It’s time for a new bathtub and I want to make sure I choose one of the best bathtub materials. Although I don’t want to spend a ton, I’m willing to invest a small amount for a beautiful bathtub that will endure for the long-haul.
So what are the best materials for a tub? Every bathtub material has different pros and cons. When choosing the best bathtub materials, you need to consider cost, aesthetic, weight, durability, and easiness to clean or repair.
With all that in mind, here are 8 bathtub materials to evaluate before making your choice.
8 Best Bathtub Materials
Let’s start out with some of the more common, less expensive options and progress through the happy middle ground to the truly unique and luxurious.
1. Fiberglass Tub
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.
On the pro side: Fiberglass is lightweight, inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to clean. It can be repaired but it’s harder to fix than acrylic.
On the con side: The material is brittle and porous, so it absorbs water. This can fade the finish and dull the color over time. It also makes this bathtub material susceptible to mold, mildew and spider cracks. Because it’s lightweight, fiberglass will flex just a bit if you stand on it. If that thought makes you queasy, you may want a different option.
Whether you go with fiberglass or another material, you’ll then need to choose what type of bathtub you want in that material. There are alcove tubs, drop-in tubs, freestanding tubs and many others. In this post, The Bathtubber guides you through the most popular tub types.
2. Acrylic Tub
The acrylic bathtub is also a popular choice. It’s made from petrochemical resins and fillers, which are then reinforced with fiberglass.
On the pro side: Acrylic is lightweight, easy to install, retains heat, stays glossy over time, and repels mildew because of its nonporous surface.
On the con side: The surface can scratch if you clean with a solution that’s too abrasive. It’s slightly more pricey than fiberglass. Like fiberglass, the material will flex when you stand on it and might cause you to feel less stable.
3. Porcelain-Enameled Steel Tub
This tub is made by layering porcelain on top of steel. 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.
Let’s take a closer look:
On the pro side: This bathtub material is known for its longevity. In addition to being relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to clean. It can be made double-walled to better retain heat. Do ask when making a purchase if the tub you’re considering has a double layer of material.
On the con side: If the weight of the tub is an issue for your floor, be aware that porcelain-enameled steel is heavier than fiberglass or acrylic. You may need extra floor supports installed. This tub type is also prone to chip and rust.
4. Stone Resin Tub
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.
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.
On the pro side: In addition to being moderately priced, this bathtub is easy to clean, durable, and retains heat well. This last point is important, because I don’t want to have to continually add hot water to maintain my perfect soak. Also, the color won’t fade over time.
On the con side: This is a heavy bathtub relative to acrylic or fiberglass. It could require the installation of extra floor supports when the tub is put in. This will increase overall costs a bit, but I think it’s a price I’m willing to pay for the gorgeous aesthetic. And yes, this tub is more expensive than fiberglass or acrylic but less expensive than stone, cast iron or wood.
5. Stone Tub
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.
On the pro side: This luxurious tub is an investment for the long-haul. It is durable and will retain heat. Plus it won’t chip easily.
On the con side: In addition to cleaning out your wallet, this tub will require regular cleaning to keep the beauty of the stone vibrant. Also, as these bathtubs can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, the installation will likely require additional floor supports, spiking the cost even more.
6. Porcelain- Enameled Cast Iron Tub
A layer of porcelain is coated on top of durable cast iron. While it has the clean, shiny look of acrylic, if you’re investing in a freestanding tub or a clawfoot tub and trying to make a statement, it may be worth it to go for a sturdier material like iron.
On the pro side: A cast iron tub is very durable, hard to chip or scratch and does an excellent job of retaining heat. Another perk is that relative to other bathtub types, a cast iron tub is rather quiet when filling. This material will heat up slowly but then stay hot for the duration of your soak. At a max of 5-feet in length, these bathtubs are great for small bathrooms.
On the con side: This tub is can run 350-500 pounds. As a result, extra floor supports may be required during installation, increasing the overall price. And if you drop something hard on it, the porcelain can chip.
7. Copper Tub
If you’re looking for a real showstopper for your bathroom, a 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.
On the pro side: Beautiful! Also, retains head well, especially if double-walled. Resistant to mildew, scratches and chipping. Sturdy and easy to clean.
On the con side: Very heavy and very expensive.
8. Wood Tub
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.
On the pro side: Many types of wood will work, so pick the one that makes your heart flutter. Amazing at retaining heat, which is why wood tubs are prevalent in Japan where a relaxing and communal soak is embedded in the culture. Environmentally friendly, because rather than draining the water at the end of a bath, cover the tub and return later for another hot bath.
On the con side: Because these are typically made custom, a wooden tub can be very pricey. Also, you need to count on extra costs to maintain the beauty of the wood, so it won’t warp or rot too quickly.
What are the Best Bathtub Materials? It Depends on Your Priorities
If you’re like me, a bathtub is essential to your peace of mind and overall zest for life. That’s why I might forego the acrylic and fiberglass this time for something more of a statement piece. I’m leaning toward the Stone Resin because it’s both beautiful, recyclable and won’t break the bank.
Choosing the right bathtub material is like choosing the right partner: whatever you pick, you’ll likely be stuck with it for a while, so in addition to cost, be sure to consider weight, durability, ease of repair and good looks.
Also, there’s one more thing to keep in mind: For many people, buying a bathtub is part of the investment they make in the value of their home. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about whether a bathtub can increase the value of your home.