Acrylic Or Steel Baths | Pros, Cons & Everything You Need To Know
Are you drawing up plans for your bathroom renovation and need to choose your new bath? The online store recommends both acrylic and steel baths as they are the two most popular materials, but which one is right for you?
At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between an acrylic and steel bath. However, there is a difference in their manufacture and finish that may affect your final decision.
In this post, I’ll explain more about steel and acrylic baths, as well as go over the advantages and disadvantages associated with both types so you can make your selection based on the facts and which is the best choice for you.
Let’s dive in!
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Acrylic baths are the most common type of tubs found in homes across the country. However. that doesn’t make them the cheap and dirty solution to your bath renovation.
An acrylic bath can be found in just about any colour that you prefer and in the shape you need. Order your acrylic bath as a drop-in, freestanding, or bath and shower combination. The choices are simply endless.
When you are shopping for a complete suite of sanitaryware, you may have a better chance of finding matching pieces when you work with acrylic due to its popularity. Pricing for acrylic baths start at about £150 and can top out over £3,000 for accessible walk-in models.
What about jetted acrylic tubs? The answer is, yes! Just about every jetted bath is constructed out of acrylic whether you are talking about a single soaker or a larger hoy tub style bath.
How Are Acrylic Baths Made?
The manufacturing process begins with coloured sheets of flexible acrylic. A vacuum mould sucks the acrylic into the desired shape. It is then reinforced with fibreglass to create a rugged and durable bath form. New technologies have reduced the flexibility of the acrylic, resulting in a solid bath installation without that old-fashioned flex found in older baths.
For installation, your acrylic bath may require a wooden structure that will be hidden by tiles or panels. The acrylic is easy to drill out to create holes for taps and connections.
Acrylic Bath Durability
Will your acrylic bath look like new after years of use? Yes, the new versions resist both colour fade and scratching. When you clean it with an approved product and non-abrasive sponge or scrubber, it should remain bright and beautiful for years.
One of the main reasons that do-it-yourself homeowners opt for acrylic is that it only weighs 45kg or less. That makes it easy for you and a friend to carry it into the house without knocking down walls.
Now let’s take a look at the PROS and CONS of Acrylic baths:
Advantages of Acrylic Baths
- Endless options for style and colour
- Lightweight for easier installation
- Low price
- Warm to the touch
Disadvantages of Acrylic Baths
- Lacks the beautiful finish of enamel or porcelain
- True bright white is not available
- Requires your installer to drill tap holes
- Will not stand up to abrasive scrubbing
While steel baths are not the most popular type of bath found in homes across the UK, they do have a very loyal following.
Steel baths tend to have a rich, lustrous finish that nicely complements other luxury finishes in an upscale bathroom. They are well known for the true white finish that is a rare find on other types of baths.
You may think that you will spend a lot more on a steel bath compared to the more popular acrylic, but that is not always the case. You can find drop-in styles priced less than £200, but you can also spend well over £3,000 on a custom stainless steel piece.
Are you dreaming of a jetted bath? It is less likely that you will find one in steel as the additional holes and shapes needed to accommodate the jets demand a more complicated moulding process. If you do find one, you will likely pay a premium price for the privilege.
How Are Steel Baths Made?
The steel bath begins life as a very thin sheet of steel that is pressed into shape. It is then covered in multiple thin layers of spray enamel in the colour of choice. Finally, the unit is placed into a high-temperature oven to create a chemical bond between the steel and enamel.
A freestanding steel bath may be mounted on a wood base or use other hidden supports to create a stable unit. It will arrive with factory cutouts for taps and fill pipes.
Steel Bath Durability
In the past, steel had the reputation of being indestructible compared to the less expensive fibreglass units. However, new technology for acrylic has turned the tables. Enameled steel baths are more prone to scratches and chips in the finish. At the same time, you can expect your tub to last for decades without cracking or developing any serious stains.
If you are installing the tub yourself, be aware that a steel bath is much heavier than acrylic. It can weigh between 70 and 90 kg, while an acrylic tub will be about half that. Once it is in place, there is no problem, but getting up your stairs could be a challenge.
Now let’s take a look at the PROS and CONS of Steel baths:
Advantages of Steel Baths
- Beautiful enamelled finish
- True White is achievable
- Available in a variety of styles to complement your bath design
- Affordable options available
- Proven durability
- Retains warmth well once warmed up
Disadvantages of Steel Baths
- High-end units can be excessively expensive
- The finish can develop chips and scratches
- Less selection is available due to the popularity of acrylic
- Heavy construction may be difficult to get into your bathroom
- Cold to the touch
There you have it! The advantages, disadvantages and everything you need to know to help decide between steel and acrylic baths.
Will you go for the classic and timeless steel bath or the lightweight, low-priced acrylic bath with its many shapes and styles? Both are good options and your choice may well come down to style and price (it so often does).
Whichever tub you choose I hope you enjoy it for many years to come. Happy bath shopping!
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.