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars, add your email and first name below and I’ll send the cheat sheet straight to your inbox.