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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using an Enamel Bathtub?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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An enamel bathtub is actually usually made of cast iron or steel. The heavy metal is then coated in enamel, which is a type of fired glass coating. Some more traditional bathtub models feature this coating over the metal, and the finished product can be quite attractive. Cast iron enamel bathtub models can be exceptionally heavy, however, which means installation may be extremely difficult and the floor beneath the tub may need to be reinforced before the tub can be installed. Steel tubs tend to be lighter, but they are not as durable and may rust if the enamel chips away.

Sometimes the best aesthetic choice for a bathroom is a cast iron enamel bathtub. These tubs usually feature claw feet, which are highly decorative platforms on which the weight of the tub will rest. The tub itself will be exceptionally durable if it is made from cast iron. Steel is also durable, though it can dent or become misshapen after an impact. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to the enamel bathtub is the possibility of chipping; when the enamel chips off, the metal beneath will be exposed to water, which means the metal can begin to rust or corrode. Such chips can be avoided with some care, though after time they are likely to occur.

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The enamel bathtub will be fairly easy to clean and will not require much more maintenance than other types of tubs. After time, color fade may occur, but regular cleaning can delay such fading. The enamel can be available in a wide variety of colors as well, which means the tub can fit the aesthetic of many styles and colors of bathrooms. The cost of an enamel bathtub made from cast iron can, unfortunately, be much higher than other types of tubs, and the difficulty of the installation process may necessitate the hiring of a plumber or contractor, further raising the overall price.

Steel and cast iron tubs usually have an aesthetically appealing look to them, but the shape varies very little from model to model. Unlike fiberglass or acrylic tubs, cast iron and steel tubs are rarely molded into different shapes. Fiberglass and acrylic tubs often come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs, and they can be installed in an alcove, which makes containing the unit much easier. Cast iron and enamel tubs often require the use of shower curtain rods that surround the entire tub, which can be cumbersome.

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anon297748
Post 6

A bath resurfacer can fix you issue quickly and economically. Check your local yellow pages.

sunshined
Post 5

I have never had an enamel bathtub and it sounds like the ease of cleaning it would be really nice. I have either had fiberglass or acrylic tubs, and cleaning the bathtub is one of my least favorite chores.

I have seen pictures of enamel tubs in magazines and love the old fashioned look of the claw feet tubs. While they don't seem like they would be as convenient, they sure add a different look to the bathroom that looks old fashioned and somewhat romantic.

bagley79
Post 4

When I was growing up we had an old fashioned enamel soaking tub in our bathroom for as long as I can remember. This was a free standing tub with the claw feet that would probably be considered an antique today.

This was definitely a lot heavier than a bathtub made of fiberglass. When my parents remodeled the bathroom they got rid of this tub and installed a fiberglass tub.one.

By then the old enamel tub was starting to chip and it was cheaper to buy a newer tub. While the new bathtub was nice, it wasn't nearly as big or deep.

With our enamel tub, you could really take a good bubble bath and it was a lot deeper than the new bathtub.

burcinc
Post 3

@ddljohn-- I don't think refinishing a bathtub is a problem at all. It only becomes necessary once in 10-15 years depending on use. And it doesn't cost that much. I think it's completely worth that cost.

Plus, it's so easy to clean! I have an enamel bathtub in two bedrooms and a regular shower in another. I have a really bad mold problem with the shower because it's really humid where we live. I don't have this problem at all with the bathtubs. It's a lot harder for mold to grow on it and if it does, it's way easier to clean.

The advantages of an enamel bathtub definitely outweighs the disadvantages in my opinion.

ddljohn
Post 2

@burcidi-- I know what you mean, we had the same problem. We bought a house recently, it's 60 years old and the enamel bathtub is the same age as the house. It had chips all over.

My wife was not okay with using it like that so before we moved in, we had a company re-glaze it for us. They did it in one day and it was dry before we moved in. It looks like new now!

So you could definitely do this instead of changing your bathtub. And if you do plan on changing it, maybe you shouldn't get enamel. Enamel is nice but it does need tub refinishing when it chips which is inevitable at some point. But if you don't mind that cost, then it'll be fine.

burcidi
Post 1

I have a pink cast iron enamel bathtub in my bathroom. It's a freestanding bathtub and it's gorgeous. I love everything about how it looks. The feet have a special design and the tub itself looks royal and fits my bathroom perfectly. It definitely has a much different feel to it aesthetically and makes taking a bath a treat in my opinion.

The one thing I dislike about it, as the article already mentioned, is chipping. My bathtub doesn't have too many chips, two small ones on the sides for now. But I'm so scared that the chips are going to get bigger and rust. It's ruining the entire look of the bathtub and my bathroom.

Is there a way I can fix this? Or at least delay it from getting worse? It's so upsetting because a new cast iron enamel bathtub costs a fortune.

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