When it comes to bathroom remodeling, one of the key decisions homeowners face is choosing the right tub material. The two most common choices are porcelain and acrylic.
Both materials have distinctive characteristics, with porcelain being renowned for its classic, durable finish, while acrylic is known for its flexibility and lighter weight.
As we delve further into this topic, we explore each material’s pros and cons to help you decide which material is the best fit for your home.
About Porcelain Tubs
Porcelain bathtubs are a go-to pick for many homeowners seeking a durable, long-lasting material. These tubs are made with a sturdy base metal, such as cast iron or steel, that forms the bathtub’s shape.
The tub is then coated in a layer of porcelain enamel, which is a glass-like substance fused to the surface of the metal base material.
A sturdy, glossy white bathtub that can withstand the test of time. They remain a popular choice for their durability, heat retention, simple maintenance, and timeless appeal.
Pros and Cons
When considering a porcelain tub, weighing the pros and cons doesn’t hurt.
The most notable perks of these tubs include the following:
- Timeless appeal: The sleek, glossy surface of a porcelain bath is timeless and matches nearly any bathroom aesthetic.
- Solid construction: These tubs feature a solid, durable construction that allows them to hold up well under routine usage.
- Heat retention: The construction of porcelain lends well to heat retention, meaning the water in your bathtub will stay warmer longer.
- Ease of cleaning: Cleaning a porcelain tub is simple – all you’ll need is a soft cleaning cloth, mild detergent, and warm water. Skip the abrasive cleaning detergents and scrubbers, as these can damage the tub’s surface.
- Longevity: These tubs can last decades with proper care and maintenance, making them an exceptional option for those who want something that will last.
Of course, porcelain has a few downsides to consider, including the following:
- Susceptible to cracks and chips: While these tubs are undoubtedly durable, they’re prone to cracks and chips when struck with hard objects. You can repair most minor damage, but this is something to consider.
- Pricey: These tubs are built to last, so you’ll often have to pay more to purchase these tubs.
- Hefty: These tubs are heavy and often require additional support when installed on any floor other than the ground level of your home. On top of that, maneuvering these tubs often takes multiple people, as the sheer weight makes them clunky and hard to carry.
- More complex repairs: While repairing a crack or chip in a porcelain tub is doable, it can be tricky to achieve a seamless finish with an at-home DIY repair kit.
Porcelain bathtubs are an ideal option for homeowners who enjoy taking long, luxurious soaks. They offer excellent heat retention, so you can go longer before needing to top off the tub with hot water or hop out of the bathtub.
Aside from this, these tubs are an excellent fit for those who want something that will last many years and offer timeless aesthetics. These tubs are built to last, featuring a solid base material and fused porcelain enamel.
The glossy white surface is perfect for nearly any bathroom aesthetic, blending into your space to create timeless appeal.
Of course, you’ll need to be prepared to spend more if you want a porcelain tub. So, if you’re on a budget, this option might not be the best fit.
About Acrylic Tubs
If a porcelain tub isn’t quite your cup of tea, an acrylic tub might be another viable option. Acrylic tubs offer a seamless blend of style, functionality, and affordability, making them a go-to pick for millions of homeowners.
These tubs are made from sheets of acrylic, which the manufacturer heats and stretches over a tub-shaped mold. Since the acrylic sheets on their own aren’t overly durable, manufacturers add layers of fiberglass to create a more solid bathtub.
The resulting tub is lightweight, durable, and easy to maintain.
Pros and Cons
Like porcelain tubs, acrylic tubs offer a few unique pros and cons.
The most remarkable benefits of these tubs include the following:
- Lightweight: These tubs are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and don’t require added support when installed on an upper floor.
- Durable: The fiberglass and acrylic construction of these tubs create a durable finish that is both scratch and chip resistant.
- Numerous color options: Acrylic tubs can come in various colors, from bright, bold hues to standard neutrals.
- Affordable: These tubs are one of the most affordable options on the market, taking second place behind fiberglass bathtubs as the cheapest options available.
- Easy to clean: Maintaining an acrylic bathtub is simple. Wipe it down with non-abrasive scrubbers and use gentle cleaning detergents – it’s as easy as that!
While acrylic tubs are an ideal option for many homeowners, they have a few drawbacks, including the following:
- Shorter lifespans: These tubs don’t last nearly as long as other options, like porcelain or copper tubs.
- Prone to discoloration: The surface of acrylic tubs, particularly white or neutral-colored tubs, is prone to yellowing and discoloration.
- Poor heat retention: Unlike porcelain, acrylic tubs don’t do a great job of retaining bathwater heat, so they might not be the best fit for those who enjoy a toasty soak.
Acrylic bathtubs are an ideal fit for homeowners on a budget who want something lightweight and easy to install. These tubs are extremely affordable yet solidly durable, and while they won’t last nearly as long as some bathtubs, they’re a solid option for those with tighter budgets.
However, they’re not ideal for those who prefer long, luxurious soaks, as they’re not great at retaining heat from your bathwater, so you may need to add hot water more frequently.
So, What’s the Difference?
The primary difference between porcelain and acrylic bathtubs is the material they’re made with.
While porcelain bathtubs feature a steel or cast iron core enrobed in porcelain enamel, acrylic bathtubs feature sheets of acrylic and fiberglass molded to form a bathtub.
This pivotal difference in composition creates a laundry list of differences that further separate the two.
The chart offers a quick overview of these differences to help you choose the best fit for your home.
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Given the purpose of a bathtub, heat retention is an important factor to consider. Of course, if you plan to use the tub as a two-in-one setup and primarily as a shower, heat retention isn’t as big of a deal.
However, if you love taking long soaks in your bathtub to wind down after a long day at work, you’ll want to consider how well the tub retains heat. Porcelain tubs do a great job of retaining heat, making them a great fit for those who enjoy bathing.
On the other hand, acrylic tubs fall short in this category, making them a better choice for those who rarely bathe and typically shower.
When shopping for a bathtub, weight is often a forgotten factor. However, it’s a critical consideration, especially if you plan to place your bathtub on an upper floor in your home.
While both bathtub materials can go on upper floors, the considerations required to place them there vary.
For example, the lightweight design of an acrylic bathtub translates to easier maneuverability. On top of that, you probably won’t need to install a support system to handle its weight.
In contrast, a porcelain tub is much heavier due to its solid construction and metal core. The sheer weight of it makes it harder to carry around, especially to upper floors and often means you’ll need to install a support system to evenly distribute its weight over the upper floor.
If you want something easy to install, an acrylic tub might be your best bet out of the two, as porcelain tubs often require more work to install.
Acrylic bathtubs are the cheaper option in this duo, often featuring a far lower price tag than those you’d see on a porcelain bathtub. Acrylic tubs often cost between $150 and $400, although some luxury models tip the scales into the thousand-dollar range.
Most porcelain bathtubs start at around $400 and climb well into the thousands-of-dollars range. The cost makes sense, especially considering the difference in composition between the two.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly model, an acrylic bathtub is likely your best bet. However, if you don’t mind spending more to get a tub that offers extensive benefits (think heat retention and longevity), a porcelain tub might be the perfect fit.
If you’re looking for a bathtub that can last decades, porcelain is a clear winner. While porcelain tubs can last many years with proper care and maintenance, acrylic tubs tap out far before then.
Porcelain bathtubs can last well over 20 years with proper care and maintenance, although they are susceptible to dulling over time. In contrast, acrylic tubs usually last around half that, tapping out at about 10 years.
While they can last up to 15 years, discoloration and scratches can make them unsightly far before they reach the 15-year mark.
Of course, the lifespan of both materials is entirely dependent on how well you care for and maintain them.
Porcelain is a durable material, as is acrylic. However, in the competition as to which bathtub material is more resistant to damage from cracks and chips, acrylic surges ahead slightly.
Porcelain is more prone to damage from cracks and chips when hard objects are dropped on it, which can create noticeable damage on the surface of the bathtub.
In contrast, while acrylic isn’t immune to scratches, it offers solid resistance to chips and cracks.
The process of maintaining porcelain and acrylic bathtubs is comparable. Both are fairly easy to maintain and require minimal upkeep to ensure a beautiful result. You can keep both tubs clean without much effort using mild cleaning detergents and soft cleaning cloths.
However, since acrylic tubs are prone to discoloration over time, which can be unavoidable, porcelain tubs take an edge in this category.