Acrylic and cast iron tubs are two of the most popular bathtubs due to their many good qualities. Acrylic tubs offer a wide variety of customizations and ease of installation while cast iron tubs offer a luxury feel with premium qualities. Choosing between them is quite easy with the information in the sections below.
Cast iron tubs are very durable and require less maintenance than acrylic tubs. They also weigh more but retain heat better than acrylic tubs. However, cast iron tubs cost more to purchase and install as they may need floor strengthening. Besides that, they cost more to repair than acrylic tubs.
The best acrylic tub is the KINGSTON BRASS VTDE603122R 60-Inch Contemporary Alcove Acrylic Bathtub. It’s easy to install and maintain and is available in different sizes. The best cast iron tub is the KOHLER K-20201-LA Underscore Rectangle 60-Inch x 30-Inch Alcove Bath. They both have the best materials and usability. Kohler cast iron tubs are among the most stylish followed closely by Lowe’s cast iron tubs.
Acrylic vs cast iron tub
When comparing acrylic versus cast iron tubs, the main distinguishing features include their prices, ease of maintenance, and durability. Acrylic and cast iron tubs have the following differences and similarities:
|Acrylic bathtub||Cast iron bathtub|
|Costs $500 on average||Costs $1,300 on average|
|Made of acrylic reinforced with fiberglass||Made of iron coated with enamel or porcelain|
|Lasts at least 10 years||Lasts at least 70 years|
|Easy to install||Requires professional installation|
|Easy to customize the look||Harder to customize the look|
|Available in many designs||Available in fewer designs|
|Easy to repair||Harder to repair|
|Easy to clean||Easy to clean|
|Average heat retention||High heat retention|
|Lightweight – from 50 pounds||Heavy – from 300 pounds|
Cast iron tubs are more expensive than acrylic tubs. In fact, the two occupy the extremes in terms of the prices of bathtubs. On the lower side are the acrylic tubs which are easy to manufacture hence the lower price. The other end has cast iron soaking tubs which cost a lot but last the longest.
A 60-inch acrylic tub will cost an average of $500 while iron tubs cost $1,300 on average. In choosing between acrylic or cast iron tubs, price should always be a consideration. Besides that, you need to reinforce the floor under the cast iron tub which will cost you more. That’s not necessary with acrylic tubs.
Materials and durability
Acrylic bathtubs are made with acrylic which is molten and made into the desired shape. It can be reinforced with fiberglass for better durability. Due to the relatively easier manufacturing process, acrylic tubs can be made into many different shapes and sizes without significantly increasing the cost.
Both acrylic and fiberglass are relatively weaker materials when compared to cast iron. For this reason, they will warp, scratch or crack with poor maintenance or the use of harsh chemicals. They can also get discolored. Acrylic tubs last for at least 10 to 15 years on average.
On the other hand, an iron bathtub is made by melting iron and pouring it into a mold to get the desired shape. This process is quite costly hence the reason why cast iron tubs are relatively costlier than others. It also limits cast iron tubs to a few standard shapes. The cast iron is then coated with enamel which is fire-polished for a glossy finish.
The rest is a highly durable bathtub since both cast iron and enamel are stronger than acrylic and fiberglass. Cast iron tubs last for 70 years or more.
Acrylic tubs are typically ¼ inch thick which makes them relatively weak and light hence could easily break. Cast iron tubs are typically ⅜ inch thick although the structural strength of iron makes them strong.
Acrylic tubs require more maintenance than cast iron tubs. Both types of tubs require to be wiped clean after each use but cast iron tubs won’t stain or chip easily. You can easily remove rust stains from tubs made of cast iron or acrylic too. Also, the enamel coating on iron tubs is tough and resistant to staining, unlike acrylic. If placed on uneven ground, acrylic tubs will warp while cast iron ones will simply wobble from side to side.
When it comes to cleaning, both tubs are easy to clean although acrylic tubs will be easily affected by harsh cleaners such as acids. These cleaners won’t have an effect on the tough enamel coating on cast iron tubs.
When the surface is damaged, it’s easy to repair acrylic tubs relative to cast iron ones. Chipped enamel on cast iron tubs isn’t easy to repair as it also requires to be done quickly before the iron underneath begins rusting.
Acrylic tubs are lighter than cast iron tubs since acrylic is very light. Acrylic tubs start at a weight of as low as 50 pounds. This makes it easy to move around and, most importantly, it won’t require you to reinforce your floor before installing the tub.
On the other hand, cast iron tubs weigh more than 300 pounds for a medium-sized tub. The result is that your floor will need to be reinforced if the tub is to be installed on the upper floor (1st floor and above).
Cast iron tubs retain heat much better than acrylic tubs at the same level of thickness. While coated acrylic tubs are quite impressive when it comes to heat retention in relation to other materials, cast iron tubs will get warm when hot/warm water is poured into them. They then slowly release the heat to the water making you have longer baths as the water will remain warm for longer.
Besides these major differences, you can test whether you have a cast iron or acrylic tub with a magnet. Simply place the magnet on the surface of the tub. If it sticks, it’s cast iron (or other magnetic metal). If it doesn’t, it’s acrylic (or other synthetic material).
Acrylic tubs are bathtubs made of acrylic as the main material. Vacuum-formed sheets of acrylic are made into different shapes and sizes of bathtubs. In most cases, acrylic is reinforced with fiberglass for better durability.
The advantages of acrylic tubs include:
- Available in more colors, sizes, shapes, and designs than cast iron tubs.
- More affordable than cast iron tubs.
- Easy to maintain (cleaning and repairing).
- Relatively good heat retention compared to marble.
- Lightweight hence doesn’t require the floor under them to be reinforced.
- Easily customizable.
If you get acrylic tubs, get the best quality to enjoy these benefits.
The disadvantages of acrylic tubs include:
- Acrylic is easily scratched compared to cast iron or enamel.
- Less luxurious than cast iron tubs.
- Sensitive to harsh cleaners.
- Structurally weaker than cast iron and can warp or crack.
- Doesn’t improve the resale value of the home.
- Not good when used with a shower.
- Can’t be repainted or refinished since the color is within the material itself.
These reasons make it suitable for use as a temporary bathtub since it can’t go beyond one generation.
Cast iron bathtubs
Cast iron tubs are bathtubs made from cast iron then covered with glossy enamel or porcelain. They give off a highly luxurious look and are heavy enough to require that the floor under them is reinforced if it’s not strong enough to bear their weight.
The advantages of cast iron tubs include:
- High heat retention.
- Luxurious and classic look.
- Resistant to scratches and damage by harsh chemicals.
- Very durable and can last for generations.
- Increases the resale value of the home.
- Can be comfortably used with a shower.
- Can be repainted and refinished for as little as $20-$30 for a patch and around $500 for the whole tub.
These make them easily one of the best tubs.
The disadvantages of cast iron tubs include:
- Very heavy and will require the floor to be reinforced in some cases.
- The enamel used to coat the cast iron is quite difficult to repair when damaged.
- Less designs and customizability than acrylic tubs.
- Costlier than most types of bathtubs.
- The iron underneath can rust when the enamel coat is chipped.
Cast iron tubs are very durable and, if properly maintained, can last for generations without problems.
Cast iron or acrylic tub: which is better?
Cast iron tubs are better than acrylic tubs. However, when it comes to acrylic vs cast iron bathtubs, the decision is dependent on the cost, maintenance, and durability. If you want a tub that’s affordable, easy to maintain, and install, acrylic tubs fit your needs perfectly. However, if you’re in for a luxurious tub that will last for generations, cast iron tubs will serve you better. There are many cast iron tubs for sale and whether you get a new or used one, it’ll serve you for a long time. When using both types of tubs, always aim to use as little water as possible since baths use more water than showers. As per the EPA, shorter baths and showers help preserve water in general.