The material of the bathtub you choose and how well you take care of your tub will determine how long your bathtub will last. However, hard water can also wear down a bathtub faster.
You may be most familiar with acrylic bathtubs, as they are the number one choice because they are lightweight materials, come in a wide range, and are easy to install. Acrylic bathtubs are relatively inexpensive, but they will not last as long as more expensive choices like cast iron.
On average, bathtubs last 10-30 years, depending on the bathtub material. Modern, inexpensive tubs made from acrylic and fiberglass will last 10-15 years. A porcelain-enameled cast-iron tub can last much longer but you will need to refinish it every 5-15 years.
No matter what material, a bathtub will last longer if it is well-maintained. You may find that the water type in your area makes a difference to your tub lifespan. In general, hard water is worse for tubs and fixtures, though there are ways to help reduce hard water damage.
What Is the Lifespan of a Bathtub?
As you can see, the lifespan of a bathtub is going to come down to what it’s made of. I’ve heard of porcelain-enameled cast iron clawfoot tubs that are more than 130 years old and still in daily use! The porcelain finish has been updated, but the core material of the bath remains undamaged. That’s pretty impressive for durability and longevity.
(If you have it in your mind to refinish a vintage clawfoot tub, be sure you’re aware of the hidden costs of a clawfoot tub.)
Porcelain-enameled steel baths began production in the 50s. These are similar to the cast iron tubs enameled in porcelain, but they tend not to last quite as long.
Most modern houses use fiberglass or acrylic because they are easy to mold, lightweight, and inexpensive. They have a much shorter lifespan, and at best, you will only get a little more than a decade or two out of them.
There are other bathtub materials to consider, each with its pros and cons.
Copper, and stone resin will last longer than fiberglass or acrylic but will be more expensive. This post on acrylic vs porcelain tubs will give you a lot more information to help you make your decision.
When Should You Replace Your Tub?
Here are 5 signs that you might need to replace your bathtub:
- Mold and mildew
- Uncomfortable and/or difficult to use
How to Check for a Cracked or Leaking Bathtub
By far the most obvious sign that it may be time to change your bathtub is when it is no longer usable. If a bath is cracked, it may become unusable and potentially dangerous. But if you’re determined to try to fix your cracked or leaky bathtub before getting a new one, read Is Your Bathtub Leaking? How to Find and Fix the Source.
However, a bathtub that is leaking can be difficult to repair. Leaks are likely to cause problems with warped wood, mold, and mildew. You shouldn’t ignore even a small leak as leaks become progressively worse the longer they are left.
If you’re uncertain whether or not your bathtub leaks, here’s a quick test:
- Fill your bath to an easily monitored point.
- Leave the water to stand for several hours.
- If the level drops, your bathtub has a leak.
Proactively Hunt for Bathroom Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are sometimes easy to spot—but sometimes the spores hide in your caulk, inside the faucet, or in the bathroom wall. Not only can bathroom mold and mildew look terribly unsightly, but these are also health hazards.
To find out if there is mold under your tile, read the post Is Mold Lurking Under Your Tile?
Mold and mildew can set off respiratory issues, cause migraines, or trigger allergies. They may be a sign that the surface of your bathtub has deteriorated so much that it can no longer be kept clean.
But bathroom mold that’s hidden from the naked eye can still cause health issues. That’s why it’s best to proactively hunt for bathroom mold. With that said, I proudly present to you this post: Bathroom Mold – A Battle Plan to Destroy It.
You Can Salvage a Grungy Tub
Stained tubs may be saved with cleaning, but it becomes porous and the dirt difficult to remove if the surface is damaged. Those marks are pretty unattractive, but stains indicate that you can no longer maintain the bath to acceptable hygiene standards.
If the marks or stains are only minor, don’t panic! Make your bathtub look like new with just a few household ingredients.
An Uncomfortable Tub Is Not Worth Saving
Another aspect that you should consider is how easy your bath is for you to use. It doesn’t matter how great the condition is when you’re uncomfortable and can’t relax.
Or perhaps you have gone through a change in life, and what was previously acceptable is now no longer working for you. If you are dealing with a disability or age-related health issues, you may decide it’s time to update your tub to something more comfortable and easier for you to use.
Then again, you might want to try some cheap ways to make your bathtub more comfortable before you throw out the baby with the bath water…or the bathtub with the bathwater!
For example, try a mold-resistant bath pillow like this one from Gorilla Grip that offers orthopedic support. It has luxury padded foam and strong suction cups that will adhere well to any smooth-surfaced bathtub.
Or another way to make your bathtub more comfortable is to use an electric bubble massage mat on the bottom of your tub. See my favorite one on Amazon.
How Long Will Your Bathtub Last?
Before you decide on replacing your tub, you will want to compare the different available materials’ cost, weight, and longevity. If you don’t want the hassle of replacing your tub every 10-15 years, you might be willing to be a bit more for copper or porcelain-enameled cast iron.
In general, while less expensive materials like fiberglass and acrylic will not last as long, they tend to be the lighter-weight options. This may be a thing to consider for upstairs bathrooms. You may need to add extra floor supports for a heavier tub and that can increase the cost as well.
Suppose you like to update your décor frequently. In that case, the shorter lifespan of acrylic will suit you, especially as the construction method allows for a wide variety of styles, colors, and shapes.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of various bathtub materials with special attention to the durability of each:
How Long Will a Fiberglass Bathtub Last?
Many people choose fiberglass because it is low cost and very light. It is thinner than most other bathtub options, which makes it ideal for second-story bathrooms. However, the thinness of the material makes it susceptible to warping, cracking, and damage.
Fiberglass bathtubs are coated with epoxy to finish. This finish can scratch easily, which adds to the wear and tear. A scratched surface is harder to clean and less hygienic.
The lifespan of a fiberglass bathtub is around 10 years. Check out the rectangular white fiberglass bathtub (pictured above) by Mustee made from one piece of fiberglass with 40-degree lumbar slope for extra comfort.
How Long Do Acrylic Bathtubs Last?
They also come in a wider variety of colors and styles than the fiberglass bathtubs. Acrylic has a far wider range of available colors than porcelain-coated bathtubs.
The acrylic surface tends to have a warmer feel than porcelain, and it holds heat better than fiberglass.
Like fiberglass, acrylic tubs are lightweight, but they are more durable and less likely to warp, stain, or be damaged by cracks or chips. However, acrylic is susceptible to scratches, so always clean with a soft sponge or microfiber towel.
A very popular choice for many reasons, acrylic bathtubs are your best bet if you want relatively good durability coupled with a wide range of colors and styles.
To get a full comparison between acrylic bathtubs and fiberglass bathtubs, read my post Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub: How to Pick a Winner.
The lifespan of an acrylic bathtub is approximately 10-15 years. See the contemporary acrylic Aqua Eden Tub from Kingston Brass (pictured above). Built for durability, it holds 58 gallons and is glossy white.
How Long Do Porcelain-Enameled Steel Bathtubs Last
When people talk about porcelain bathtubs, they are usually referring to porcelain-coated steel or porcelain-coated cast-iron tubs.
Porcelain-enameled steel bathtubs can be more affordable than acrylic bathtubs, depending on the make and style, but they are much heavier. Porcelain-enameled steel bathtubs are made of a rigid material that doesn’t flex like fiberglass or acrylic.
On the remote chance that you drop a heavy object on the porcelain coating, it can chip. Then you will need to refinish the tub as the exposed metal will rust. However, porcelain-coated steel bathtubs are less likely to be scratched or stained.
With good maintenance, you will find you can get at least 20 years from your porcelain-enameled steel bathtub.
And you can extend the life of your porcelain-enameled steel bathtub by another 10-15 years with a bathtub liner. A bathtub liner is a piece of acrylic or PVC plastic that’s molded to fit over the surface of your tub. Learn everything you need to know about bathtub liners in this post.
Check out the porcelain-enameled steel alcove tub (pictured above) from the reputable manufacturer American Standard. The best thing about this tub is you get a few extra inches of soaking depth relative to a standard alcove tub.
How Long Will a Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Bathtubs Last?
If you find that you prefer the look and feel of porcelain baths over acrylic and want long-term durability, then I recommend porcelain-coated cast-iron bathtubs.
While they are made with the same process as porcelain-enameled steel, the core material used is much stronger and heavier. Cast-iron tubs also retain heat better than steel tubs. They are the perfect tub for long, heated soaks.
Due to the increased weight of cast iron over steel, you may need to install extra floor supports, so bear this in mind as it could add to installation costs.
One of the disadvantages of porcelain over acrylic is that there is less range in color. As with the steel tubs, the surface may be chipped or damaged if a heavy weight is dropped on the porcelain. Reglazing your porcelain tub is something you will have to do if the surface is damaged to prevent the metal core from rusting.
Still can’t decide between an acrylic bathtub and a cast iron bathtub? Read my post, Acrylic vs Cast Iron Bathtubs: An Easy Choice to learn the differences between these bathtubs.
While porcelain-enameled cast iron is expensive and heavier than steel or acrylic, a good cast-iron tub could last as long as you do: a good 70 years or more!
A cast iron tub can be a thing of beauty. Don’t believe me? Look at the Kateryn Bateau Skirted Cast Iron Tub (pictured above) from Signature Hardware. Not only is it unique, but each end is also slippered (slightly raised) to give you added comfort as you soak.
How Long Do Copper Bathtubs Last?
If you want to make a design statement with your tub, a copper bathtub is a real showpiece. Copper is a metal that can be molded without cracking. Unlike steel or cast-iron, it is rust-resistant.
These gorgeous bathtubs are incredibly durable. If you choose a low-gauge (14-gauge) copper bathtub with at least 97% copper, you will be assured a long-lasting bathtub. Scratches in copper are ‘self-healing’ and will vanish over time.
Provided you choose a high-quality copper bathtub, you can be assured of better bathtub hygiene, as copper has antimicrobial properties. Copper also retains heat better than acrylic or porcelain tubs, making them perfect for a long, decadent soak. While you will be limited to the range of light to dark shades of copper, the metal ages with a beautiful patina.
The downside of copper bathtubs is that they are very heavy and rather expensive. However, a copper bathtub will last you a lifetime.
Why not try an ultra-decadent yet Zen copper Japanese soaking tub like this beauty (pictured above) from Premier Copper Products. This round double-walled tub is hand-hammered by artisans in Mexico. It’s made of 99.7% pure recycled copper and it’s lead-free.
How Long Does a Stone Resin Bathtub Last?
Stone resin is a durable bathtub material that is great for resisting chips and cracks. Stone chips are bonded with an adhesive and then molded with resin to create striking modern fittings like bathtubs and sinks.
The grey concrete-like substance is then coated with acrylic to match the natural color of stone. It is less flexible than acrylic or fiberglass tubs and resistant to warping and cracking.
Despite this extra durability, stone resin is much lighter than cast iron. This environment-friendly choice is made from recycled materials and, if well-maintained, could last a lifetime.
Since stone resin is molded, it comes in a wide variety of styles and shapes. Although more costly than acrylic, it is cheaper to make and install than cast iron, and a stone resin bathtub can also last 70 years.
The freestanding oval matte white tub (pictured above) shows you the beauty of a luxury stone resin bathtub. Made by Dowell, it holds up to 60 gallons and is easy to clean and maintain.
How Long Do Stone Bathtubs Last?
For those who love the drama and look of natural stone, then a marble, granite, or travertine bathtub is a timeless and elegant choice.
However, they are very heavy and do not retain water heat well. Natural stone baths are best suited for ground-floor bathrooms.
Their durability offsets the high expense of stone bathtubs. A stone bathtub can last a lifetime.
Prevent Hard Water Damage to Your Bathtub
Hard water has high mineral content and can leave your skin and hair with a residue. But hard water can also damage your tub, if you don’t take extra care to keep it looking good and lasting longer. Routinely wipe the surface with a suitable cleaner to prevent scratches and other stains.
Some chemicals may damage your tub surface, so always check beforehand that you are not using a cleaning agent that is too harsh or abrasive.
Do you live in a state known for hard water? If so, you already know all about the kind of damage hard water can do to your fixtures like bathroom and kitchen sinks. Hard water stains will etch into your bathtub surface and be impossible to remove.
How to Minimize the Damage
If this staining occurs, you will need to refinish or replace your bathtub. Luckily, there are ways to minimize that damage to your bathroom fixtures.
If there is a build-up of crusty deposits in your tub, fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 solution of treated water and white vinegar. Apply this to the tub surface and leave the vinegar to sir for about 30 minutes.
Wipe it clean and check. If there is still a lot of build-ups, you may need to repeat the vinegar spray method a few times.
A long-term and effective action against hard water damage is to treat the problem at the source by installing a water treatment system. Installing a water treatment system may seem like a drastic step, but it is a real investment into your property.
So How Long Does a Bathtub Last?
A bathtub can last anywhere from 5-100 years, depending on what material it’s made of, how it’s installed, and how you maintain it.
Lightweight materials like acrylic or fiberglass are generally less expensive and less durable than their heavier, more expensive metal and stone counterparts, but each has its advantages and disadvantages,
Good maintenance can add years to your bathtub’s lifespan, and revamping your bathtub with a bath liner or reglazing the surface can add another 15-20 years.