Bath Material – It’s About Choosing The Right One

Choosing The Right Bath Material

The Best Bath Material That Meets Your Needs

Choosing the right bath material for your home can significantly affect how comfortable you feel while bathing. It also greatly impacts the overall look and feel of your bathroom. But most of all, having the right material can ultimately save you money in the long run.

There are many different types of materials available for baths. Some are extremely durable, while others may not. But more importantly, for most people, the cost is the main thing that can affect their decision to acquire the desired bath.

Therefore, choosing the right type of material that meets one’s budget requires some research effort. It begins with understanding your usages, like frequency, duration, and probably ease of maintenance. Some materials require extra care, so they are probably not so suitable for busy city dwellers.

For a first-time buyer, it is best to know the various materials and their pros and cons. Then costly mistakes can be avoided when considering the type of bath material that best meets their needs and budget.

Understand Your Needs First

Knowing what you can and can’t accept will ensure you make the right decision right from the start. For example, is the bath weight an issue for your upstairs bathroom? Do you need excellent heat retention because you love to take long baths? How about durability and ease of maintenance to suit your busy lifestyle? And more.

Whether it is a modern or traditional material, each offers different properties to suit users’ preferences. Choosing the right bath material becomes easy when you know what you want. So it is not so much about which is the best material but which material best meets your needs and budget.

Material Types and Their Pros and Cons

There are different types of bathtub material available today. If you are only starting to look for a bath for your bathroom, it is impossible to not come across these materials, which are,


Beautiful Acrylic Bath
Image Origin:

Due to its low cost and versatility, acrylic is one of the most preferred bath materials. As there is a wide range and variety of shapes to choose from, acrylic bathtubs are highly adaptable. They are usually available in a standard white finish and may be coloured to match any bathroom decor.

In addition, acrylic tubs keep water at a comfortable temperature for a reasonably long period, so you may enjoy a long soak.

It is a safe choice if you don’t intend to spend much on a bath and are likely to replace it in a few years or plan to relocate. But that does not mean it is a less durable material. It can easily last a good 15 to 20 years when well maintained.

You can find an acrylic bath almost in any contemporary style or design, like straight, alcove, standalone, corner, P or L shape and freestanding baths. Among the wide variety of baths, an acrylic straight bath is the most common design and the lowest cost.

Acrylic – Advantages
  1. Lightweight – If you are considering installing a bath on the second floor, chances are that you can meet the floor loading with an acrylic bath. But please consult a professional engineer or the building’s architect before any decision. And lightweight means DIY installation or replacement is a breeze if you are a handy fellow.
  2. Low Cost – Acrylic is not a high-end material, but it can be made to look and feel expensive. It depends on the thickness – typically about 5 to 10mm thick. The thicker, the more expensive, but it is still more economical than the other materials.
  3. Heat Retention – Acrylic, a plastic insulation material, is never a good conductor of heat. Therefore, most heat loss occurs at the water’s surface instead of through the bath body. So if you need a good retainer of heat, get an acrylic bath, and a thick one will be even better.
  4. Easy to Clean – A smooth and shiny surface is easy to clean with a soft cloth and warm water without using chemical-based cleaners such as bleach. That is because acrylic is non-porous, making it difficult for mould and bacteria to proliferate. But on the flip side, the shine can be easily ruined with the accidental use of abrasive cleaners.
  5. Chip Resistant – Acrylic is known for its resistance to chips and cracks. But when it happens, you can easily repair it with an Acrylic Bath Repair Kit.
Acrylic – Disadvantages
  1. Prone to Scratching – Definitely not for the hypercritical. That is understandable if you lose sleep because of a few scratches on your brand-new Aston Martin. But on your acrylic bath? Then, steel or cast iron may be a better bath material for you. However, you can easily polish off light scratches on acrylic.
  2. Easily Stained – As mentioned above, the surface can easily be stained or dulled by any chemical-heavy solutions. So be sure to use only mild cleaners to clean. What’s OK on your skin should be fine on acrylic.
  3. Strength – Acrylic is not a rigid material like steel or stone. You can feel the instability when you stand on an acrylic bath – it flexes a little and may throw your balance off. The safer or more stable option is to get one reinforced with fibreglass or quartz coating.

Steel Enamel

Image Origin:

Enameled steel or steel is another common material besides acrylic. However, steel alone is not appealing at all. It is the enamel coating that gives the steel bath its bright lustre and luxurious feel. The hard and glossy finish lends the bath the elegance that designers strive for in their portfolios. So, steel baths are almost always a good idea if aesthetics are your top priority.

Price-wise, it would depend on the style, size and thickness. You can get a regular-size (1700mm length) straight single-ended steel bath for under £200. But the steel thickness is usually around 1.8 to 2.2mm at this price point. Not a recommended thickness if you want a durable bath that doesn’t chip easily.

The minimum recommended thickness for a steel bath (including the enamel coating) is 3.5mm. It is tough to chip at this thickness and highly resistant to scratches. Also, a thick porcelain coat will have the advantage of better heat retention.

So, not all steel baths are great for maintaining the water temperature for longer periods; it depends on the bath’s body thickness. This is because steel is a good conductor of heat. So the cheap 2mm thickness steel bath will not have enough enamel insulation to sustain the warmth.

Steel Enamel – Advantages
  1. Resistant to UV light and Chemicals – When you have a bathroom bright with natural sunlight or use a UV light sanitiser regularly, it is good to have all the fixtures and furniture inside to be UV resistant. And common household cleaners will not affect the gloss and colour of the enamel. Get a good quality steel bath, and you won’t have to worry about discolouration as time passes.
  2. Non-Porous – Both steel and enamel are non-porous. So it’s almost impossible for microbes and mould to catch on and grow. That makes cleaning super easy and less frequent.
  3. Scratch & Stain Resistance – Porcelain enamel is hardwearing and not easily scratched. Its impervious surface is also stain-resistant and not susceptible to limescale build-up. So if you want minimum maintenance, a premium steel bath can be a perfect choice.
  4. High Durability – Enamel steel is a hard and rigid material which will not chip easily under normal circumstances. If you get a premium-grade steel bath (at least a 3.5mm thick body), it can last well over 20 years.
  5. Good Heat Retention – Many websites mention steel baths are good at holding heat, but they don’t remind you that a cheap (under £200) or thin-bodied steel tub is quite useless at that. It is the enamel coat that keeps the warmth, not the steel. So if you want a steel tub that can really prolong the warmth, get a thicker tub body with sufficient enamel insulation.
  6. High Gloss Bright Finish – The look and feel are definitely much better than the plasticky acrylic.
Steel Enamel – Disadvantages
  1. Heavy – That’s obvious compared to acrylic. A steel bath is about twice the weight of an acrylic bath. So if you are unsure if your upstairs bathroom floor could hold the weight, please seek professional advice first.
  2. Smooth and Slippery – Non-porous enamel surfaces are extremely slippery when wet with soap suds or gel. So be sure you have an anti-slip mat, or get one with an anti-slip surface. Fall risk is high when you shower, so a grab bar is also a must-have.
  3. Cold to the Touch – Steel has a chilly feel to it, which is a turn-off for some people. Especially at the start before it warms up to the hot water filling. So it pays to wait a little while before removing your robe and getting into the water. And during the winter months, you probably wish you had an acrylic bath instead.
  4. Rust – It doesn’t chip easily, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Accidental hard knocks may result in small unnoticeable dents or chips exposing the metal. If left untreated, rust will most certainly set in. So be sure to do quick visual inspections and run your fingers over the bath surface for clues of damage regularly.

Cast Iron

Beautiful Cast Iron Bath
Image Origin: *

Cast iron baths are synonymous with freestanding baths because of the long tradition since the 1800s, where baths are typically clawfooted and weigh at least half a ton. Though they are no longer that heavy, most modern cast iron baths will still require floor reinforcement. Even a small 1500mm bath can weigh a hefty 140kg easily.

Moulded with molten iron and glazed with a layer of enamel for protection from chemical wear and corrosion, as well as chipping and scratching, cast iron baths can last a lifetime. And as a result of their durability and resistance to damage, they require very little upkeep and are a breeze to clean.

But more importantly, the vitreous enamel and the thick tub body (at least 10mm thick) slow down the heat loss, thereby ensuring a long soak at your desired temperature. According to some experienced users, cast iron bath retains heat for much longer than any premium-grade acrylic baths.

A cast-iron tub requires meticulous preparation and installation. Each bath can weigh up to 220kg, so it will require more pairs of hands to set it up; definitely not a job for a single person to handle. It is also crucial to ensure that the intended location can support more than the weight of the bath and the water contained within it. And remember to include your weight as well.

Cast Iron – Advantages
  1. Scratch and Chemical Resistant – No household chemicals can damage or affect the glossy surface with an enamel coat as the bath skin. The hard non-porous enamel coating is also scratch resistant and stain-proof. Definitely a value-add for busy households with little time for upkeeping chores.
  2. Highest Durability – A 10mm thick body is many times stronger than any premium grade 3.5mm acrylic or steel. And compared to steel, the thicker porcelain enamel glaze is even tougher to chip and crack.
  3. Solid and Stable – Acrylic can flex, and steel is rigid. But nothing beats the solidity and stability a cast iron bath offers.
  4. Luxurious Feel and Look – Not every freestanding bath can fully depict the style and aesthetics the way cast iron baths do. The silky smooth and glossy surface is a giveaway that the material underneath is not the usual off-the-shelf product. A cast-iron freestanding bath will be a great centrepiece for any well-planned and built bathroom.
  5. Hold Heat Longer – When you need a good 30 minutes soak without adding more hot water to maintain a comfortable temperature range, get a cast iron bath.
  6. No Colour Fade or Discolourisation – Like steel baths, the non-porous enamel exterior is UV resistant. So don’t worry that the white you prefer will turn yellow in the future.
Cast Iron – Disadvantages
  1. Heavy and High Installation Cost – A contractor’s nightmare. It means lifting equipment and more human resources must be provided to position the bath in place. And the floor may have to be reinforced adequately beforehand to hold the bath. The installation alone, which might include endorsement by a professional engineer on the floor strength, could cost several times more than the bath itself.
  2. Expensive – Besides the high installation cost, the price of a cast iron bath is much higher than steel and acrylic. This is due largely to the higher manufacturing and transportation cost. It is not surprising for a cast iron bath factory to rack up hundreds of thousands of pounds in electricity bills each month.
  3. Rust – Like steel, rust is inevitable once the iron is exposed. Though the chances are quite remote, do occasionally check for dents, cracks and chips. Invest in a reasonably good black light torch to help with visually less obvious issues like hairline cracks. It is important to nip rust in the bud before it leads to corrosion. The good thing is that the enamel can be repaired, and an enamel repair kit is easily available from DIY shops or online stores like Amazon.
  4. Cold to the Touch – Just like steel (see above).

Natural Stone and Stone Resin

Natural Stone Bath
Image Origin:

Stone is also a common bathtub material if you are looking for excellent heat retention properties and stunning aesthetics. And like cast iron, it is hardly used to make straight baths. Isn’t it a waste to make them look like acrylic or steel baths, right?

The making process of stone baths can be as primitive as carving or sculpting out of a boulder or stone block quarried from stone mines, either by hand or using modern tools and machinery. Or moulded from an engineered composite of resin and stone. The latter is primarily suited for mass production and is mainly retailed through bathroom stores. And the former can either be off the shelves or on a bespoke basis.

They are better known as stone resin baths when they are not chiselled out from a whole piece of rock. And the advantage is that the surface is non-porous, which will not cause mould and stain issues.

Heat retention is excellent, much better than cast iron and acrylic. If money is no object and you are a die-hard long soaker, the 100% natural stone bath is almost not an option. Otherwise, the stone resin version is still a better choice and much more affordable (and lighter).

Natural Stone and Stone Resin – Advantages
  1. Excellent Heat Retention – Stone has the best heat retention properties. In fact, some said (and proved) that it is several folds better at keeping heat compared to acrylic. This makes sense since natural stone baths usually have thick bodies, and the thinner stone resin baths are well insulated. Also, stones are not metal and don’t conduct heat as efficiently as steel or iron. So heat loss through the tub’s body is much slower than those metal baths.
  2. Light Weight Only If It’s Stone Resin – Natural stone is heavy, but if weight is a concern, you have stone resin to opt for. The engineered stone resin baths have a thinner body. Thus, lighter compared to an entire piece of natural stone. But they are still twice as heavy as acrylic or steel in the range of 140kg to 200kg, depending on the bath size.
  3. Extremely Durable – If you don’t whack it deliberately with a hard object, it won’t crack or break. Some stone sculptures have been around for hundreds of years (such as Michelangelo’s David). So can your stone bath if you use and upkeep it properly. Perfect for those who are sick and tired of replacing bath after bath and want a bath that will last forever. And just like the other materials, minor scratches and chips can be repaired easily.
  4. Mother Nature with Great Aesthetics – Not just in form, which you can fake with acrylic, but in substance too. As a result, it’s a pleasure to look at, and the tactile qualities also confirm that you’ve got a real piece of nature and are actually immersed in it from the comfort of your home. No more pretending or imagining as you do with acrylic.
  5. Solid As A Rock – Yes, it is. If you want reliability, sturdiness and great strength, a stone bath is exactly that.
Natural Stone and Stone Resin – Disadvantages
  1. Natural But Way Heavier Than Cast Iron – The stone resin baths are about the same weight range as cast iron. For example, a regular-size (1700mm by 750mm by 500mm) stone resin bath is about 160kg compared to 170kg of cast iron of roughly the same size. However, the natural stone bath carved out from a whole rock is about 4 times that of stone resin or cast iron. E.g., a 1700mm by 750mm machined out stone marble bath weighs about 700kg. A hand-sculpted piece will be even heavier because it is usually thicker than the machined ones.
  2. An Open Budget Helps – Anything between £1,400 and £5,000 is likely the stone resin baths. From £5,000 (roughly) to require you to submit a price quotation request, you are mostly looking at a hand-crafted or machined natural stone bath. And for a bespoke piece, it is usually a 5-figure amount, which can either be machined or handmade. Also, it depends on the brands. Well-known brands are also well known to be expensive. And don’t forget to include the installation in your budget, which is another significant cost.
  3. Porous Nature – Only if you have chosen to go with natural stones which are porous by nature. And depends on your cleaning routine, maintaining a stain-free tub surface can take a lot of work. It will need special care with specific cleaners to keep the tub pristine, especially with mould and limescale, which will blemish the surface if you leave the tub wet too often to dry by itself. The better choice will be the stone resin baths which are non-porous if you want an easier cleaning regime.
  4. More Elaborate Installation – Because of the massive weight of natural stones, typically, the floor has to be strengthened to hold the overall weight of the bath and its content. Even on the ground floor, it is better to seek professional advice before installing one. Otherwise, there are always lighter stone resin baths you can consider.

Important Factors to Consider For Best Heat Retention

Apparently, not all baths are created equal, as you have learned above about the different tub materials. Each offers varying efficiency in maintaining the water temperature. And the more expensive material will invariably be better at holding the warmth.

So if you want a satisfying soak, which usually means a good 30 minutes without the water losing too much heat, you need to spend more for a cast iron or stone bath.

But that’s only half the truth the bath company wants you to believe as the only reason. There are more factors affecting the cooling-off timing than meets the eye. If cast iron or stone isn’t ideal for you, whether it is due to your budget or the floor strength, consider these other factors that will help acrylic or steel be your go-to material.

Bath Thickness – The thicker it is, the better it can retain heat, regardless of material type. The thickness can get up to 10mm for acrylic, but you may need to search a little harder as the common thickness is 5mm.

Bath Dimension/Water Surface Size – Generally, a smaller bath can hold heat better than a larger bath. As the water surface size correlates to the bath size, the larger bath will dissipate heat faster than the smaller ones. Though you can do nothing with the bath dimension, you can slow the heat loss by using a bath cover or anything that will reduce the water surface area.

Bath Type and Installation – Freestanding bath with open space around it will cool off faster as the heat is freely dissipated in all directions. Consider installing the bath against the wall. This way, the wall becomes like an insulation and reduces the exposure of the bath’s body to the surrounding environment. So pick the bath type carefully for maximum heat retention efficiency.

Bathroom Size – It takes more energy to heat up a large room versus a small room. So relatively speaking, the air in a large bathroom may cool the bath faster than it (the bath) tries to heat up the room. You may want to install a heater in the bathroom if the water is cooling too fast for a satisfying soak. This will help reduce the temperature difference between the surrounding air and the bath water, thereby slowing the heat loss.

Temperature In The Bathroom – Ideally, the temperature in the bathroom should be about the same range as in the living room during the winter months – typically about 22 °C to 25 °C. However, to achieve that, a heating system for the bathroom might be necessary.

Then, you may raise the thermostat bar to help keep the bath water warm for longer. But be careful not to be overly warm in the bathroom to the point you can sweat while towelling off. And the humidity in the bathroom may reach unhealthy levels that promote mould and bacteria growth.

Use a Bath Screen – A bath screen can be an ideal solution if you don’t want to mess with the bathroom temperature and humidity. Depending on the screen size, it can contain the heat around the bath to a certain level. So the water will not cool off as fast as without a bath screen.

In Other Words…

There are many more bath materials you can look into other than those popular materials. But whatever material you are considering, the fundamentals must be met before pulling out your credit card.

So basic questions like these will help direct towards the ideal bath and stay within budget,

1. Do you have the space and floor strength to install a bath?
You may already know at the back of your mind, but it is the most important before anything else. This question will address the size and weight of the bath and help you understand your options. The stronger the floor is, the wider the range of materials you can use. Of course, that’s assuming you have the space for whatever bath size you are considering.

2. How much are you prepared to spend on installing a bath?
To ensure you avoid impulsive spending, having a budget set at the beginning will help you stay objective and practical. And do include the installation cost if it is for a replacement. You may adjust as you explore further.

3. How easy is it to upkeep the bath?
When was the last time you cleaned the toilet? Avoid natural stone if you can’t recall. Then let your budget decide on anything from acrylic to stone resin since they are non-porous and easy to clean and maintain.

4. How long can the water stay warm?
Every salesperson loves this question because it’s an opportunity to sell you a more expensive bath so they can earn a higher commission. But you have read the numerous ways to prolong the warmth of the water, and it definitely opens up more options at your disposal. If you don’t have the budget for stone, no problem. It’s cheaper to install a room heater or get a thicker acrylic or steel bath. Otherwise, a bath screen doesn’t cost much, either.

5. Which of the bath materials offers the best aesthetics?
Aesthetics are very subjective, so define your own and weigh it against your budget and all the factors above. You will have the answer instantly.

Ignore the money part; what’s your favourite bath material, and which have you tried so far? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your bits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cookies are used to store information on your computer and essential to make our site work. They help us understand how you used this site so that we can improve your experience further. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.