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I'm finding that most tubs available are acrylic/fiberglass, with a few steel enameled ones scattered in. Seems like cast iron tubs are less available and costly (for good reason).

Are acrylic tubs as durable as a coated steel tub? Any major benefit/downside of one over the other?
My gut tells me to go with the coated steel tub since its more durable from a structure standpoint, but do the coatings hold up like cast iron tubs did of the past and do they rust out?
Is acrylic an inferior coating to a enameled steel tub? Tub will be in an apartment and tenants so the more durable, the better.

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  • This question/answers seem to have everything you need for a decision. diy.stackexchange.com/questions/11742/…
    – crip659
    Sep 7, 2022 at 19:44
  • I think I heard years ago(can be mind playing tricks) in a galaxy far away, that adding insulation between the walls of a non cast iron bathtub can help with heat retention of the water. This would be more for you, than maybe what you want to do for a tenant.
    – crip659
    Sep 8, 2022 at 0:22
  • @crip659 Great link, thanks for sharing that. Good point, on my own acrylic tub I put some regular pink insulation around it just for the added heat retention/sound barrier.
    – RocketManZ
    Sep 8, 2022 at 13:39

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I've had both. There's no issue with steel tubs rusting out (in my experience, 35+ years no issues). The biggest issue is if homeowner or plumber uses strong acid to clear a clogged drain, it can easily damage the coating--for which there is no perfect repair. Been there, done that.

On acrylic, they are not as sturdy and if not properly installed with cement base underneath, they will flex---and possibly break over time. In my experience, their finishes also are relatively short-lived before becoming dull looking.

I'd go with steel if I were doing a new one...and in fact will be in the near future when expanding my 1/4 bath to a full bath.

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    A steel tub that's not properly bedded will also flex, and that can cause it to chip and rust. Their enamel is also thin .vs. cast iron, and more easily damaged by aggressive cleaning, which is another route to rust. I went through replacing a 40+ year old unit that had started rusting and refinishing failed to work on. I went with plastic (fiberglas/acrylic), properly bedded in plaster. Solid as a rock that way.
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 7, 2022 at 23:51
  • Sounds like the real answer lies in the proper installation of the tub and proper maintenance once it's installed more than the initial material it's made of.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 8, 2022 at 12:32
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    @peinal Thanks for the info and what your future plan is. I'm leaning towards the steel tub as well.
    – RocketManZ
    Sep 8, 2022 at 13:40

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