If you're in the market for a new bathtub, you might assume that your options are limited to traditional, heavy cast-iron bathtubs with thick enamel coatings -- quite a daunting investment if you're on a tight budget. However, with modern materials and casting methods, you now have a wide range of bathtub materials to choose from, many of which are significantly cheaper and easier to fit than ordinary iron bathtubs. However, these materials come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to shop around and find the material most suited to your individual needs.
If you're after a simple, cheap and cheerful bathtub, fibreglass might be the material for you. Fibreglass tubs are generally the least expensive options on the market, but despite this, they are very durable, and largely invulnerable to damage caused by thermal shock. They are also very lightweight and can be made in almost any shape or configuration, making them the best option when it comes to quick and easy fitting.
Unfortunately, the finish on most fibreglass bathtubs leaves much to be desired, and your shiny new tub won't stay shiny and new for long. Surface scratches and chips are easy to inflict and practically impossible to repair without professional sealing equipment. They also suffer from fading and discolouration over time due to oxidisation, and the thin materials used means that a fibreglass bathtub tends to flex under your weight whenever you move -- hardly ideal for a long, relaxing soak.
Take a fibreglass core and coat it with a thick layer of plastic acrylic, and you have the acrylic bathtub, one of the most popular options on the market today. Acrylic bathtubs have many advantages; they are durable, easy to clean, and have excellent heat insulation properties, keeping your bathwater warmer for longer. Acrylic tubs are also very resistant to scratches and cracks, and any marring of the finish can be easily repaired by yourself with acrylic filling kits. Acrylic bathtubs tend to be more expensive than simple fibreglass models, but are still cheaper than most other options.
You might not be so enthusiastic about acrylic if you have a keen aesthetic eye, however. Acrylic bathtubs are available in a wide variety of colours and shapes, but all have the 'plastic-y' gloss and feel associated with their cheaper fibreglass cousins. They are also significantly heavier than fibreglass tubs and can be difficult to clean if you opt for a rougher, non-slip surface finish.
You might think that a marble bathtub is way out of the price range of any budget bathroom build, and you're probably right. However, cultured marble, a material made from crushed limestone and resin covered with a resistant gel coating, effectively emulates the luxurious look and feel of real marble at a fraction of the price. Cultured marble tubs have a striking, glossy shine, and the tough gel coating makes them easy to clean and maintain.
However, eventually the gel coating will wear away, and the limestone-resin mix beneath it is porous and easily stained and damaged -- as such, you'll probably need to renew the gel coat every few years to keep a cultured marble tub looking new. They are also more expensive than either fibreglass or acrylic tubs (though still cheaper than enamel-on-steel), and larger tubs especially can be back-breakingly heavy, necessitating expensive professional installation in many cases. For more information on tub types and bathroom supplies, contact a local business.