Fiberglass vs. Acrylic Tub: What’s the Difference?

Without a bit of inside knowledge, a fiberglass tub and an acrylic tub placed side by side might look identical. Both bear the same generic appearance, so at a glance, they look the same. But in truth, they’re considerably different in various aspects, making each best suited to specific scenarios.

In this article, we explore the pivotal differences between fiberglass and acrylic to help you choose the best fit for your home.

What is a Fiberglass Tub?

Fiberglass Tub

A fiberglass tub is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced plastic or FRP. This material consists of layers upon layers of minuscule glass strings that are woven together to create a cohesive result. Fiberglass bathtubs are lightweight yet durable, making them a popular choice for many homeowners.

They’re affordable, so they’re an excellent option for budget-conscious homeowners. The lightweight nature and budget-friendly cost also lend well to DIY projects, as these tubs are easily maneuverable, don’t require extensive framed support networks, and won’t break the bank.

How it’s Made

The manufacturing process behind a fiberglass bathtub is somewhat unique. The process is called fiber-reinforced (FRP) plastic molding and starts with a carefully sculpted mold that mirrors the shape and size of the intended tub.

Manufacturers spray a gel coat into the mold to create the top layer, then add in layers of polyester resin and fine glass particles or fiberglass. This stage is called the reinforcement stage, as it helps provide better strength and durability in the tub.

Once the resin and fiberglass are in place, the tub sits for a while to cure and dry into a solid, rigid structure. After it cures, manufacturers remove the tub from the mold and trim the rough edges to create a smooth result.

Pros and Cons

Fiberglass bathtubs are perfect for some situations, as their perks lend well to specific applications. The most notable upsides to these bathtubs include the following:

  • Affordability: If you’re working on a budget, the affordable price tag on fiberglass bathtubs might be perfect for you.
  • Lightweight: The lightweight nature of these tubs makes them perfect for simple, DIY-friendly installations.
  • Easy to maintain: Maintaining these tubs is straightforward and easy, as you’ll only need a mild cleaner and a soft cloth. On top of that, you can repair most minor damage at home.

Of course, fiberglass bathtubs aren’t perfect for every scenario. Instead, they have a few notable drawbacks, including the following:

  • Not as durable: While these tubs offer solid durability, they’re more susceptible to cracks and scratches than other tub materials.
  • Dulled appearance: The glossy coating over these tubs can dull over time, creating noticeably dull marks on your otherwise shiny tub.
  • Heat retention: These tubs aren’t as insulated as some bathtub materials, so the water in your tub might not retain its heat for as long.

What is an Acrylic Tub?

Acrylic Bathtub

Acrylic bathtubs, as you probably guessed from the name, feature a sheet of acrylic material. However, while the name may seem to indicate a composition of solid acrylic, these tubs are actually reinforced with fiberglass.

They’re made with a layer of acrylic sheeting and strengthened by a layer of fiberglass, which creates a durable, versatile, and resilient tub. The acrylic part helps with durability and versatility, whereas the fiberglass lends strength and resilience.

These tubs come in various shapes, sizes, and colors to accommodate multiple bathroom layouts, spaces, and aesthetics. They feature a high-gloss finish that earns them a spot among the most popular choices, as it creates a more luxurious appearance without having to spend hundreds or thousands.

Acrylic tubs are usually slightly pricier than their fiberglass counterparts, but they’re less prone to scratching and cracking. On top of that, they can maintain their shiny, high-gloss appearance for many years with routine care and maintenance.

How it’s Made

Manufacturers use a process known as thermoforming to create acrylic tubs. They start with a sheet of acrylic, which they heat to a certain temperature to make it more pliable and easy to work with.

Once the material is more supple, they stretch it over a mold that features the desired bathtub shape. As the acrylic cools and hardens, it retains the shape of the mold. An acrylic sheet on its own isn’t overly strong or resilient, so to improve these factors, manufacturers reinforce the acrylic shell with layers of fiberglass and resin.

The finished product is lightweight yet durable and features a glossy finish that is impact resistant. It offers solid heat retention, allowing your bathwater to stay warmer for longer. However, it’s susceptible to damage from harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners, so it’s important to use mild cleaners on these tubs.

Pros and Cons

Like fiberglass bathtubs, acrylic tubs offer a few specific benefits and drawbacks. The best advantages of these tubs include the following:

  • Long-lasting: The glossy finish on acrylic tubs can maintain its luster for years with proper care, ensuring you get the most out of your purchase.
  • Durable: Acrylic tubs are more durable and less prone to scratching and cracking than fiberglass models, allowing them to maintain their integrity for longer.
  • Heat retention: While the heat retention of acrylic can’t compare to materials like copper or cast iron, these tubs do a much better job of retaining heat than fiberglass tubs.
  • Easy maintenance: These tubs are easy to maintain, but you’ll need to avoid using harsh or abrasive chemicals and cleaners on the surface, as these can damage the tub.

While the perks are notable, it doesn’t hurt to consider the downsides, which include the following:

  • Pricier: Acrylic tubs are pricier than other options, making them less of a budget-friendly pick.
  • Somewhat heavier: Compared to fiberglass bathtubs, acrylic tubs are heavier, so you may need more than two people to safely maneuver them through your home.
  • Susceptible to damage: Harsh chemicals and cleaners can wreak havoc on the surface of an acrylic tub, so using mild cleaners is crucial to preserve its looks.

So, What’s the Difference?


The key difference between fiberglass and acrylic bathtubs is the material. While fiberglass tubs are made from gel coatings, resin, and fiberglass, acrylic bathtubs consist of an acrylic sheet and fiberglass reinforcements.

Beyond the primary difference in composition, acrylic and fiberglass tubs further separate themselves from each other in various categories. In general, fiberglass tubs are more budget-friendly, but the trade-offs include a shorter lifespan, less durability, and poorer heat retention.

In contrast, acrylic tubs are pricier, but you get what you pay for with better durability, a longer lifespan, and better heat retention. The chart below overviews these differences to help you better evaluate the most suitable pick for your home.

Color optionsLessMore
Heat retentionPoorerBetter
Scratch and chip resistancePoorerBetter

Which One is Better?

Ultimately, the best option for your home hinges on your specific needs and budget. For example, if you’re working on a budget and don’t mind purchasing a tub that won’t last quite as long, a fiberglass tub might be the perfect option.

Its lightweight nature lends well to DIY installations, so if you’re familiar with DIY projects, you can save more money by skipping the professional installation.

On the other hand, acrylic bathtubs are a good option for those who don’t mind spending a bit more for better durability and a longer lifespan. While these tubs aren’t the most durable or longest-lasting option available on the market, they offer solid features at a good price.

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