A Beginner's Guide to Acrylic Bathtubs

Having a bathtub installed can be a real headache, especially when you're faced with countless materials and styles. And here's the thing: if you rush into the decision without knowing your options, you could end up with an uncomfortable and impractical bathtub.

What's worse, imagine purchasing a fancy bathtub only to realize it's not a good fit for your bathroom or lifestyle. The issues you might face with the 'wrong' bathtub can be difficult in maintaining its shine, the lack of warmth on a chilly winter morning, or the discomfort you feel while soaking.

That's where weighing your options will come to the rescue. One great option is an acrylic bathtub that will enhance your bathroom's appeal and practicality on a budget. But how would you know if an acrylic bathtub is a good choice for you?

That's what we'll explain today in this beginners' guide to acrylic bathtubs. So, if you're to invest in an acrylic bathtub but are unsure about its aesthetic appeal and functionality, read on while we explain the nitty-gritty details of these tubs!


What are Acrylic Bathtubs?

As the name suggests, acrylic bathtubs are constructed from acrylic, a plastic derived from petroleum products. Acrylic is molded under high heat and pressure into a tub shape, then backed with fiberglass for added strength and durability.

One of the primary characteristics of acrylic bathtubs is their lightweight nature, allowing for easier installation, especially in upper-level bathrooms where weight could be a significant consideration. Yet, despite being lightweight, these tubs are sturdy and durable, thanks to fiberglass backing. So don't let their lightweight befool you; these bathtubs are very sturdy and they look amazing!

Another defining attribute of acrylic tubs is their smooth, non-porous surface so that dirt and residue have a hard time sticking around. This trait makes these tubs relatively easy to clean since dirt and grime cannot linger on their non-porous surface. Best of all, this non-porous surface also resists staining, so your bathtub will maintain its bright, clean appearance for many years.

Since acrylic is a flexible material when heated, it can be molded into multiple shapes and sizes to suit any bathroom layout. So, if you desire a standard rectangular design or a luxurious freestanding tub, the makers might have already molded one in that shape. 


Types of Acrylic Bathtubs

The main thing to undertake when installing an acrylic bathtub is its type because these tubs don't come in a default cut/size. Here are some choices you'll be presented with when choosing an acrylic bathtub:

1.    Freestanding Acrylic Bathtubs

Freestanding acrylic bathtubs stand alone anywhere in your bathroom and are not attached to any wall or corner. So, if you have a unique bathroom interior or style preference, a freestanding tub will look good. Such a bathtub is finished on all sides and often serves as a show-stopping centerpiece, infusing an air of luxury and elegance into your space.

These bathtubs can be oval, rectangular, and even asymmetrical, so you have a broad spectrum of design possibilities. If you admire a bold statement in your interiors, these bathtubs will suit your style because of their subtle yet well-defined style.

Freestanding acrylic bathtubs are lighter than those made from other materials like stone or cast iron. Since upper-floor bathrooms have certain weight-bearing standards, a sleek yet sturdy acrylic tub is a smart choice for them.

Best of all, the luxurious aesthetic of freestanding bathtubs makes them a perfect fit for modern, minimalist, or spa-like bathroom designs.

2.    Drop-In Acrylic Bathtubs

Drop-in acrylic bathtubs, or platform or inset tubs, are designed to be "dropped into" a pre-built structure or frame. This could be a platform, an alcove, or a pre-existing recess in your bathroom where the tub will sit. The edges of the bathtub sit flush with the surrounding frame to create a seamless and geometric look.

As drop-in bathtubs offer impressive customization opportunities, you can get its surrounding deck or frame to match your bathroom vanities and decor. Pro bathroom designers will tailor a drop-in tub using materials like tile, stone, or even wood - so you have a lot of leeway to create a personalized aesthetic. Drop-in bathtubs are also typically easier to install than freestanding tubs, as they don't require any special plumbing alterations. They simply need a support structure to rest on.

If we talk about design, drop-in bathtubs can adjust in various bathroom styles. For example, a tile-encased drop-in bathtub can work well with a traditional bathroom design, while a sleek, minimalist frame can complement a modern bathroom.

3.    Alcove Acrylic Bathtubs

Alcove bathtubs, or recessed bathtubs, are installed in a three-walled recess in the bathroom, with only the front side exposed. Because they take advantage of existing walls, alcove bathtubs are a space-efficient option. Such a setting makes them a go-to choice for smaller bathrooms or homes with multiple bathrooms.

Alcove bathtubs mostly have a rectangular shape that provides a clean-lined design to complement a range of bathroom vanities. These bathtubs also offer dual functionality as they usually include a shower fixture.

If you're skeptical about their adjustment to your interior decor, rest assured, knowing that alcove acrylic bathtubs work well with traditional, contemporary, and transitional bathroom designs. So, no matter your bathroom's theme, an alcove bathtub will look nice in it - if there's space to accommodate its three sides, that is.

4.    Clawfoot Acrylic Bathtubs

Clawfoot tubs are characterized by their four' feet,' usually styled to resemble the claws of an animal. The tub itself is freestanding, meaning you can place it anywhere in the bathroom. This design feature, coupled with the decorative 'feet,' makes clawfoot tubs a stunning focal point in any bathroom.

From the classic roll-top design to the slipper style with a high back for added comfort, a clawfoot tub can come in any design. These tubs are easier to move and install, all while retaining the vintage charm they are loved for.

The clawfoot bathtub's old-world charm sits well in vintage, farmhouse, or traditional bathroom designs. However, a contemporary or minimalist bathroom can serve as a striking contrast piece, blending the old with the new for an eclectic touch.


Advantages of Acrylic Bathtubs

Besides looking minimal and stylish, an acrylic bathtub also has multiple practical benefits that can improve your bathing time. Here are some pros of getting an acrylic bathtub:

●      Impressive Insulation

Acrylic material's insulating properties help maintain the temperature of the bathwater and make your soak last longer without the need to continually add hot water.

Such superior insulation capability results from the manufacturing process and the physical characteristics of acrylic. Acrylic is non-conductive, so it doesn't easily absorb heat or cold from the surrounding environment. Consequently, when you fill your acrylic bathtub with warm water, the heat gets trapped inside the tub and prolongs the warmth of your bath.

Acrylic's warmth to the touch adds another level of comfort to your bathing experience. Unlike bathtubs made from cast iron or porcelain, an acrylic tub won't feel cold when you first step into it.

●      Fade Resistance

The color in an acrylic bathtub is not just on the surface; it's all the way through the material. As a result, the tub maintains its color for an extended period, even with regular use. This integral color also helps hide minor scratches or chips that may occur over time. As these imperfections are less noticeable in the consistent color profile, it'll be easier to maintain a spotless tub.

Conversely, porcelain over steel or cast-iron bathtubs have color only on the surface layer. If this layer gets chipped or worn out, the underlying material can show through and lead to unsightly spots or color inconsistencies.

Acrylic bathtubs can be impressively resistant to the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. That's why they won't turn yellow or discolor when exposed to sunlight.

●      Sound Damping

Acrylic bathtubs offer reliable sound damping properties and create a quieter, more serene bathing experience. It is a relatively soft material, and when combined with the fiberglass reinforcement typically found in acrylic bathtubs, it reduces the noise produced by water impact. So, when you're filling the tub or moving around in it, the sound is absorbed rather than echoed, as it might be in enamel or cast iron.

The sound-dampening aspect is beneficial in busy households where a bathroom can often be a place to escape the noise. Luckily, a well-built acrylic bathtub can make your bath time quieter by minimizing the sound of running water and other incidental noises.

●      Ease of Repairing Minor Damages

Despite our best efforts, bathtubs can become susceptible to minor damages like scratches or chips. An outstanding advantage of acrylic bathtubs is the relative ease with which these damages can be repaired.

The repair process generally involves filling the chip or scratch with a filler material, then sanding it down to create a smooth surface that matches the rest of the bathtub. The final step is to polish the repaired area to restore its original shine. This process is straightforward, and because the color in acrylic tubs runs through the entire material, the repaired area blends with the rest of the tub, making the damage nearly invisible.

●      Lightweight Nature and Easy Installation

Compared to cast iron or steel, acrylic is considerably lighter, often weighing 50% to 75% less. This lighter weight makes the tubs easier to handle during installation, opening up more possibilities for placement within your bathroom.

The reduced weight of an acrylic bathtub doesn't just make the physical installation easier and lessens the demand on your home's structural support. This lightweight nature can come in handy if you're planning to install a bathtub in an upper-floor bathroom where weight can be a significant concern.


Disadvantages of Acrylic Bathtubs

Sure, an acrylic bathtub brings along multiple benefits, it's not void of flaws, and you might face some issues. Although these are not typical, here are some noteworthy negative possibilities of an acrylic bathtub you should be mindful of:

●      Chemical Sensitivity

Acrylic is a non-porous material, that's why it's easy to clean and resistant to mold and mildew. However, this same characteristic also makes it susceptible to damage from abrasive cleaners or strong chemicals.

Chemicals in many bathroom cleaners can cause damage to the acrylic surface, leading to discoloration, dullness, or even cracking. Abrasive scrubbing tools can also scratch an acrylic surface and damage the bathtub's glossy finish. It's recommended to use non-abrasive cleaners specifically designed for acrylic surfaces and soft cleaning tools like sponges or soft cloths.

For example, a cleaner containing bleach is usually excellent for removing stains and sanitizing surfaces, but it can be too harsh for an acrylic bathtub. It can potentially cause discoloration and fade the bathtub.

●      Extra Structural Support Required

Acrylic bathtubs, especially those with added features like jet systems, can be quite heavy once filled with water. This added weight might require extra floor support, particularly in older homes or upper-story bathrooms.

While the tub itself is light, once filled with water and occupied, it can weigh several hundred pounds. Depending on your home's existing structure, this may necessitate reinforcement of the floor beneath the tub.

●      Susceptibility to Scratches and Stains

As a softer material, acrylic can be scratched more easily, especially by sharp objects or abrasive cleaning tools. These scratches can trap dirt and grime, leading to unsightly stains that can be difficult to remove.

For example, a dropped razor or a child's toy can scratch the bathtub's surface. Over time, soap scum or mineral deposits can accumulate in these scratches and lead to persistent stains that require significant effort to remove. Sure, you can buff minor scratches or repair them with a DIY repair kit; preventing them in the first place is always preferable.


Summing Up

An acrylic bathtub brings a blend of durability, aesthetics, and versatility. But before making this substantial home investment, you must do your research and weigh an acrylic bathtub's pros and cons. Once you're certain that this tub will suit your home's interiors, go ahead and pick a style based on your bathroom's structure to give it a quick facelift.

It's also worth noting that the quality of the installation can be just as important as the quality of the bathtub itself. So, it can truly make a difference when carried out by seasoned professionals - choose wisely!



Can I use regular bathroom cleaners on my acrylic bathtub?

Regular bathroom cleaners with abrasive ingredients or harsh chemicals can damage the surface of an acrylic bathtub. That's why you must use non-abrasive, acrylic-safe cleaners and soft cleaning tools like sponges or soft cloths to maintain the bathtub's shine.

Are acrylic bathtubs durable?

Yes, acrylic bathtubs are quite resistant to cracks and offer flexibility that prevents them from breaking under pressure. But they are susceptible to scratches and stains, so careful handling and proper cleaning are essential to maintain their look and extend their lifespan.

Do acrylic bathtubs require special installation?

While acrylic bathtubs are lighter and generally easier to install than those made from other materials, they may require extra floor support, especially for larger models or when filled with water. Therefore, you must evaluate your home's structural capacity during the planning and installation process.

Acrylic bathtubs