What is a Fiberglass Tub: Beginner’s Guide
What is a Fiberglass Bathtub?
Fiberglass is made from reinforced plastic which is then molded then formed into a bathtub shape. This bathtub shape is then reinforced by a layer of gelcoat resin which protects it from scratches and light impacts. Of the bathtub materials on market, fiberglass is the cheapest and lightest in overall weight, giving it more flexibility in installation due to the relatively low cost of the material itself. This flexibility in design comes at a cost however as fiberglass is perhaps the least durable material on the market-it’s porous quality leading it to have poor heat retention as well as brittle resistance to heavy impacts as well as warping down the road.
Pros & Cons of your Fiberglass Tub
As stated above, the positives of fiberglass bathtubs are as follows:
- Flexible in design
With the negatives being;
- Not durable
- Porous, meaning it will absorb water/moisture
- Aesthetically lacking, material is comparatively dull in appearance compared to others on the market
Fiberglass bathtubs enjoy the benefits of being the most affordable on the market, which means they are the most widely available for anyone’s budget. Also since the material is quite easy to work with and is fairly cheap, these bathtubs also enjoy a large flexibility in size, shapes and designs, allowing them to fit virtually every bathroom type, whether large or small. All of these positives come with some high negatives however as fiberglass bathtubs tend to be less durable than any other material on the market. They cannot sustain heavy impacts and are quite porous in nature, allowing water and moisture to seep into it, causing future problems such as warping and general deterioration over time. Since it is porous, heat retention is also not very high in a fiberglass bathtub, meaning your water will grow cold much more quickly, resulting in increased water usage for minimal bathing temperature.
Average cost of the fiberglass tub
Since it occupies the affordable spectrum, fiberglass bathtubs hold the cheapest price point when compared to other materials on market. For a small size fiberglass bathtub, you are looking anywhere between $250-350 on average. As the sizes get larger, the price will fluctuate anywhere between $350-500. On the extreme end, there are $5,000 walk-in bathtubs, which carry a multitude of helpful functions such as additional handholds and more in-depth temperature settings, though fiberglass may not be the best material for this style of bathtub long term.
Acrylic vs Fiberglass – What is the difference?
Acrylic bathtubs are formed by taking vacuumed sheets of acrylic, which are then reinforced with fiberglass. They key advantage of this design is that many of the positives of fiberglass are retained while eliminating some of the negatives of fiberglass, such as the porous nature of the material. Both bathtubs are lightweight, easy to install, are flexible in design and can be repaired easily. With the acrylic reinforcement, the bathtub becomes non-porous, giving it some heat retention while repelling water from being absorbed into the material itself. The trade off is that
Acrylic bathtubs tend to be heavier, which makes it more durable to physical punishment and more resistant to scratching but also increases their price tag. Acrylic bathtubs tend to be $100 more than a fiberglass bathtub of the same size, but with the benefits of the material, the price tag is well worth it.
Cast Iron vs Fiberglass –What’s the difference
Cast iron bathtubs are among the best values on the market due to their durability, heat retention and aesthetic. As fiberglass bathtubs are the least durable on the market, cast iron bathtubs are considered to be the most durable, able to weather a great deal of punishment without fear of damage to the material itself. The physical durability also extends to the longevity of the material, lasting for 20+ years easily with proper maintenance whereas fiberglass bathtubs will tend to warp and chip after about 10-15 years on average. Since cast iron is a non-porous material it also has excellent heat retention, giving you warmer water over a longer period of time which is the main benefit of better bathtub material. The only negative however of a cast iron bathtub is its weight, which makes it quite difficult to install when compared to fiberglass. With it weighing nearly triple the amount of fiberglass, not every home can support cast iron so proper research is required.
How long does Fiberglass last?
With proper maintenance, a fiberglass bathtub should last typically from 10-15 years. Over time the material will absorb water and moisture, causing it to warp and disfigure over time, lowering its overall composition and causing it to become unstable. As with most bathtubs however, this process can be delayed with replacing the gelcoat or retouching the finish on the bathtub. While it may be cheaper just to replace a fiberglass tub, it is always an option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of removing and reinstalling a new bathtub.
How to take care of a Fiberglass tub: Cleaning Tips
Proper maintenance of a fiberglass bathtub entails cleaning your bathtub surfaces, including and cracks and crevices, making sure that no excess moisture spills over. Since fiberglass cannot sustain heavy impacts, avoid dropping anything of significant weight in the bathtub, otherwise you can easily chip or scratch the finish or actual tub itself. Due to the composition of fiberglass, abrasive cleaners will stain and strip much of the protective coating of the bathtub itself so it is highly advised that you use less abrasive cleaners such as white vinegar, soap and baking soda to clean this particular bathtub. Abrasive brushes can also easily scratch this type of bathtub, so please do not use a steel wool to clean your fiberglass bathtub and instead use a soft sponge or a surface that will not add friction to your bathtub surface.
- Use water to wash the surface of your bathtub
- Apply white vinegar to your tub’s surfaces, making sure to include any cracks or crevices that may attract excess moisture.
- Sprinkle baking soda onto the tub’s surface and use either detergent or vinegar to scrub gently.
- Rinse your bathtub thoroughly after completion.
For many people, a fiberglass bathtub is a solid purchase, providing a bathtub that is inexpensive and can fit a wide variety of bathrooms. But, as discussed above, the material is not as durable when compared to other bathtub materials on the market and comes with some hefty drawbacks. So as always, do research, consider your bathing needs and the space you have available before purchasing.