When choosing a bathtub while remodeling a bathroom or building a new home, it's important to find a material that fits your needs. Steel makes for a stronger tub but also makes for heavier fixtures. Fiberglass makes for a more lightweight alternative, as well as a cheaper alternative.
If you're looking for a tub that will last a significant time, steel is a great option. A steel basin won't crack, but the more inexpensive fiberglass has been reported to crack after significant wear.
Wear and Tear
Steel tubs sustain wear and tear such as scratches and fingerprints, and will need polishing. When fiberglass tubs wear down, they expose the fiberglass instead of the acrylic overlay. Don't touch these areas of significant wear (which comes after several years of use or when damage comes in to play) because the fiberglass will cause itching and burning on uncovered skin.
Fiberglass is the most inexpensive of all tub material options. Because it's molded, it also comes in several shape options, allowing for versatility at a low price. Steel, depending on steel prices at the time, are more expensive.
Porcelain on Steel Rust
If a steel tub is covered in porcelain--as many steel tubs are--and the tub is cracked or chipped, the exposed steel will rust because it's not treated before it's covered by porcelain.
Steel tubs often get a residue on the material, which can be rather unsightly and slightly difficult to get rid of. After excessive use, fiberglass tubs can build up mildew. Steel tubs fight mildew and not the residue. If you prefer fiberglass, get a good mildew preventer or mildew treatment.
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