Acrylic and cast iron bathtubs are quite popular.
These two are preferred for their durability and premium feel besides their ease of maintenance.
However, there are some differences between them which may be important in deciding whether to get an acrylic bathtub or one made from cast iron material.
Overall, cast iron tubs cost more than the acrylic ones. This is because they last longer and are more resistant to damage than acrylic tubs. Acrylic tubs will also get discolored while cast iron ones will not.
Comparison: Differences and Similarities
While the two bathtub materials have their advantages and disadvantages, it could be a task telling the apart and deciding which one best suits your needs.
To properly draw the two materials apart, the following aspects shall be assessed:
1. Manufacturing Processes
Acrylic is synthetic in nature and is often mixed with fiberglass for strength and durability. The two materials are molten at high temperatures then mixed in specific amounts. They’re then poured into a mold which has the design of the bathtub.
The color of the tub is also added in the molten state. They then cool to the desired tub shape. The finish involves polishing the tub to a fine and glossy surface.
For cast iron, the process is nearly the same save for the addition of color. Once the tub has cooled down, a coat of a glossy material such as acrylic, porcelain or enamel is added.
2. Cost and Installation Differences
Of the two, you’ll spend more buying a cast iron tub than an acrylic one. This comes about due to their differences in longevity and heat retention with cast iron being the better of the two.
At the moment, the price for a 60-inch tub made of acrylic goes for a minimum of $500. A similarly-sized cast iron tub will cost at least $1,300. You may need to pay more since some cast iron tubs come with an unfinished exterior. Such a job can cost about $50.
When it comes to the installation process, the cast iron tub will cost more owing to its weight. You’ll need to reinforce the floor area unto which the tub will stand since most floors are not meant to bear such weight in a single area.
Owing to this reason, you’ll need expert hands to properly install the cast iron tub in your home.
For the acrylic tub, its lightness makes it easy to install, with the standard floor able to withstand its weight even when in use.
For both tubs, you ave several options falling between the general categories of freestanding and fixed tubs.
3. Heat Retention
For bathtubs, the time you can spend in it will depend on how long it retains heat and, as a result, the warmth of the water. When compared, iron is a better heat conductor than acrylic and fiberglass.
As such, hot water poured into the two types of tubs at the same temperature will retain its heat for longer in an iron cast tub than in an acrylic one.
The difference in heat retention isn’t a major deciding factor since even an acrylic tub will retain heat long enough for you to have a bath and a for few minutes afterwards.
Between the two, cast iron tubs require less attention and will last the longest when subjected to similar conditions. All you’ll need with the cast iron tub is to wipe it clean after showering and remove any stubborn stains with soap and a washing sponge.
Cast iron tubs also rarely get damaged. In case this occurs, it’s often the glossy part made of enamel, porcelain or acrylic that gets chipped. Damaging the thick iron beneath is nearly impossible.
When the material on the outer surface chips, it’s easily refinished with DIY kits at home. If you don’t repair the chip, the iron below may rust. Such a repair can cost up to $500 depending on the size of the damage.
Acrylic is less durable compared to cast iron. If not installed properly, it can easily get damaged through warping and chipping. If you’re to go for this type, choose the high-end variants as they’re thicker and more strengthened than the low-end ones.
Damage to an acrylic tub can be undone depending on the extent of the damage. For example, most mild damages can be repaired with a home kit for repairing cracks and chips. For deep and wide cracks, you’ll need to call in an expert to do the repair.
Another difference in this category is that acrylic bath tubs could get discolored while iron cast ones don’t.
5. Installation of A Shower Head
Owing to its heaviness, a cast iron tub is stable enough to hold other accessories such as a shower-head without toppling over or getting damaged.
When the same is installed on an acrylic tub, it could warp or get damaged from the weight of the accessories.
6. Available Options
Both acrylic and cast iron bathtubs are available in many different shapes and sizes for you to pick from.
Owing to the ease of making acrylic tubs, however, there are more color variations of this tub than cast iron ones.
How to Choose Between Acrylic and Cast Iron Tubs
If you’re torn between acrylic vs cast iron tubs, your needs are what will determine what you go for. If you’re on a tight budget, go for an acrylic tub.
If you have a lot of users, don’t plan on moving house and want something that will last for decades, save up for a cast iron tub instead.
Cast iron tubs also retain their resale values over the long term compared to all other types of bath tubs. You can thus recoup a large part of their initial cost when selling them off.