Acrylic or cast iron tub?

budge1January 29, 2007

This topic came up on another thread and since several of us are trying to decide I thought I would start a seperate thread.

Any recommendations?

Someone posted another link on yet another thread that touted acrylic as being the better choice but their arguments all seemed to be based on the finish durability. What else should we be looking for?

I've heard that cheaper acrylic tubs can be flimsy and may need supports underneath. How can you tell if you are getting a good one? are there different strengths (like when you buy a SS sink)? Any recommended brands/models?

We are looking for a 5' with no jets/whirlpool.

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I expect that AcrylicÂs tubs are a lot easier to work with for one, and i am replacing one right now with a stand up shower, but using an Acrylic base (Maxx brand). My soon to be previous all-in-one is a "no-name" builder special that is 15 years old ... I could put my finger through it in places (IÂm not joking ... I actually did).

I was looking for Jet Tubs early in the planning stage and there were obvious differences in material thickness in some ... just visually compare some floor models if you can. The installer that provides proper support might even be the most important aspect of the whole process.

My shower base was $560cdn ... I have seen tubs cheaper that that. I think the moral of the story for Acrylic is go with a recognized name (MAXX here in Canada has been around for many years).


    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:30PM
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We chose a Bain Ultra and it has held up through an enormous and horrifying amount of abuse. (Shame on those bad men for treating my tub that way.) One particularly alarming bit was when I walked into our place and found someone using it as a workbench/saw horse. ("What's wrong with you lady? I threw a piece of plastic down..." he said when I objected with a shriek.) Tub looks fine. Maybe emotionally scarred from the vibrations of the power and rotary saws but physically no duress.

One point though: our tub was installed (and uninstalled) many (many) times for a variety of reasons. Two times it was uninstalled specifically because no mortar was put down before they set it in. To be fair, this step is technically optional. (You would think in a tiny bath with nothing else in it besides studs and a bag or mortar - and me pointing to the bag of dry mortar and saying specifically that I want a mortar bed - that that might have been the key clue. But no. They somehow missed that step. Twice.) Bain said that it is not necessary for the integrity of the tub but it will make it feel more solid.

I think that hollow feel when you step into the tub is why acrylic tubs are sometimes not as comparable in the end experience to cast iron as we buyers might hope. The mortar is supposed to greatly help that.

My point: worker men bad, Bain Ultra good.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 9:30AM
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Hi budge1 - we went through this same dilemna this past summer when we remodeled our bath. We were replacing a pink cast iron from the 60's and went through a myriad of choices from recoating it to replacing it with cast iron, etc. We chose against refinishing it for our own reasons. Our GC said that he could replace it with a cast iron, but that the cost would be a little higher. We weren't set on cast iron anyway and the thought of the workers carrying a heavy tub up a narrow staircase and around a corner didn't fare well for my newly painted walls (yes, lack of planning on my part). We were also thrown off by the flimsy feel of some acrylics. Our GC said that setting it in mortar helps some of that, but I wasn't too convinced. He ended up showing us an "Americast tub" - I believe thats from American Standard. I'm not sure how its made, but it kind of feels and looks like our old cast iron (minus the pink color). The cost was a little higher than an acrylic tub, and he actually said he would set it in mortar regardless. Well anyway its been about 6 months and its been through lots of baths and showers and we are still really pleased with our choice. You may want to look into the Americast and see if it might be something closer to what you are looking for.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 9:53AM
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oops - I actually just got to the other posting about people issues with Americast chipping. Since its only been 6-months we haven't had anything happen yet. I will say that I shave in the shower and the suction cup mirror I use has fallen a few times as well as the shaving cream can and nothing has happened yet. Also have a child who loves a hundred toys for his "tubby time". Nothing bad yet - Heres hoping that it stays that way!!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:06AM
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sraraujo, glad to hear you satisfied with the Americast. I just put one in 3 days ago in my still trashed kids bath project, and I too went back and forth. Ultimately it came down to who was doing all the work...namely me! I was not thrilled with the thought of shlepping a 320lb tub up from the garage, thru a fairly large house, up a narrow winding staircase, down a hallway to its final resting place.

Not to raise a concern with you, but I'm just wondering why your plumber set the tub in concrete? The installation manual specifically states NOT to set the Americast tub in any type of concrete.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:26AM
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spanky67 - I mispoke - I think he used compound, but I'll have to check the spec sheet to be sure. it might have been something else with another name. We did our kitchen and bath at the same time so I have a lot of names in my head and sometimes I'm not sure which goes to what!

I know he said he'd use mortar if we had gone with acrylic. I don't think you need something under it, but he said for stability it doesn't hurt to have something there under the shallower portion of the tub. I believe anything you add will void the americast warranty, but we decided to take that chance. So far so good! I did a lot of reading before deciding on this one and like everything else, some people hate it and others love it so it was a toss up. I figure anyone who buys my house in the future should be thrilled that both bathrooms have been gutted and remodeled and hopefully won't worry too much about whether I have cast iron or something else as a bathtub. Hope you have a good experience too.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 11:44AM
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I agree completely with your last statement. I always try and remind my less DIY-able friends that no one other than them will ever know/see the details. Take your time, do it right, and sweat the important details. At selling time perspective buyers will always only see shiny, bright, and updated. They're never going to know whether your shower head is Grohe or American Standard...and 98% will never care!

I fully understand the swirling brain syndrome. If I have to run to a supply house for "just one more thing" I'm going to shoot some one (most likely myself). I was all set to float something under said tub until I actually read the directions. So that's what those things are for:)

1 Like    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 2:46PM
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I'm not familiar with these "directions" you speak of. What are they?? ;-)

Ditto - my motto is pretty much to stay in the middle range for pricing things out and spending - although my wife tends to push towards the upper end! We're not sure how long we are staying in our current home (maybe 7 more years) so I'm trying to be careful, but the bright shiny objects get us sometimes too! And yeah - i spend plenty of time myself at supply places. Hopefully now that kitchen and bathrooms are behind us there will be less time at the store and less $$ on the good ole Visa!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 3:52PM
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The directions came in the box with the tub. As I recall, it's a 3 or 4 page booklet covering different topics. The 2 things I looked at were the items regarding no cement under the tub, and the pictures showing the correct way to set the screws that hold down the tub, above the flange. The "screw down" section had a bunch of pictures of incorrect procedures with circles and lines thru them (denoting "don't do this"). It also had one pic showing the correct way set the screws.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 9:51AM
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So back to the question, does anyone prefer cast iron?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 5:49PM
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Donna, I think since we've got a second floor bath we're dealing with in this case and not the strongest construction, we're going to go with acrylic rather than cast iron or Americast. I'll just get a tub and insulate it intensely (as in spray on expanding window foam well before installation time, and then fill whatever cavity is left with cellulose when we install it). I haven't heard of the disasters with acrylic that I've heard of with Americast (not that all Americast owners are unhappy), so I'll play the odds and do the hyper-insulated acrylic.

If it were on a first floor I'd probably be more inclined to do a cast iron, fwiw.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 6:36PM
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For what it is worth, my install manual said I had a choice of mortar bed or foam. When I called Bain Ultra, a company rep said they were going to remove the foam option from the manual because people were using the foam you buy at a hardware store and that stuff is not "structural" (their word). He said the professional foam is, but not the hardware stuff. That is why we opted for mortar.

He also recommended putting plastic down under the mortar bed and then over it before setting the tub, so that you can get the tub up with less hassle when you need to in the future. (Considering we had to do exactly that when the tub was framed incorrectly, I recommend this extra step. I cannot imagine what we would have had to do if that plastic hadn't been there to facilitate removal.)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 8:08AM
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I can do either cast iron or acrylic. I am a bath person and will not be replacing this tub again in my lifetime. The cast iron is more difficult for my contractor to install. I have a three wall alcove and I want to put in the Porcher Ardennes bathing pool. It will be used as a shower also. I installed it in another condo and it works OK as a shower. I don't think it has an intergal tile flange. The other tub I looked at was the Neptune acrylic. I'm not sure what to do. I think the cast iron may be better in the long run. What do you think?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 8:22AM
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Well, is this going to be *your* bath? The one I'm planning now is the kids' bath upstairs. Oddly enough, if the kids' bath were downstairs, as I've said, I'd use cast iron in it. But in our lovely Master we've just done, *downstairs*, I used acrylic and insulated it because the Maax Melodie was just so darn *comfortable*! The ergonomic aspect was my main criterion. For health reasons I need a nice comfortable tub I can sit in for a long time and relax in (fibromyalgia)--the yucky steel tub upstairs actually gave me *backaches* when I sat in it. So I shopped for whatever would be the most comfortable tub. The Maax Melodie or even more, if we'd had the space, the Palace, were the most comfortable by far. They just fit me. So they won.

If you can find a cast iron that's really comfortable (the one I found that was really comfortable was too big-but it was the Toto 72" -- the recline and arm support placements were *perfect*), then I'd say go with that as first choice. If you can't find a cast iron that's as comfortable as an acrylic, then go with acrylic, IMO. Cast Iron will last longer, it just will. But the good quality new acrylics may last as long as that bathroom, until someone gets sick of it and remodels it or replaces the tub. Neptune certainly counts in that category, IMO.

That's if you're going by comfort. Choosing a top criterion made it easier for me. If you can choose one that works for you it will help streamline the choice.

It's so difficult, isn't it?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 11:54AM
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We decided to go with cast iron. We're replacing a cast iron, which is in perfect condition (except for the fact that it's pink). There are definitely fewer options with cast iron, but we rarely take baths anyway so I'd rather go with the indesctructible option. It is on the second floor, but honestly, I think the weight issue is way overblown. I think my 5' by 30" weighs about 350lbs. While that's not light, it's the same weight as a 32" Sony WEGA and probably less than most adults sleeping in a bed - no one seems to have an issue with those items on a second floor.

I checked out the Americast, but didn't like the look and feel of it. Definitely didn't feel like cast iron.

P.S. My contractor said that while they definitely prefer to install the Americast because it's lighter, he's seen many more problems with them than with cast iron. But, when you do have that rare problem with a cast iron tub, it's a HUGE PITA! I'm taking my chances.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 12:45PM
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I'm still really confused! I have a bad back and the tub I have now gives me a major neck ache. Maybe in March I'll try and fly to California to that TUBZ store and try some out. Has anyone been there? In our Chicago showrooms they only have whirlpools on display.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 2:19PM
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Um, every whirlpool I have ever heard of is also available just as as a soaking tub...

If it's going to be your tub, go sit in the tubs (yes, the whirlpools! :)) and decide which one feels best. That was my criterion. Sit in them and then get your favorite one made as a soaking tub. (after checking step-in heights, since it will be used as a shower too)

As I said, Maax Melodie and Palace felt the best by far to me, but everyone's different (I've heard the Palace is pretty popular with folks who can fit a 6' tub in).

Also, if you can fit 6' in, try the Toto cast iron 6' tub.

If after all that the Porcher Ardennes is the one that feels best, go with that. I'm sure they'd have a way to help you make an alcove situation for it. If the Neptune feels best, go with that (again, check the height wrt using it as a shower).

So your assignment is to go to the stores in Chicago, step into the tubs, sit in them, and decide which one feels best entering and lounging in. Then report back :)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 6:13PM
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Thanks for all your help flyleft. As soon as I find my tiles, (another story), I'll continue my tub hunt.
P.S. sorry about your fibromyalsia, I very familiar with cronic pain.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 7:17PM
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can I revive this thread? It seems that Acrylic tubs don't last as long as cast iron tubs. What's the avg lifespan of an Acrylic tub? What exactly happens to the tub towards the end of its lifecycle (chips, cracks, stains, changes color, does not retain heat at all, etc)?


    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 1:11AM
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I am now planning on replacing my acrylic (1978) tub as I'm doing over a bathroom. I will again use an acrylic tub in an alcove with a tiled surround. It will be placed on a mortar base as before , and I'm hoping to get thirty years out of this one too.........if I'm alive that long !

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 4:39PM
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We found in our research that people seemed to feel an acrylic would last around 20 yrs and cast iron 50.

there were pros and cons for both. We decided on a cast iron but for reasons specific to our needs.

I think you have to do the research and decide what features are important to you.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 8:54PM
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In the '80s, as a renovator/white painter I used to tear out cast iron tubs that were a century old and just needed a bit of buffing to look better. I bet the disposable steel tubs we replaced them with have long since turned to scrap.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 11:00PM
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LUCITE cast acrylic tubs have come a long way and are a great choice if you want to add whirlpool/jets to your bath. You can find them in all of the styles that cast iron tubs come in, even clawfoot, and reputable brands like MTI come with lifetime warranties. Check some out here:

Here is a link that might be useful: LUCITE Cast Acrylic Tubs

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 11:33AM
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I see this is an old thread, but was looking for comparison info on acrylic vs cast iron tubs, and here it was.

I have a cast iron. When my bathroom was tiled last summer, the contractor told me they are rare and very expensive, so keep it. Other tubs aren't as strong or resilient, in his opinion. It is old and needs some work to get the finish looking good again, but it is solid as a rock, so if it's not broken, don't fix it.

As a humorous aside, I had a claw foot cast iron tub where I rented as a young adult. I loved the tub and the old fashioned look. Until it tipped over one day when I was trying to step out after taking a bath. I was in shock but otherwise uninjured. The floor became flooded and it made a big mess. So I decided as pretty as it looked, I would never own one.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2014 at 11:42AM
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I can't imagine how a claw foot tub could tip. Maybe it had the wrong feet?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Cast iron tub tips over and it's full of water? That's mind-boggling! Glad you're ok!

I haven't decided between cast iron or porcelain over steel. We've had the latter for 33 years and (the one that's still here) is in pretty darn good condition. It has served us well. But, porcelain over steel tubs aren't well thought of here and I can't figure out why unless the product isn't "what it used to be" and what is? :o So that's why cast iron might be a consideration.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 1:45AM
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