Acrylic vs Fiberglass Bathtubs
We get a lot of questions about what type of material our bathtubs are made from - which is good, we're glad you're doing your homework. There are 2 main types of bathtub compositions (aside from cast iron and steel) in the market today: 1. Fiberglass (Gel Coat) 2. Acrylic
When you have both versions side by side they look very similar, however there are some distinct differences that have lead us to why we use the materials and process we do to manufacture our bathtubs. Acrylic is a sheet of material that is heated and vacuum-formed over a mold, creating a continuous waterproof membrane. It is then reinforced with fiberglass for added stability and insulation value. Acrylic is non-porous by nature, warm to the touch and retains its gloss finish better than any other material. Acrylic is well recognized for its ability to withstand constant use and cleaning. It is usually recommended that you avoid harsh or abrasive cleaners since acrylic can be scratched.
Gelcoat fiberglass is a colored polyester resin sprayed onto a mold then reinforced with fine glass particles. Being more porous and brittle than acrylic, the gelcoat/fiberglass surface has a greater tendency to dull and discolor over time. Some other drawbacks to using fiberglass are the fact that they can flex or break if they are not adequately supported and they show scratches over time that cannot be repaired.
Let's take a quick look at some of the characteristics of both options:
|Acrylic||Fiberglass (Gel Coat)|
|Non-Pourous - Bacteria Resistant||Pourous - Subject to Bacteria and Mildew|
|Excellent repairability||Good repairability|
|Color fast - Excellent||Color fast - Fair|
|Useful life - 30+ years||Useful life - 1-5 years|
|Initial cost - Low-Moderate||Initial cost - Low-Moderate|
|Strength - Strong||Strength - Fragile|
|Surface - Semi Gloss||Surface - Matte|
|Thickness - .60 - .125||Thickness - .008 - .02|
|Cleanability - Excellent||Cleanability - Poor|
|Styles - Wide variety||Styles - Moderate variety|
|Colors - Full body, Never fades||Colors - Dye based, Fade over time|
|Value - High||Value - Fair|
The big plus with acrylic is that it is solid surface, meaning it has a very high filler content and does not have a gel coat. If you have Corian or similar countertops in your home, then you know what solid surface material is. No mildew, mold or bacteria can penetrate because it is non-porous. Acrylic; being a solid surface, is easier to clean, has a glossy finish and will last for many years. It will not fade over time as the color is all the way through the material, not just on the surface. Whereas, with gel coat fiberglass the gel coat rubs off and then the pores/fibers of the fiberglass are exposed. Once the pores and fibers are exposed they can harbor bacteria, mold and mildew and grime and soap scum get imbedded into the surface which begins the breaking down of the product. Using a gel-coat is like having a paint sprayed onto the fiberglass to "seal” it. It wears off over time which is why it fades and wears and becomes even harder to keep clean.
While fiberglass costs less, it will never last longer or as long as acrylic therefore in the long run it is probably well worth the added expense to get a drop in tub made with an acrylic surface material that is more durable and that will last for many years.
Note: All Carver bath tubs are made with 100% acrylic materials and reinforced with fiberglass for support and insulation.