Finding the right bathtub for your bathroom can be an exhausting process when you're unsure which material is best. Acrylic and gel coat tubs are two of the most popular types of bathtub materials to choose from. But which one is best? We have researched both materials, and in this post, we will discuss their similarities and differences to help you make the best decision possible.
The main difference between gel coat and acrylic tubs and showers is the porosity of their surfaces. Acrylic is naturally non-porous and retained a high- gloss finish even after years of use. In comparison, gel-coated fiberglass is a reinforced polyester material with a porous surface and is less expensive than acrylic.
There are several other differences between acrylic and gel coat tubs. The main ones worth noting are related to their maintenance, costs, and overall look. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between these two bathtub materials.
Gel Coat Vs. Acrylic Tub And Shower
Acrylic Tubs and Showers
These tubs are known for their ability to last for several years without showing any signs of wear and tear. However, acrylic can scratch easily if you use the wrong cleaners or materials to maintain it. It's best to use mild or non-abrasive cleaners when cleaning it to avoid surface scratches and yellowing. Let's take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of acrylic tubs and showers.
A good quality acrylic tub can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years if it's well maintained. It's worth noting that acrylic tubs don't crack easily. And even if the surface of the bathtub becomes chipped, scratched, or dented, you'll find that the color of the tub will remain the same throughout its life. Acrylic is a fairly sturdy material, and when combined with fiberglass and multiple resins, it forms a strong bottom, making it perfect for bathtubs and shower surfaces.
Because it has a naturally non-porous surface, acrylic bathtubs and showers are mold, mildew, and bacteria-resistant. The surface is also warm to the touch, which means that the tub will stay warm for a longer period of time. The non-porous surface also acts as an excellent barrier to prevent dirt from accumulating and discoloring the material's surface.
There is no shortage of acrylic tubs in the bathroom remodeling marketplace. They are the most abundant material options that you'll find when shopping for a new tub or shower, as they generally have the highest demand. Because of this, you'll find that acrylic bathtubs come in a wide variety of styles and color options.
Learn more about this acrylic bathtub on Amazon.
Acrylic bathtubs can be more expensive than fiberglass tubs. However, they fall in the middle range when it comes to bathtub and shower prices. For example, you'll often find that these tubs will be about half the price of cast iron bathtubs. So if you're looking for a new tub and have a smaller budget in mind, an acrylic bathtub or shower may be one of the best choices to consider.
These tubs are easy to install, given that they are relatively lightweight. The average acrylic bathtub weighs about 75 lb, which is average for most bathtubs. This makes the tubs and showers easier to move and carry for installation, especially if the bathroom is located in the upper levels.
Though acrylic tubs are durable and highly resilient, they can scratch easily if you use harsh cleaners or tools to maintain them. This includes harsh cleaning products or abrasive cleaning pads such as wool scrubbers.
Over time, acrylic tubs can become discolored or damaged from everyday grooming products such as soap and hair products. They can also become develop scratches and yellow spots from the minerals in the water.
Gel Coat Tubs and Showers
Gel coat tubs and showers are also known as "FBR" (Fiberglass-reinforced plastic). This fiberglass material is made from layers of small plastic strings interwoven and then heat it together. The material is then shaped, molded, and sprayed with a resin gel coat.
It's one of the most affordable tub and shower options available on the marketplace today, and it's also known for its easy installation. They have a lifespan of anywhere from 10 to 15 years, if well-maintained. Let's discuss some of their pros and cons.
Most gel coat tubs' price point is probably its biggest advantage over other tub and shower materials. This budget-friendly material beats out other materials, including marble, soapstone, granite, cast iron, and copper, when it comes to savings. It's also generally less expensive than acrylic bathtubs.
Easy to repair
If you get scratches or dents on your gel coat tub, repairing it isn't the end of the world. These tubs are more prone to cracks and scratches, but they can be sanded down and coated with epoxy resin to smooth out any damaged areas. You can purchase a fiberglass repair kit online or at your local hardware store for around $15.
Check out this gel coat repair kit on Amazon.
Easy to install
Gel coat tubs and showers are also easy to install and maneuver into place, especially when compared to their heavier stone or metal counterparts. The tubs weigh about 70 lbs on average, which means that two people can generally carry it up or down a flight of steps without much effort.
These lightweight tubs are slightly thinner than other bathtub and shower materials, making them less durable. The finish on the tubs may crack or scratch over time, and you may also notice the color begin to fade. Gel coat tubs are also somewhat flexible, and older models may shift at some point, causing the caulk around at the tub to chip and crack.
This is probably the biggest disadvantage of gel coat tubs and showers. This material's porous surface it more susceptible to bacterial, mold, and mildew growth, ultimately affecting its color. Over time, the gel coat on the tub can rub off or develop hairline cracks due to stress points, which can cause dirt and grime to become embedded in the surface of the material. Once this happens, the color of the tub and shower will fade and become harder to keep clean.
What is the difference between acrylic and gel coat tubs?
The biggest difference between acrylic and gel coat tubs is their surface porosity. While acrylic tubs have non-porous surfaces, gel-coated tubs have poor circulation. This is important to note when it comes to cleaning and repairing the tubs. Also, acrylic tubs will retain their high-gloss shine for years after usage, while gel-coated tubs can lose their luster over the years due to everyday wear and tear. However, on the upside, gel-coated tubs are less expensive.
Can gel coat be repaired?
Yes. Gel-coated tubs can be repaired if they have hairline cracks or dents. The easiest and most common way to correct these issues is to buy a fiberglass repair kit. The repair kit contains an epoxy resin that is applied to the affected area and then sanded down.
Can you paint gel coat?
Yes. If you are dissatisfied with the worn-out look of your gel-coated tub, you can change it. The paint you'll need to use is epoxy paint, which will adhere to the tub's surface and won't wear off when the tub is exposed to water. You'll also need to properly prime the tub's surface before applying the paint to ensure a quality finish.
Can I repair an acrylic bathtub?
Yes. You can repair an acrylic tub using a tub repair kit. You can purchase the kits for around $15 at any local hardware store or online. The process involves placing epoxy resin on the affected area, allowing it to dry, and then sanding it down to the tub's surface.
Take a look at this acrylic repair kit on Amazon.
Can you paint an acrylic bathtub?
Yes. You can paint an acrylic tub using epoxy paint, also known as "epoxy coating." For the most part, epoxy paint works the same as oil and water-based paints, except that it's designed to provide a strong, durable, and long-lasting coating on the tub's surface.
Wrapping Things Up
Both gel-coated and acrylic are great options for bathtubs and showers. If you're looking for a less expensive option, gel coat tubs may be the better option. But if you want something durable and that will last a long time without fading, acrylic is the better choice.
Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:
How Big Is A Bathtub? [A Breakdown Of Standard Dimensions]