What Is The Difference Between Acrylic And Fiberglass Tubs?

What Is The Difference Between Acrylic And Fiberglass Tubs

Bathtubs are a key feature in many homes and are usually in at least one bathroom. Perhaps you’re remodeling, starting from scratch, or simply replacing an old bathtub. Either way, you’ll need to make a choice. Bathtubs come in varying materials, styles, colors, brands, and configurations, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding one you like. 

However, while the abundance of options is nice, it can be overwhelming. Let’s say you’re looking for a tub that won’t break the bank, and you find yourself debating between acrylic and fiberglass. What is the difference between the two? Which one is better? How do I choose the best one? We compiled some information to help simplify the decision process and get you a perfectly functioning, relaxing bathtub as soon as possible. 

Fiberglass Tubs

Fiberglass, also known as fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), is a common type of bathtub material. It’s relatively inexpensive compared to other tub materials, making it a popular pick for those on a budget. 

Fiberglass is made from layers of minuscule threads of interwoven glass, which are then heated together. From there, fiberglass tubs are made by forming layers of fiberglass into the desired shape, then covering them with a coating of Gelcoat resin. Alternatively, they can be made by spraying a fiberglass coating onto the mold. 

Because of their lightweight materials, fiberglass tubs are standard in two-story homes, as there’s no need to install additional support between the bathtub and the floor. Generally, these tubs last between 10 and 15 years before a replacement is necessary.

Bathtub

Pros And Cons

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install
  • Finish that can be repaired

Cons:

  • Thin material may flex
  • Material doesn’t feel stable
  • Not very durable
  • Prone to fading, scratching, and cracking
  • Porous surface can allow mold and mildew

Acrylic Tubs

KINGSTON BRASS VTDE603122L 60-Inch Contemporary Alcove Acrylic Bathtub with Left Hand Drain and Overflow Holes, White

Acrylic bathtubs are composed of colored sheets of plastic reinforced with layers of fiberglass underneath. Manufacturers combine various petrochemicals with stabilizers, resins, fillers, and dyes to create the tub. This allows a reaction to take place that converts the mixture to a polymer composition. Then, the manufacturer dries it into acrylic sheets. 

Then, they create the tub with vacuumed acrylic sheets and reinforce it with fiberglass. Since fiberglass is porous, it’s not ideal, as it can warp when it absorbs water. So, the layer of acrylic acts as a barrier between the two, preventing water from seeping into the fiberglass. 

Because of the manufacturing process, acrylic bathtubs tend to be pricier than fiberglass. That said, they’re still reasonably affordable, especially compared to other materials, like cast iron or copper bathtubs. 

Like fiberglass tubs, acrylic bathtubs also have a lifespan between 10 and 15 years. Its lightweight composition makes it a popular choice for DIYers, as the installation is quick and easy. 

Pros And Cons

Pros 

  • Nonporous surface
  • Affordable
  • Retains heat, doesn’t get as cold as tile or marble
  • Resistant to chips and cracks
  • Easy to clean
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to repair
  • durable

Cons

  • Prone to scratches
  • Prone to staining and discoloration
  • Can feel “hollow”

How Do I Know If My Tub Is Acrylic Or Fiberglass

Claw Foot Bathtub

Acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs share many similarities – they have similar appearances, come in various colors, and are lightweight and affordable. So, how do you tell the difference?

A few different indicators may hint toward one material over the other. For example, if you notice color fading on the bottom of the tub after a while, you probably have a fiberglass tub. Fiberglass bathtubs are notorious for discoloration, so this is a good indicator if you notice it. 

Or, push on the side of the tub. If it gives, you might have a fiberglass tub. Both types will flex, but fiberglass tends to be flimsier than acrylic. Usually, freestanding acrylic tubs weigh around 100 pounds or so, while fiberglass tubs weigh about 70 pounds. 

Additionally, look around the tub’s edges. You might have an acrylic tub if it appears on the thinner side, as acrylic bathtubs usually are thinner than fiberglass tubs. Or, feel the surface of the tub: acrylic tends to feel warmer to the touch and generally has smoother finishes. 

What Is The Best Material To Get For A Bathtub?

Vanity Art 59" X 29.5" Non-Slip White Acrylic Freestanding Bathtub Modern Stand Alone Soaking Tub with Chrome Overflow and Pop-up Drain, UPC Certified VA6815-NSW

Although fiberglass and acrylic share a number of similarities, there’s one clear winner. Given the information, we think acrylic bathtubs are the better choice. 

Acrylic tubs tend to be much more durable than fiberglass – the chances of them chipping, cracking, or fading is highly unlikely. However, fiberglass tubs may be prone to fading, cracking, or scratching. 

While both materials are easy enough to clean, fiberglass tubs can be problematic without proper cleaning. The tub can stain, absorb water, and warp. On top of that, its porous nature offers the perfect breeding ground for mold or mildew. Of course, this shouldn’t be an issue if you stay on top of maintenance, but we think it’s worth mentioning. 

In addition, there are more options with acrylic tubs. You can choose from various textures, colors, and shapes. While they tend to be more expensive than fiberglass, we think it’s worth the extra cost.