Customers often ask us which is better, a Cast Iron Clawfoot Bathtub or an Acrylic Clawfoot Bathtub? It's a legitimate question that is not quite so easy to answer. Many articles exist online comparing these two types of stand alone bathtubs but it can still be hard to make an informed decision. Both Acrylic and Cast Iron Clawfoot Tubs have pros and cons depending on your situation.
Take a minute to read through this article and learn how to determine which is best for you. At the end of the article you will read some quotes collected from many places around the web. They are real quotes that real people left as comments on various home improvement discussion forums. Our goal was to collect this information together in one place to help make your decision a bit easier. Articles like this one can inevitably come off like a sales pitch. That is not our intention, hence the real user quotes. Our goal here at FaucetList.com is to help you find the right Tub for you, not to convince you to buy something you don't need or want.
That being said, at FaucetList.com we do have over 40 years' experience in the plumbing industry. Using our expertise we put together this article to provide you with the information you need to compare and decide for yourself. If however you don't have time to read the entire article, below is the long and short of it from our perspective. Read on for more detailed information and additional comparison points.
Cast Iron Clawfoot Tubs feel nicer, are sturdier, last longer (think generations), and retain heat better allowing for longer soaking time. If you plan to mount additional hardware like a Clawfoot Tub Shower directly to your Tub, you may need to go Cast Iron in order to support the extra weight of these fixtures. The downside is Cast Iron Tubs are heavy, making them sometimes unsuitable for upstairs bathrooms. A Cast Iron tub will definitely make your contractor complain as it may take four people to lift. Cast Iron Tubs are also more expensive than Acrylic, but in recent years prices have come down a bit due to high demand.
Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs are lighter and easier to move around and install. They are great for upstairs bathrooms. Acrylic Tubs are warmer on the initial touch and unlike Cast Iron Tubs, they do not need to be filled with hot water in order to heat up (they basically maintain the same temperature as the room). Acrylic is less expensive, so if you are on a budget an Acrylic Clawfoot Tub is the way to go. The downside is that Acrylic Tubs do not retain heat as well as Cast Iron Tubs (although this is somewhat up for debate). They also do not add the same value to your home since high-end bathroom plans pretty much exclusively demand real Cast Iron Tubs.
With so many options and decisions when doing a remodel or building a new home it can be complicated and overwhelming to decide which Tub will be best for you. To keep it SUPER simple, ask yourself these two (in our opinion) most important questions:
Bottom Line is that either type of Tub will be very enjoyable, look great, and last for many years. A bit later in this guide there will be more details on the differences between Cast Iron and Acrylic. However first let's look at some of the positive features offered by both types of Free Standing Clawfoot Tubs. Remember, these two types of Tubs do not exist in a vacuum. There are also those normal, small, built-into-the-wall type of Tubs. Both Cast Iron and Acrylic Freestanding Clawfoot Tubs are definitely better than that...But let's try not to get too far off topic.
A Freestanding Clawfoot Tub offers many benefits. They are striking in appearance and can be the focal point of your bathroom, giving it both character and style. Whether you go Acrylic or Cast Iron, Clawfoot Tub manufacturing has improved to the point where either material will last for many many years. A Clawfoot Tub really is a lifetime investment. By purchasing one you are investing in you! Large Claw foot Bathtubs are deeper than standard tubs and allow you to fully enjoy a long relaxing soak. After a hard week of work doesn't that sound nice?
Stand Alone Bathtubs are also easy to install. Unlike drop-in tubs you don't have to tear out a wall or even caulk edges. When you install a Clawfoot Tub you simply put it where you want in the bathroom and then install the clawfoot tub filler faucetplumbing hardware. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to placement. Clawfoot Tubs work equally well installed just about anywhere in your bathroom. Whether you want your tub parallel or perpendicular to the wall or even in the middle of the room, a Clawfoot Tub can be a literal centerpiece to the room. They can help make small bathrooms look more natural and large bathrooms look more spacious. Clawfoot Tubs are a great way to fully transform the look of your bathroom or even to convert the side of an existing room into a bathroom.
Free Standing Clawfoot Soaking Tubs are very comfortable. If you enjoy spending a long time soaking in a hot bath, a Clawfoot Tub can offer you a truly luxurious experience. Whether Acrylic or Cast Iron, all Clawfoot Bathtubs are designed to retain as much heat as possible so you can relax for a long time without the water becoming cold. Clawfoot Tubs offer a Classic style and a luxurious addition to any bathroom.
When selecting your Clawfoot Bathtub you will inevitably come across several types. Here is an introduction to the most common types of Clawfoot Tub.
Slipper style tubs are raised at one end. The raised end provides a back and head support allowing you to really sink into it. Slipper claw foot tubs are distinguished by their high-back construction which provides a more comfortable seating position. If you like lounging in a tub and being able to rest your head, a slipper style tub is for you! The Clawfoot Tub Faucet and Drain install at the lower end of the tub so they will be out of your way as you lay back.
Double Ended Tubs are rounded for your choice of bathing position. They feature a center drain configuration and a Faucet mounted on the long side of the Bathtub. This allows both short ends to be free from hardware and available for relaxing. Depending on your room configuration a Double Ended Claw Foot Tub can be great. Especially if you want to place the tub in a more central location, this style of Clawfoot Tub allows it to really become a focal point of the room.
Double Slipper Tubs offer the best of the Slipper Tub and the Best of the Double Ended Tub. The central drain placement and side-mounted Tub Faucet allow the bather to take advantage of both high ended head rests. The larger size Double Slipper Tubs can accommodate two people, offering comfortable head and back rests for both. Large Double Slipper Clawfoot Tubs represent the height of comfort and luxury and offer a wonderfully relaxing experience.
Pedestal tubs mimic 1920s and 1930s art-deco style Free Standing Tubs. Rather than having "feet" like a normal Claw Foot Tub, the Pedestal Tub sits on a wide base. Pedestal Tubs offer a more modern take on a Classic ClawFoot Tub while still preserving its best qualities. These large, deep soaking Tubs offer the same great relaxing features as a Claw Foot Tub but offer you a chance to get creative with your bathroom design.
The original and basic Clawfoot Tub with one flat end and one rounded end. The rim of the tub is a roll top style creating a smooth edge. Faucets are typically mounted on flat end of the tub. This is the quintessential style of Clawfoot Tub. Produced using Cast Iron, large numbers of these tubs were made in the early 1900s, many of which are still around today, and are often sold as vintage or refurbished. This timeless design is classic hasn't changed much over the years. New Tubs in this style are available only in high-quality Cast Iron, just like in the old days.
Now that you are familiar with some of the different types of Clawfoot Tub, we will discuss a bit more about the difference between Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs and Cast Iron Clawfoot Tubs. As mentioned above there are good and not-so-good aspects of both. You need to consider your specific situation and decide which will work best for you.
Heat Retention seems to be the most debated topic when it comes Acrylic versus Cast Iron Bathtubs. Because Acrylic tubs are essentially plastic, they have a more even temperature. This means if you touch an Acrylic Tub before it's filled with water, it will feel basically the same temperature as the room. Cast Iron Tubs on the other hand will likely feel cold to the touch before being filled with water. Acrylic Claw Foot Tubs are usually a better insulator against heat transmission than Cast Iron Claw Foot Tubs (that is to say that they warm up faster than a Cast Iron Tub). Although once heated, a Cast Iron Tub will tend to keep water warmer longer than an Acrylic Tub because of the greater thermal mass of the Cast Iron Tub. The user comments below seems to indicate that this is the case.
A Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub is made of Iron. The Iron heats up when you add warm water. Since once Iron is hot it can hold that heat, it will keep the water in the tub warm for a long time. It will radiate that heat back into the water and into the room. Cast iron tubs hold heat extremely well, making them the ideal tub for a user who likes to sit and soak for extended periods of time. This is not to say that Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs do a bad job. In fact newer techniques for manufacturing Acrylic Tubs allow them to hold heat for a long time as well. Cast Iron Tubs really are still a bit better in this regard but remember, you can only stay in a Tub for so long before you start looking like a raisin so this issue may be less important than it seems. Both types of Tub offer a large, deep-water soaking experience, sure to be enjoyable for your whole family!
With regards to weight it is a clear win for Acrylic or is it? Certainly weight is an issue that must be considered. If you plan to install your Clawfoot Tub on the second floor you should make sure you have spoken to a professional and know that the room can support the weight. Whether you go Acrylic or Cast Iron, weight is a factor that must be considered when purchasing a Clawfoot Tub. Regardless of the weight of the Tub itself, you have to contend with the weight of water. At 8 pounds per gallon a 60 gallon tub full would weigh 480 pounds just from water. Add to that a person (or two) plus the weight of the tub. Cast Iron Tubs typically weigh around 300 pounds vs. an Acrylic Clawfoot Tub averaging around 120 pounds. So you can see that weight is definitely something that must be considered.
This also means that simply moving the tub into place can be a real project. You may need 4 people to lift a Cast Iron Tub and get it placed where you want. An Acrylic Tub only requires 2 people to lift. It's a bit like moving a couch - not so much heavy as bulky so you need more than one person. On the other hand, once your Tub is in place, you will likely never move it again and the heavier weight may actually be a benefit once you start using it. The most important thing to take home from this weight discussion is that you need to make sure the surface you wish to place the tub on can handle the weight (especially applicable in second story bathrooms).
Durability is another issue you must think about. Both types of Tub have some good and bad aspects. Cast Iron Tubs are undoubtedly more durable on a base level. With proper maintenance Cast Iron Bathtubs can last for generations. They require less upkeep than acrylic and may be the proper choice for bathrooms that receive a lot of traffic. Cast Iron Claw-foot tubs are made to last: Stories abound of people restoring old homes and keeping the original Clawfoot Bathtubs that came with the home because they're still in perfectly good condition.
Cast Iron Tubs are coated on the interior with a layer of Porcelain. The Porcelain interior provides excellent abrasion, stain, and wear resistance, often better than metals. This is very nice but it can be subject to cracking (for example if you drop something heavy) and may require re-glazing or resurfacing to repair. Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs on the other hand will never crack. Cast Iron's Porcelain surface resists scratches while Acrylic Tubs are more subject to scratching over time. To repair scratches on an Acrylic Tubs is relatively easy as most can be easily sanded and then buffed away to restore the shine. With proper care, scratching of Acrylic Tubs is not really a big issue.
Cleaning is another area these two types of Tub differ. Because Acrylic bathtubs are more prone to staining than Cast Iron Bathtubs a more rigorous cleaning schedule should be followed. The surface of an Acrylic Tub is very easy to keep clean. There are no pores for dirt to penetrate, so dirt will just rinse off. For sanitary purposes, you should clean your Bathtub with a non-abrasive soap. Dishwashing detergent such as Joy®, Palmolive®, Ivory®, etc and a soft sponge or cloth is all that you need. If you spill something on the bathtub and need something stronger, the following are SAFE to use: Fantastic®, Tackle®, Top Job®, Formula 409®, ScrubFree®, Calgon Bath®, Windex®, Clorox Bleach®, Spiffits® Bath, Glass Plus®, and Spic & Span Powder®.
DO NOT Clean Your Acrylic Bathtub with Paint Thinner, Goof OFF®, Scrubbing Bubbles®, Acetone, Lacquer Thinner, M.E.K. ® or other chemicals that attack the structural integrity of Acrylic plastics (including, but not limited to, acetones).
The Porcelain layer that lines the interior of a Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub resists stains and is a good choice for bathrooms with heavy use. We recommend using a mild, non-abrasive cleanser for the routine cleaning of any tub with a Porcelain interior. We also recommend you dry the porcelain interior after each use. For tougher stains, you may use a cleanser such as Bon Ami® or ZUD®. Zud is a non-abrasive cleanser that dissolves rust, mineral stains, hard water deposits, and soap scum. Make sure to fix a leaky right away as water deposits can build up and be hard to remove.
Of course Price is an ever important consideration. Cast Iron Tubs are almost always more expensive than their Acrylic counterparts. Cast Iron Tubs require more work and more expensive raw materials to properly manufacture. The end product is very nice but like anything, cost must always be considered. If your budget prohibits purchasing a Cast Iron Tub, an Acrylic Tub may be a wonderful compromise.
When comparing Cast Iron vs Acrylic Clawfoot Bathtubs it may be hard to decide but remember, you could be comparing a relaxing deep Clawfoot Tub with a normal drop-in Tub. Either Cast Iron or Acrylic will obviously be MUCH better than a normal tub. If you are working with a tight budget an Acrylic Tub may be a great way to get the experience of a wonderful Soaking Clawfoot Tub without the high price of Cast Iron. Paired with the proper Clawfoot Tub Hardware, a Clawfoot Tub creates a stunning look and a very useful and enjoyable function!
The above information should give you a pretty solid breakdown about the technical differences between different types of Clawfoot Tubs and the differences between the materials used in their construction. Comparing the pros and cons of the different types of Clawfoot Tub is something many people struggle with. We scoured the web looking for discussions about Clawfoot Tubs. Specifically we looked for topics where users were discussing which they prefer,Cast Iron Clawfoot Tubs or Acrylic Clawfoot TubsAcrylic Clawfoot Tubs. Below you will find some quotes from real people, many of whom are actual users of a Clawfoot Tub. This might give you some idea as to how people generally view the difference. Please feel free to add your own input or questions in the comment section below. It would be great to get some additional input, so if you have an opinion or thought, definitely leave us a comment!
"We have a cast iron tub (replaced a fiberglass tub/surround), and it is very easy to live with, easy to clean, ends up nice and clean and shiny every time. I much prefer the solidity of cast iron"
"Here is why people love them: They are deep. You can sit in hot water up to your chest without bending your knees. They are ideal for long soaks, because the cast iron holds the heat from the water longer than other materials. Acrylic tubs don't do that. There is just no comparison to the quality of bath you can get in an Cast Iron Bathtubsold cast-iron clawfoot tub. They also look really cool. If I could make just one change to my current house, I would put one in. Well, that and a fireplace, but definitely a cast-iron clawfoot tub."
"My main question was wrt toughness, actually, since the next tub we need will be in a kids' bathroom. For *toughness's* sake, I'm thinking cast iron, even though it's second floor. Maybe I will change my mind when it comes to actually getting the thing UP the stairs..."
"The acrylic ones seem so tiny and cheap-looking in comparison; they make me think of my daughter's Playmobil tub. Imitations of the real thing are rarely durably popular; everybody knows an acrylic claw-foot is a cheap substitute, and you will have a disposable item instead of something that could probably be coaxed into lasting another century."
"Cast iron is heavier, more expensive to purchase and install, will wear better and unlikely to move. Acrylic Clawfoot TubsAcrylic cost less, is less expensive to purchase and install, can get dinged and scratched and will move easily on the floor depending on how the tub filler and drain is installed. This can be a benefit since it can be moved and cleaned under and around."
"Besides from the pros and cons mentioned above, it depends on the FMV of your house. Cast iron is expected in more expensive homes. In less expensive homes, cast iron may be appreciated but acrylic would be acceptable."
"I had gone back and forth about acrylic vs cast iron. I can't remember all the pros and cons of each but I do remember wondering if the cast iron would be worth it for all the delays it caused us getting it and trouble for the GC getting it in. Now that we have it, I am so glad I didn't talk myself out of it. I just love the solid feel of it and how it radiates the heat back once you fill it up."
"I currently have an acrylic tub, but am planning a remodel and I have been following the threads on this forum having to do with cast iron vs acrylic tubs. I was in a hotel this past week and the cast iron tub itself was COLD! This was San Diego and the room temp was normal. I understand that cast iron will hold hot water hot longer, but what about when you first get in and touch the sides? Does this have to do with lack of insulation? Obviously this made me worry about cast iron in my old house during the snowy winter."
"A cast iron tub will feel cold until it is filled with hot water and then it will warm up and hold the heat keeping the water warmer longer. It will also radiate the heat back from the sides that are above the water line. Did you get in the hotel tub before it was full of water? It may take a couple of minutes before the iron heats up, but I've always found that by the time the tub was full the walls of the tub were warm."
"I did get in right away, as I am usually in a hurry to get going. Sometimes there is occasion for a leisurely soak, but not daily. For my part, I could adjust and wait just a little to get in for the tradeoff benefit of the solid feel of the cast iron, which I strongly prefer to acrylic. But the bath will be the only one in the house, and will be used as a shower for my husband, who often uses tepid or barely warm water. So I'm considering how much it matters that the tub will be cold to the touch for him too."
"I'm an interior designer, and I see a lot of statements that are very wrong. Even though acrylic can begin to look dull, there are way more pros than cons to having an acrylic tub. Acrylic tubs are lighter, stronger and easier to install than cast iron tubs. A cast iron tub requires more floor support, more labor to install and is more expensive to transport. Also, the natural warmth and thickness of acrylic tubs combine to preserve heat much longer than a cast iron tub. Someone stated above that cast iron holds more heat, not true. These days, acrylic tubs are being made of many different layers, allowing them to hold heat for longer periods of time. The only real benefit of a cast iron tub is that its overall look will last."
"Cookware for ages has been made from cast iron - it is highly prized for it's heat retention capacities - it's elementary physics"
"We bought a new cast iron tub for our old house and love it. It holds the heat and scratches less than acrylic. The only thing we regret is not getting a double sloped tub with a center faucet to fit 2 people. Also, you should try out the tub in the showroom-they come in different sizes and since some people are taller/shorter than others, the tub length is important."
"Do you guys with Cast Iron ever worry about weight on the 2nd floor? I know it's heavy getting up there...but, with water and one person we are talking about around 1000lbs "
"You really can't top porcelain fired on cast iron for durability. But today's acrylic finishes are pretty good. The secret is in the cleaning. You must not use harsh cleaners, and you must clean regularly. If you let soap buildup/mineral deposits accumulate, you will damage the finish trying to clean it."
"It depends on the size of the tub. Cast iron is better and will retain its appearance a lot longer, but the larger tubs are not made in cast iron because they would be too difficult to cast correctly, and installing them would be very difficult."
"We are looking at the same decision. One problem with acrylic is how light the tub is. I assume you are talking freestanding. If so, you'll notice that if you bump into an acrylic tub with your leg you can knock it across the room. They just seem flimsy to me.
Cast iron is nice, but really heavy and expensive. I mean, if the tub is 500 pounds and you have negotiate it up a stairway (as we do) you want to think twice about it. Also, I worry about having that much weight on an upper floor. 500lb tub, plus 70-90 gallons of water, plus a person (or two) is a lot of weight, if you ask me."
"There's no question about it, cast iron."
"I don't know if the "holds heat" thing is true or not, but I do know that my Cast Iron Bathtubscast iron holds heat quite well, this means that it holds cold quite well too. I usually have to have the bath planned out. I fill it with hotter water than I will bath with, and then it will warm the metal up. I bet the Acrylic Clawfoot Tubsacrylic warms up faster, but that probably means it dissipates the heat from the tub quite well too.... ahh, the decisions we have to make. "
"I have a salvaged tub. The cost to refinish it and paint the outside was close to $800. I found a new one for about $1300. To me, getting the new one might be a better idea."
"I would do everything you can to hold on to it (Your Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub). They are actually surprisingly valuable - if you want to sell it, getting rid of it is not going to be a problem. Keeping it in place, though, not only adds value to your home (people love them) but it's by far the easiest solution: getting it out of the bathroom is going to be a beast. I don't know anything about refinishing them but if I were you, I would definitely look into fixing it rather than getting rid of it. I got rid of one in Baltimore - a half tub, at that; it's been a planter at my ex MILs in WV ever since, sigh - and I have regretted it ever since."
"You'd have to be nuts to replace a real clawfoot tub with an acrylic simulacrum of a clawfoot tub."
"i love my clawfoot tub - it makes the fact that i have the world's tiniest bathroom bearable. in fact, a clawfoot tub was one of the things at the top of my list when i was looking to buy a house."
"People love those things (Cast Iron Clawfoot Bathtubs). They hold heat better than a modern tub and also are actually deep enough for an adult to bathe in. Plus they add character."
If you want to add your own thoughts to this discussion, please feel free to comment below!
A Clawfoot Tub can be a very enjoyable addition to your bathroom. If you compare it to the normal style of built-in-to-the-wall style tubs found in many houses and hotels, it's easy to see the difference a large, deep, comfortable bath in a Clawfoot Tub could do to elevate the experience. In a normal tub an adult would have a hard time getting fully submerged. Who wants to take a bath like that? A Clawfoot Tub allows you to really sink in and relax. This is true for EVERY SINGLE type of Clawfoot Tub discussed above. Whether you choose an Acrylic Clawfoot Tub or Cast Iron Clawfoot Tub in a more traditional slipper style or a contemporary freestanding pedestal style, you will benefit from a great looking fixture that offers true utility to your bathroom. Not only are they useful, relaxing, and fun, a Clawfoot Tub can be a beautiful looking centerpiece for your bathroom. Whether upgrading an existing bathroom or building a new one, adding a Clawfoot Tub is really something you should consider!
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