How to Choose the Best Bathtub
Choosing the best bathtub is easier if you understand the different types. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Richard S. of Burbank, Calif.)
Replacing your bathtub is a relatively simple way to upgrade the look of your washroom and should be a part of any major bathroom renovation. But with the huge variety of bathtub types available, you might find it confusing to balance price against the need for longevity and customization.
Here's a rundown of some of the most popular tubs and how they stack up.
Porcelain on steel tubs
Porcelain on steel (PoS) bathtubs come at the lowest cost ($200 to $400) and are favored by new home builders because these tubs are easy to install. They're stamped out of a solid steel piece and coated in porcelain, which makes the tubs resistant to abrasion during thorough scrubbing. These models don't have a substantial lifespan, however, and you may need to replace them every decade or so.
Related: Pros and Cons of Walk-in Bathtubs
Another cost-effective option for a new tub is fiberglass ($200 to $500). Also known as FRP, these tubs are made by spraying polyester resin into a mold, which hardens into a durable, scratch-resistant coating.
How to Update Your Bathroom for Less
This video explains the costs involved in installing a new tub and other bathroom remodeling projects.
Fiberglass is composed of interwoven glass strings that turn into a gelatin-like substance when heated, allowing the product to be spread over a mold. Once dry, the finished product is popped out of its mold and shipped. These tubs are among the lightest you can purchase, but their color may fade over time.
Costwise, the next step up from fiberglass is acrylic ($1,300 to $1,500). These tubs start as a large piece of acrylic that's heated and pulled over a mold. They're then vacuumed tightly onto the mold, reinforced with fiberglass and resin and removed. Although they cost more than fiberglass bathtubs, they're easy to clean, durable, and difficult to scratch. Potential drawbacks in their construction include thin spots near tub corners if the acrylic was pulled too tight.
Cast iron tubs
These tubs are among the most expensive ($2,000 or more), and are very heavy (two to three hundred pounds), so you'll want to hire a pro for any cast iron bathtub you install. They're made by pouring molten iron into a mold and are nearly impervious to dents, scratches or chemicals.
Cast iron tubs can be either built into a bathroom wall or come as classic standalone models with metal claw feet and a glossy porcelain finish. Low noise, reduced vibration and superior heat retention are all characteristics of these tubs, and most manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee for as long as you own the tub. Bear in mind, however, that customization options are limited here. Most cast irons aren't more than five feet long, and you can't install extra features like whirlpool jets.
An alternative to cast iron is the Americast tub made by American Standard. In 1988, the company introduced the Americast material, which has half the weight of iron but is just as thick and durable with excellent heat retention. The company makes three models: the Stratford ($1,000), which is a whirlpool, the Princeton ($700), which has several luxury features, and the Cambridge ($500), a standard five-foot model.
The variety of types available on the market lets you pick and choose the best bathtub for you. Cost, durability or customization are all possible depending on how much you want to spend if you prefer a DIY or professional installation.
Editor's note: This is an updated version on an article originally posted on May 2, 2013.