With hundreds of shapes and sizes to choose from, buying a tub can be overwhelming. The material you select determines the tub‚s price, durability, and cleaning ability. Here are some choices to choose from when selecting a tub.

Plastic, either fiberglass or acrylic, offers the greatest design flexibility because it can be molded into many shapes. It‚s warm to the touch and insulates well, so water doesn‚t cool as fast as in enameled-steel or cast-iron tubs. Plastic is also the lightest tub, weighing in at 60-70 pounds. Although it doesn‚t chip easily, abrasive cleaners will damage the surface.

Enameled steel, formed steel with a porcelain-enamel coating, is the least expensive tub. But the material has drawbacks: Steel conducts heat, meaning tub water cools quickly; the surface is prone to chipping; and it weighs about twice as much as plastic.

Cast-iron tubs, like steel, are coated with enamel. However, they don‚t chip as easily as steel because the enamel coating is thicker than on steel tubs, and cast iron is more durable and resistant to impact. At first, a cast-iron tub will pull heat from water, but once it heats up, it will keep water warm for a longer period of time. Cast iron‚s main drawback is its weight, 350-500 pounds, which may complicate second-floor installations.

Cast-polymer tubs traditionally replicate the look of marble, granite, or onyx, and they‚re available in a range of solid colors. Cast polymer costs a little more than acrylic; however, its surface doesn‚t stand up as well. With time, the gel-coat finish on cast-polymer tubs can become brittle and expose the material underneath, leading to cracks.

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