Between acrylic and a fiberglass bathtub, which one is the best?
These two types of material differ in terms of cost, durability, weight, and ease of cleaning. Knowing the difference can mean saving money and getting the perfect bathtub for your house.
How do acrylic bathtubs compare to fiberglass tubs?
Fiberglass tubs are cheaper ($300-$500) than acrylic tubs ($500-$1200) but are less durable.
When it comes to their weight, fiberglass bathtubs weigh 70lbs while acrylic ones weigh 100lbs on average. Acrylic tubs last approximately 30 years while fiberglass bathtubs last less than 15 years.
Acrylic and fiberglass (gelcoat) materials are among the most popular materials used to make bathtubs. Tubs made of these materials are preferred cast iron and silver due to their lower prices and other individual advantages.
Acrylic Tubs vs. Fiberglass Bathtubs: Differences
Besides the similarities discussed above, acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs have a few core differences which are the basis of most decisions when one is considering getting a new bathtub. The differences exist in the following areas:
|Aspect||Fiberglass tub||Acrylic tub|
|Cost||Fiberglass tubs cost between $300 and $500.||The average cost of acrylic bathtubs is $500 to $1,200.|
|Weight||Average weight of a fiberglass tub is 70 pounds.||Average weight of acrylic tubs is 100 pounds.|
|Strength||At the same thickness, fiberglass tubs are fairly fragile.||Acrylic bathtubs of the same thickness are stronger.|
|Lifespan||Fiberglass tubs last 10-15 years.||Acrylic tubs last 30 or more years.|
|Repair||Fiberglass tubs are cheaper and easier to repair.||Acrylic tubs are comparatively costlier and harder to repair.|
|Cleaning||Stain removal is tougher on fiberglass tubs.||Acrylic tubs are easier to clean compared to fiberglass tubs.|
|Color availability||Fewer colors to choose from.||More than 200 different colors available.|
|Porosity||With long-term use, fiberglass tubs begin to become porous.||Acrylic tubs are non-porous even with long-term use except in cases of breakage.|
Acrylic bathtubs cost between $500 and $1,200 while fiberglass bathtubs of the same size cost between $300 and $500. This pricing clearly shows that acrylic tubs are more expensive of the two. If you’re looking to buy the cheaper tub, you’d definitely go for a fiberglass tub.
The differences in cost are due to fiberglass being cheaper and easier to manufacture compared to acrylic tubs.
In terms of weight, fiberglass weighs less than acrylic given that thicker layers of the latter material are required to achieve the same strength. The average weight of acrylic tubs is 100lbs while that of fiberglass tubs is 70lbs.
As you can see, the difference in weight is slight unless you’re comparing them to cast iron tubs, which usually average 500-600 pounds for the same size.
Pro tip: Weight is an important factor when choosing freestanding bathtubs. Heavier freestanding tubs are better than lighter ones. This is because they are less likely to move about or topple over when in use.
Also, the weight of a bathtub is an issue when installing it on the upper floors of a building. It is tedious to carry heavier tubs such as cast iron when there’s need to install them on upper floors.
Heavier tubs may also affect the integrity of your floor if you’re on a remodel project.
3. Durability (Lifespan)
Acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs last about the same time. Acrylic, however, has a slight advantage over fiberglass when it comes to lifespan.
The typical lifespan of a fiberglass tub is 15 years while the lifespan of an acrylic tub is about 30 years. This is mainly due to fiberglass being thinner and more brittle when compared to acrylic.
Fiberglass is made up of small strings of glass woven together to create one solid material. On the other hand, acrylic is a plastic-like material. To create a bathtub or other item from these materials, they are both molten then poured into a mold as stated above.
For acrylic, the cooling process may see some areas stretch and become thin hence less durable. For fiberglass, the heating process may damage the glass strands or separate them such that they do not bind together enough for strength.
4. Ease of repairing
Fiberglass is easier to repair than acrylic. Most of the repairs on fiberglass tubs can be carried out at home on a DIY project. Commercially available fiberglass shower units can be used to fix fiberglass materials in your bathroom with ease.
The problem is that fiberglass is usually a thin layer (1/4 inch) and the color of your tub is usually only on the upper part. It also cracks easily compared to acrylic. If the crack is deep, it could easily change the appearance of your tub.
With acrylic, scratching or chipping is not easy. When they occur, they may be deep enough to cause leakages. Fixing them is thus more difficult than when repairing a fiberglass bathtub.
When it comes to appearance, acrylic is the better option. Given that fiberglass is made of strings of glass, it does not have as clean a finish as acrylic.
It is rare to find a fiberglass bathtub that does not have an acrylic finish. Smoother materials are often used to give fiberglass tubs a smoother finish.
Acrylic bathtubs come in more colors than fiberglass ones owing to the nature of the materials and their longevity. Acrylic bathtubs come in more than 200 colors, so, if you’re looking to choose from the widest array of colors to pick from, you’ll want to consider acrylic tubs.
6. Ease of cleaning
Acrylic is easier to clean compared to fiberglass owing to the nature of the material. With an acrylic finish, you only need frequent cleaning using cleaning agents such as vinegar and soapy water.
Acrylic tubs are more resistant to scratching and chipping due to their smoother finish. These tubs are, therefore, longer lasting and easier to clean. You can use abrasive cleaning items on an acrylic tub but not on one made of fiberglass.
Fiberglass vs. Acrylic Tubs: Similarities
Acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs are similar in many ways. Put side by side, you will be forgiven for confusing one for the other.
This comes from the way they are manufactured as both are a result of plastic molding. This means that they are molten then poured into a mold with the desired shape.
Given their differences, they are often mixed together at different stages of the molding process to obtain the desired strength and weight. At times, fiberglass is added to acrylic for strength. Similarly, acrylic is added to fiberglass to add shininess and make it easier to clean.
Both materials are light (compared to cast iron for example), durable and beautiful when finished properly. Cleaning both materials is almost similarly easy as normal and frequent cleaning keeps them sparkling. Both materials will also likely get discolored over time at the same rate if cleaned frequently with harsh materials.
The installation costs are almost similar given that bathtubs from both materials weigh only slightly different from each other. Lastly, owing to the malleability of both materials, you can find any shape or size made from either fiberglass or acrylic.
They are not limited like cast iron or other metals. Even better, specially-shaped bathtubs made from acrylic or fiberglass do not cost significantly more than the normally-shaped ones.
Choosing Your Bathtub
When it comes to deciding between the two, price alone is not the deciding factor. You need to consider the weight, size, and durability of the bathtub to make up your mind.