The decision between acrylic or fiberglass tubs is tough since they are both based on fiberglass. Acrylic tubs are made by reinforcing clear plastic with fiberglass. These two types of bathtubs share many features, but what are their differences?
Acrylic and fiberglass tubs are similar as they’re both based on fiberglass, lightweight, affordable, and easy to manufacture. However, acrylic tubs are stronger, more durable, and in more varieties, but more expensive than fiberglass tubs. Fiberglass tubs are lighter but stain faster than acrylic tubs.
Once you figure out the differences between the two tubs, you can decide which one you can buy as per the cost, maintenance, and other factors.
Acrylic vs. Fiberglass Bathtubs
|Weighs 70 lbs. on average||Weighs 70 lbs. on average|
|Costs $300 or more||Costs $500 or more|
|Easy to install||Easy to install|
|Easy to clean, easy to repair||Easy to clean, harder to repair|
|Limited designs, colors, and features||Many designs, colors, and features|
|Relatively less durable than acrylic tubs||Durable and resistant to damage|
|Lasts 10-15 years||Up to 30 years|
|Average heat retention||High heat retention|
|Weaker than acrylic at the same thickness||Stronger than fiberglass at the same thickness|
|Fiberglass base material||Fiberglass base material|
|Becomes porous after a while||Remains non-porous|
Differences between acrylic and fiberglass tubs
The differences between acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs include the following:
- Acrylic tubs have more varieties in terms of fixtures, colors, and textures when compared to fiberglass tubs.
- Acrylic tubs are more durable than fiberglass tubs. Acrylic rarely fades, cracks, or chips, while fiberglass scratches and cracks easily.
- Acrylic tubs are more expensive than fiberglass tubs because they have a more difficult manufacturing process. The level of manufacturing and automation in acrylic tubs is much higher than that in fiberglass. Paying for human labor is costlier than machine labor, so acrylic tubs are costlier.
- Fiberglass tubs get stained much faster than acrylic tubs if not cleaned properly. If not given proper care, fiberglass will absorb water, stain, and eventually grow mold and mildew.
- Fiberglass loses color faster than acrylic. This is mainly because the color of fiberglass tubs is just on the gelcoat and not the whole tub like it is for acrylic tubs.
- It’s easier to repair fiberglass than acrylic.
These differences are what will help you choose between an acrylic and fiberglass tub.
Similarities between acrylic and fiberglass tubs
The similarities between acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs include the following:
- Both bathtubs are lightweight and thus easy to install.
- Both are easily available at home improvement stores.
- Both are based on fiberglass and come with a shiny finish. At times, fiberglass bathtubs can be finished with acrylic to make them shiny and impervious to water.
- They are both cheaper than porcelain and other bathtub materials.
- Both are easy to clean and maintain. You can use simple household cleaners for both tubs when, for example, you want to remove hair dye from the tubs.
- Both are highly flexible, allowing for easy customization of the bathtubs.
You, therefore, can’t choose between an acrylic or fiberglass bathtub based on these aspects.
Acrylic tubs are made by reinforcing colored plastic sheets with layers of fiberglass. This process makes acrylic tubs slightly more expensive than fiberglass tubs. Acrylic tubs are also slightly heavier than fiberglass tubs due to the addition of plastic to the fiberglass.
The combined strengths of fiberglass and plastic make acrylic tubs durable, lightweight, and easier to maintain compared to fiberglass bathtubs. With good maintenance, well-made acrylic tubs have 10 to 15 years of lifespan. Some last up to 30 years with good care.
The advantages of acrylic tubs include the following:
- Available in many shapes, colors, shapes, and sizes.
- The surface is non-porous.
The disadvantages of acrylic tubs include:
- Easily scratched.
- Costlier than fiberglass tubs.
- A short lifespan (10-15 years) compared to other bathtub materials.
Fiberglass, also known as fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) or gelcoat, is made up of interwoven glass string molten and shaped as desired. After the molding, resin gelcoat is sprayed on fiberglass to give it the glossy finish you see in most fiberglass items, such as bathtubs.
Fiberglass is one of the lightest materials, making fiberglass tubs easy to install. You don’t need to add support under the bathtub when installed on the upper floors in a story building. Fiberglass is also long-lasting, with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. You can also easily fix cracks on fiberglass tubs with a few tools.
The advantages of fiberglass bathtubs include:
- They’re the most affordable.
- Easy to repair.
- Easy to install.
The disadvantages of fiberglass bathtubs include:
- Not very durable.
- The surface is inconsistent without a coat on it.
Which is better, an acrylic and fiberglass bathtub?
The choice between the two types of bathtubs is personal, given that they have advantages over each other. For example, fiberglass is much lighter and cheaper than acrylic. However, acrylic is tougher and more resistant to stains and damage in general.
What are bathtubs made of?
Some of the most common bathtub materials include fiberglass, acrylic, stone resin, cultured marble, porcelain, ceramic, cast iron, copper, steel, wood, and others. These materials have different costs, weights, and longevities, with metal being costlier and heavier than synthetic ones.
If you’d like to know how to tell if a bathtub is fiberglass or acrylic, touch it and feel the temperature since acrylic tubs are often warmer than fiberglass in the same room. Acrylic tubs are also found in more colors than fiberglass, with the latter mostly being in white. Acrylic tubs also appear thinner than fiberglass tubs at the edges.
ProCrylic vs. Fiberglass
Procrylic is a type of acrylic material that has all the benefits of acrylic but without the need for fiberglass backing. It’s easier to install and maintain than acrylic and fiberglass, hence a better material. Procrylic is highly durable and appears in a bright white and highly glossy design.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to tell the difference between acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs
The main difference between acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs is the formation process. Tub manufacturers vacuum acrylic into the final tub form, which may leave some thin and weak spots in the tub. Fiberglass manufacturing doesn’t involve vacuuming.
How much is a fiberglass tub vs acrylic?
Acrylic bathtubs cost up to $1,000, including installation, while fiberglass tubs cost up to $800.
Do acrylic tubs turn yellow?
Without proper cleaning and maintenance, acrylic tubs can fade and turn yellow.