Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub: Which is Better For Your Bathroom?
Modified: February 7, 2023
Many homeowners wonder which to pick between an acrylic vs fiberglass tub. Truth is, both have their merits. So, let's take a look at the options together.
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With all the time you spend in the bathroom, it’s important to treat yourself well while you’re there. One excellent course of action would be is to invest in a bathtub. There’s nothing like a good long soak after a day out after all.
When it comes to picking out a tub though, you’re sure to run into several good choices for materials (some more expensive than others). Two, in particular, have grown rather popular in recent years thanks to their affordable prices and easy-to-maintain nature. As a result, the choice between an acrylic vs fiberglass tub is one lot of homeowners are now making. But, is either one for you? Let’s take a deep dive into the two options to find out.
What Is an Acrylic Tub?
An acrylic tub is, as expected, a bathtub made using acrylic. Given the material used and the way it’s manufactured, this type of bathtub can be shaped into many different designs with relative ease. It also serves as an excellent budget replacement for porcelain or steel tubs.
How Is an Acrylic Tub Made
Acrylic is a fascinating material for a bathtub, mostly due to its status as a thermoplastic. Once the design of the tub is decided upon, special molds heat and form a single sheet of acrylic into the basic shape of the tub. This base isn’t strong enough to hold all the water that a typical bathtub needs, so it needs further work.
A chemical mix of fiberglass and resin coats the outside of the acrylic tub base, reinforcing it. The resulting shell is then laminated to fill in any air bubbles. This laminating process also causes the fiberglass shell to adhere much better to the acrylic base. After drying, any excess edges of the tub are then cut, and the drainage holes and any jet or light holes are drilled in. Due to this manufacturing process, acrylic tubs tend to be cheaper than many other bathtub materials. It is, however, still more expensive than its fiberglass counterpart.
Acrylic Tub Pros and Cons
Acrylic tubs are a budget-friendly but classy take on the tried and tested bathtub design. While these tubs have a myriad of benefits, they also come with a few caveats. We’ll be exploring both sides of the coin in this section.
One of the main perks of picking up an acrylic tub is its pricing. It’s certainly on the more affordable end of the bathtub materials spectrum. At the same time, an acrylic tub sacrifices little in terms of appearance. This type of tub can be customized and colored easily due to how it’s made. At first sight, it’s also hard to distinguish it from more premium options like porcelain.
Other than these points, acrylic tubs also prove themselves in terms of functionality. They can retain heat for a good long time, making them excellent for hot baths. Their durability is also noteworthy as they can last for years with the right maintenance and care. Scratches in particular are easily repaired with some polishing or filling. Finally, they’re lightweight and easy to replace should the need arise. The lightness is especially excellent since installation requires no extra floor reinforcement.
Now, the main trouble comes from an acrylic tub that isn’t cared for properly. Unfortunately, the material is prone to getting stains and scratches when not treated well. Bleach and acetone are especially hard on acrylic and may leave nasty blotches on the otherwise pristine surface. Rough steel sponges or especially tough brushes are also a no-go. In addition to this, no matter its appearance, acrylic will still feel distinct from traditional materials. If you’re used to sitting in porcelain tubs, you’ll be able to tell the difference.
Pros and Cons Summary
- More affordable than most other bathtub materials
- Easily customized and colored for any bathroom design
- Can mimic the appearance of more premium materials
- Retains heat very well
- Can last for years with proper maintenance
- Easy to repair and replace
- Certain cleaning chemicals will easily stain the material
- Rough cleaning implements may scratch acrylic tubs
- Feels noticeably different from traditional materials
What is a Fiberglass Tub?
Fiberglass tubs are an even more affordable option for your nightly soaks. It gets the job done with little muss and fuss and leaves a much smaller dent in your wallet than many other options. Fiberglass itself is a sort of plastic reinforced with glass fibers. The type used in fiberglass tubs is fiberglass reinforced plastic or FRP for short.
How Is a Fiberglass Tub Made
FRP is the main material used in fiberglass tub construction. To make it, strings of glass are layered and interwoven to create the base for the main material. The process then applies heat to these layers, fusing them. The resulting fiberglass can then be shaped and molded into different designs. A coat of resin is then sprayed over the fiberglass base to protect it from light wear and tear.
Fiberglass Tub Pros and Cons
Just like their acrylic counterparts, fiberglass tubs come with their own benefits and quirks to look out for. So, let’s take a peek before diving into our comparison.
As the most affordable option out there, fiberglass tubs offer you the best deals. Their unique construction not only saves you money but also produces some of the lightest tubs on the market. So, if you choose a fiberglass tub, you won’t have to worry about special reinforcements in your second-level bathrooms. Finally, this type of bathtub is also easy to repair. A fiberglass repair kit will often take care of many of your worries when it comes to scuffs and scratches on your fiberglass tub.
Sadly, fiberglass tubs do also have their downsides. The main offender is its low durability. Fiberglass is excellent for shaving off the extra dollars, but it can be a finicky material. It’s prone to acquiring scratches, cracks, and fading in color as time goes on. At the same time, due to the material’s flexibility, the tub may be prone to displacement and shifting when you step inside.
Fiberglass also absorbs water, meaning infrequent cleaning may result in molds and bad stains. It suffers from the same sensitivities as acrylic tubs too, so only use gentle cleaners on your fiberglass tubs.
Pros and Cons Summary
- Most affordable bathtub material
- Lightweight and doesn’t need special reinforcements
- Easy to repair
- Low durability in terms of scratches, cracks, and fading colors
- Prone to displacement and shifting
- Absorbs water and is sensitive to harsh cleaners
Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub Comparison
Now that we know more about these two wallet-friendly options, we can finally look at the question of acrylic vs fiberglass tub choices.
Similarities and Differences
These bathtub types actually share many similarities such as their 10 to 15-year lifespan and sensitivity to harsh cleaners. They’re also both lightweight and relatively easy to clean. However, the similarities stop there.
To start on the differences, while acrylic tubs come close, no other material can beat fiberglass in terms of price. Acrylic tubs have a more complicated manufacturing process that results in higher costs and easier customizability. Durability-wise though, acrylic does win thanks to the very same process. Fiberglass and acrylic tubs are both rather easy to repair, but acrylic stands up to chips and cracks a lot better.
Choosing Between an Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub
When it comes to choosing between an acrylic vs fiberglass tub, it’s important to look at all the factors above. In addition, however, you’ll want to consider your budget and handyman abilities when choosing the best bathtub for you.
Both options are on the more affordable side, but fiberglass is still the cheaper one. While acrylic tubs are generally more durable, the price difference between the two is significant enough to give pause. Just remember that fiberglass tubs will need a little more TLC from you when they start to age.
For easy reference, here’s a breakdown of all the differences and similarities:
|Metrix of Comparison||Acrylic Tub||Fiberglass Tub|
|Material and Manufacturing Process||Molded acrylic sheet reinforced by fiberglass and resin||Molded fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) with a coat of protective resin|
|Price||More affordable than most other bathtub types||Most affordable bathtub type on the market|
|Cleaning and Maintenance||Requires the use of gentle cleansers, but is easy to repair||Cleaned with gentle cleansers and repairable with a fiberglass repair kit|
|Durability||Prone to stains and scratches when mistreated, but is otherwise durable and can last 10 to 15 years||More prone to cracks and chips, but can last 10 to 15 years with proper care|
|Weight||Lightweight material that doesn’t need floor reinforcements for installation||Most lightweight bathtub material on the market|
Cleaning an Acrylic vs Fiberglass Tub
Both acrylic and fiberglass tubs tend to require more careful cleaning, so it’s important to keep a few tips and tricks in mind for both. A good general rule of thumb is to not use rough cleaning implements or strong cleaning solutions. Also, try to rinse down your tub after every use, no matter what material it’s made out of. This can reduce water and soap sud stains.
Let’s go into the specifics for these two types of bathtubs though.
Acrylic tubs need a gentle touch while cleaning. That means no bleach, no acetone, and no rough cleaning tools. A metal scrubber is definitely out of the question if you want to avoid scratches. Instead, try to find a soft plastic or natural fiber bathtub scrubber to get into the little nooks and crannies of your tub.
You can use a gentle, acrylic-safe bathroom cleaner spray to get rid of any stains. When in doubt, spritz a tiny bit of the cleanser on a small, out-of-sight spot of your tub first to test if it’ll affect the acrylic. Let it sit for a while and if the acrylic is unharmed, you’re clear to proceed. For molds and more stubborn blotches, a combo of baking soda and vinegar may just do the trick. Once you’re done, wipe everything down with a microfiber sponge to leave everything spick and span.
Cleaning fiberglass tubs follows many of the rules of cleaning acrylic tubs. Use gentle brushes for any hard-to-reach areas, and avoid any harsh cleaning formulas. Antibacterial dish soap should work, but as always, a spot test wouldn’t hurt. Wash the tub down with a diluted soapy water mix and get any stubborn grime out with some baking soda and vinegar. Finish it all off with a microfiber cleaning cloth wipe-down, and you’ll have a squeaky clean fiberglass tub you can sink into for a nice clean yourself.
Bath Accessories for Any Tub
Now that you know all about the acrylic vs fiberglass tub debacle, you may have made your choice on which to purchase. So, since you’ll be checking out your new bathtub, why not grab a couple of extra accessories while you’re there? A new tub deserves some new bath treats, after all.
For instance, the combination of a bath pillow with a bathtub tray makes long soaks that much more enjoyable. Also, a few other items like a bath mat, drain cover, or corner shelves will definitely bring together your own personal oasis. A complete and relaxing bathtub experience is the goal, so treat yourself to some of our favorite picks.