Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub: Similarities and Differences

A decision between acrylic or fiberglass tubs is a tough one since they are both based on fiberglass. Acrylic tubs are made by reinforcing clear plastic with fiberglass. It’s even harder to differentiate acrylic and fiberglass tubs as they also share many other features with just a few 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, in more varieties but more expensive than fiberglass tubs. Fiberglass tubs are lighter but stain faster than acrylic tubs. 

Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub

Acrylic vs Fiberglass Bathtubs 

 FiberglassTubsAcrylic Tubs
WeightLightweight; average 70 pounds. Lightweight; average 100 pounds. 
CostThe average price is $300 or more. The average price is $500 or more. 
Ease of installation Easy to installEasy to install 
Ease of cleaning and maintenance Easy to clean, easy to repairEasy to clean, harder to repair
VarietiesLimited designs, colors, and featuresMany designs, colors, and features
Durability Relatively less durable Durable and resistant to damage 
Lifespan10-15 yearsUp to 30 years 
Heat retention Average heat retention Better heat retention  
StrengthWeaker than acrylic at the same thicknessStronger than fiberglass at the same thickness
Base material FiberglassFiberglass
Porosity Becomes porous after a whileRemains 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 the 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 can get scratched and cracked relatively easily. 
  • Acrylic tubs are more expensive to fiberglass tubs given that 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 hence the reason why 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 Bathtubs

Acrylic tubs are made by reinforcing colored plastic sheets with layers of fiberglass. This process makes acrylic tubs slightly more expensive compared to fiberglass tubs. Acrylic tubs are also slightly heavier than fiberglass tubs owing 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 a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Some last to 30 years with good care. 

Pros

The advantages of acryic tubs incldue:

  • Lightweight
  • Available in many shapes, colors, shapes, and sizes.
  • The surface is non-porous.
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.

Cons

The disadvantages of acrylic tubs include:

  • Easily scratched.
  • Costlier than fiberglass tubs.
  • Short lifespan (10-15 years) comapred to other bathtub materials.

Fiberglass Bathtubs

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 which makes 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 as it has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. You can also easily fix cracks on fiberglass tubs using a few tools.

Pros

The advantages of fiberglass bathtubs include:

  • They’re the most affordable.
  • Easy to repair.
  • Easy to install.

Cons

The disadvantages of fiberglass bathtubs include:

  • Not very durable.
  • The surface is inconsistent without a coat on it.

Which is better between 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 the metal ones being costlier and heavier than the 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 both acrylic and fiberglass hence a better material than the two. Procrylic is highly durable and appears in a bright white and highly glossy design. 

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