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There are many factors to consider when choosing a tub for your renovation such as size, function and aesthetic to name a few. The type of tub you choose for your bathroom is very dependent on the type of bathroom you have. Size is definitely a factor. Certain types of tubs are not appropriate for small spaces while others are purposely designed to fit into small spaces. The type of tub you choose will also be determined by its function. For example, will it double as a shower? Will it be used only for bathing? Will it be used every day or is it mainly an aesthetic showpiece? All these factors and more will determine type, size, shape and even the material your tub is made of.

Cast Iron Tubs  |  Free-standing Tubs

The traditional material from which tubs are made is cast iron. Cast iron tubs are made of enameled molded iron which makes it very heavy but durable, more so than modern materials such as fiberglass, acrylic and enameled steel. The biggest advantages to cast iron are that most chemicals will not damage the surface and they stand up to abuse. It is almost impossible to scratch or dent a cast iron bathtub.

Many free-standing tubs are made of cast iron. A free-standing tub allows you to place the tub without the need for any surrounding walls. A free-standing tub is designed to be used in an open area and generally requires more space. A free-standing tub differs from a drop-in tub in that it can support itself. It does not need the support of a frame. The traditional and most well know type of free-standing tub is the claw foot tub (shown above). They are most commonly made from durable cast iron and are nostalgic in nature. There are many modern versions of the free-standing tub which are made from various types of materials such as acrylic and stone. Free-standing tubs tend to be more expensive but are generally easier to install.

Fiberglass Tubs  |  Drop-in Tubs

Fiberglass tubs must be installed with a mortar base applied directly under the tub. The mortar base provides a solid surface for the tub to rest on and is actually what supports the weight of the tub’s occupant. If not installed properly the bottom of the tub will flex when weight is applied. Issues to consider when choosing a fiberglass tub are finish and durability. They tend to stain over time and abrasive cleaning products cannot be used.

Most drop-in tubs are made of fiberglass. The drop-in tub is designed to be used in an open area. If you have the luxury of space a drop-in tub may be an option you can explore. A drop-in tub can be installed without the need of any surrounding walls. However, a drop-in tub cannot support itself. It needs the support of a frame. So as its name implies, a drop-in tub is installed by dropping it into a frame which is usually custom built on site by your contractor.

Acrylic Tubs

Acrylic tubs are generally more durable than fiberglass tubs. They are similar to fiberglass in that abrasive cleaners cannot be used and they are susceptible to scratches. A mortar base installation might also be necessary. Unlike fiberglass, acrylic tubs are easy to clean and will keep their finish if cared for properly. Many of today's free-standing tubs are acrylic and are less expensive than their cast iron and stone counterparts.

Enameled Steel Tubs  |  Alcove Tubs

Enameled steel tubs are made from formed steel and provide durability, ease of installation and are economical. Although they provide more durability than fiberglass and acrylic they are susceptible to chips. Many manufactures tend to make the gage of these tubs too thin which can impair the products ability to sustain the weight of its occupant. Similar to fiberglass these tubs need to be supported underneath in order to bear any significant weight. While fiberglass tubs are supported with a mortar base, enameled steel tubs are supported by Styrofoam attached to the underside of the tub.

Most alcove tubs are made of enameled steel. An alcove tub is enclosed on three sides and is the type of tub that you will find in the majority of bathrooms in America. The standard size for an alcove tub is 30 inches in width and 60 inches in length. Other sizes are available and range from 48 to 72 inches in length. Alcove tubs are designed to serve double duty, both as a tub as well as a shower which is the configuration you will find in the majority of today's bathrooms.


Mullings Restoration & Development is a home improvement contractor that performs all interior renovations while specializing in kitchen and bathroom remodeling. Our services include project consultation, architectural design, plumbing, electrical and general construction.


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