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Cast Iron Bathtub Guide: What You Should Know Before You Buy

by jbadeloft | December 28, 2018

Choosing a new bathtub can be quite a daunting task, with so many different options in varying materials, shapes and sizes. This guide is designed to help you understand the more popular options on the market and help you decide if a Cast Iron bathtub is right for your home.

What is a Cast Iron Bathtub?

A cast iron bathtub is a bathtub which is made with porcelain fused with iron, which is then coated with enamel to prevent chipping. The result is a bathtub that is highly durable and resistant to chipping due to the enamel coating. The iron characteristics also make it resistant to scratches and heavy impacts. And since cast iron naturally absorbs heat, this bathtub will hold water temperatures for much longer, creating a more lasting bathing experience.

How much do cast iron bathtubs weigh?

For many of it’s character positives, cast iron bathtubs do come with one drawback-their heavy weight. Cast iron bathtubs rank among the heaviest of bathtub materials, due to the qualities of cast iron itself. The additional weight means that not every bathroom can support this material, not unless additional considerations are placed on supporting the bathtub at full capacity. Whether you have a small or large cast iron bathtub, the weight will float anywhere between 200-300 pounds, unfilled. So do your research and reinforce your floor as needed.

Common sizes for cast iron bathtubs

The most common sizes for cast iron bathtubs would be 66 inches and 72 inches. Of course if you want something smaller, they can go down to 60 inches if you have a smaller space. The reason for the popularity of these sizes is due to their incredible versatility. Both of these sizes can be either freestanding or drop-in style, meaning more flexibility in terms of installation and available space. The length also helps in keeping a person submerged so that their knees aren’t sticking out during a long bath.  

How much does a cast iron bathtub cost

Cast iron bathtubs generally fluctuate between $500-2,000 typically, although there are many outliers on either end. You can obtain one for roughly $300-400, though these would be much smaller in size and the higher end models will come with more features that ensure ease of install and some minor safety features like steps and hand-holds. This of course is not factoring in installation costs, which for your safety, it is highly recommended you have additional help when installing this bathtub type. Due to the many positives of the material, it is quite normal to see it on the higher price spectrum.

Acrylic vs Cast Iron Comparison

Acrylic Bathtubs are formed by taking a solid sheet of petrochemicals, stabilizers, resin and appropriate dye, then heating it into the mold to form a bathtub. This is lastly reinforced with sheets of fiberglass, making for a lighter bathtub with a wider flexibility of shapes and sizes.

Lightweight

Acrylic bathtubs are considerably lighter than cast iron,making it much easier to install and manipulate. Plus, your floor does not need a great deal of reinforcement to support an acrylic bathtub.

Flexible in design

Since it is an easy material to work with, acrylic bathtubs come in a wide variety of styles and shapes for any bathroom, much more than cast iron bathtubs.

Heat retention is not very high

When compared to a cast iron bathtub, an acrylic bathtub has nowhere close to the heat retention that a cast iron bathtub maintains. Heat retention is important for keeping your water warmer for longer periods of time., styles and shapes

Less durable

Compared to a cast iron bathtub, an acrylic Bathtub cannot weather heavy impacts and will chip much easier. These types of bathtubs will also deteriorate overtime and have much less longevity when compared to cast iron bathtubs.

When compared to Cast Iron bathtubs, they have a small list of pros and cons between them as their price points are actually quite similar on the low end. However, in the long run, the cast iron bathtub is superior in nearly every way, with the only drawback being it’s immense weight.

Refinishing & Refurbishment

Keeping your bathtub in top shape is important for the longevity of your tub and helps to improve the sanity of the water you bathe in. Since cast iron bathtubs are a mixture of porcelain and cast iron, it is important to reapply the enamel finish to keep the surface of your bathtub protected.

Clean the Tub

Using a degreaser, clean the bathtub, making sure you remove any caulk residuals

Repair chips

Using a putty knife, apply filler to any open chips or cracks that may appear on your bathtub

Polish the surface

When the chips are filled, use a sander or utility knife to even the surface and make it smooth

Protect the area

Before applying the paint, make sure to cover the area with some sort of tarp or protective cover so that you do not apply the paint to undesired areas.

Apply the paint

Using either an air compressor or paintbrush, apply paint, waiting every 15 minutes before applying another coat.

Can you paint a cast iron bathtub?

A popular alternative to replacing your bathtub is simply repainting or reglazing it. With a new bathtub, your price will vary between $250-1,000 not including installation costs. Reglazing will run similarly between $300-1,000, depending on the size of the area that needs painting. The difference is that you don’t need to demolish or remove an existing bathtub and deal with the hassle of the installation process. Either hire a professional to reglaze the space for you or DIY. For DIY purposes, understand that painting your bathtub will produce toxic fumes, so wear proper equipment while doing so for the safety of yourself and others. The process of re-glazing also helps to restore any residual weathering that your bathtub may sustain from use over time.

How to remove rust?

Since a partial component of this bathtub is iron, it is prone to rust stains due to regular use. An easy fix for that is iron stain removers or abrasive cleaning products. Take care however as these products can invariably scratch your bathtub if you aren’t careful. Avoid using wool or any brushes that can also scratch your bathtub. It is advised to use a pumice stone, which is a small porous rock. Use a combination of the pumice stone and warm water to remove the rust stains with a light rub, as to not damage your bathtub, then when the stain is gone, apply lemon and salt.  

Removing/moving A Cast Iron Bathtub

Since these bathtubs can easily weigh over 300 pounds, it is safe to say that you are not lifting one of these on your own. For installation purposes, you want at least two people, recommended four for this job as it is incredibly difficult to maneuver and place compared to other bathtubs. You can rent rigging equipment or use your own system of leveraging boards for support, but understand that this bathtub will be incredibly heavy, so the more strain you can place on doilies or ropes, it is advised you do so. Make sure your floor is reinforced to support the additional weight as you install this otherwise your bathtub can easily fall through. Removing it on the other hand is slightly easier, as you want to cover the bathtub with a towel or tarp before hitting it with a sledgehammer, creating more manageable pieces for you to remove. You can of course attempt to move it using the same method for which you installed it, but understand that this may create more hassle and risk of injury than it is worth.

Cast iron bathtubs have some of the best positives over many bathtubs on the market. Their only drawback is their immense weight which makes it not an ideal choice for many homes as the weight can be staggering for a bathroom to support. So make sure your home can support one before purchasing.

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