Whether you are just updating or totally remodelling your bathroom, one of the largest items you will be dealing with is the bathtub. Fortunately, we no longer have to settle for the traditional rectangular tub unless we want to. However, before deciding on a style of tub, choose which type of material you would like the bath made from.
Enamelled cast iron was the standard material used in the construction of bathtubs. However this material has somewhat fallen out of favour over the past decade and will most likely remain as a specialist choice into the foreseeable future.
The main advantages of cast iron tubs are their high gloss finish, their strength and durability. However the weight of the cast iron makes them very heavy, even to the point of requiring extra support in the floor at times. Their high gloss surface can become dull easily, especially if you happen to use abrasive cleaners. The surface does resist cracks and scratches; but when they do occur they are expensive to repair.
Since these tubs are metal, they are also inherently cold. They draw heat from the water, which means that you are already cutting the time off of your desired leisurely soak.
Cast Iron tubs are also usually more expensive and you will have limited size and shape options.
These tubs, which have a non-porous glass hard surface, are incredibly hygienic and easy to care for. They resist impact, scratches, chemicals and heat. Although the steel is thin it is very strong and alloys of some of the popular brands can include titanium in the steel for extra strength. These tubs are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are especially suited for thin baths when space is a premium. Be sure to purchase only European steel enamel, as the US made version is vastly inferior. On the down side the steel, like cast iron, conducts heat away from the bath and the enamel coating, although resistant to scratching and chipping, is more expensive to repair than acrylic.
Stone cast baths, sometimes referred to as man made stone baths, are made by blending polymer resins, fillers and crushed limestone that is sometimes covered with a clear gel coat. They are striking to look at and durable, shiny and easy to clean. The problem with the gel coated versions is that the gel coat eventually wears through and then the porous surface becomes a cleaning nightmare. The non gel coated versions are much easier to maintain but have a dull finish in comparison. Also be sure to check the quality of the construction, this is easy, you just have to look at the underside of the tub, if you see a lot of bubbles then you are looking at a poorly made tub.
Acrylic has become the favourite material for bathtubs. These tubs are amazingly durable and very long lasting; they are also lightweight but still very strong. Acrylic tubs are easy to clean and maintain, they can also be formed into very comfortable shapes. Acrylic has natural warmth and the colours are deep and long lasting. If the surface does become scratched it can be easily repaired by using fine grit sandpaper and t-cut. Even with all the advantages, acrylic tubs are very moderately priced. They need to be fitted well though as a poor job can lead to movement of the bath and problems with leaks at the joints with the tiles.