Buying a bath: choosing the right material for your lifestyle

Concrete bathtub

What do you think of when you hear the word bath? For me, personally, the first association is this: a rectangular acrylic bath, with the free sides tiled to match the floor.

It’s established and reliable, but it’s not terribly exciting, special, or your first choice for a more out-there tub design. So what if I told you there are other material choices out there which can jazz up your scheme? Yep, buying a bath could be more interesting than you may first think.

Well, buckle up, because here is my lowdown on the five most common materials, what they’re good for, and aspects to watch out for.

Buying a bath: Cast iron

Often associated with traditional claw-footed roll top baths, this is often also seen as the epitome of sophistication. (Yes, we’re getting out the big words.)

buying a bath
Buying a bath: Metals are going strong in the bathroom. But if you’re looking for a design that has real character, why not opt for a ‘living’ finish? This copper-leaf striking cast-iron design from Viadurini has a striking appearance, while they’ve finished the inside in 2mm-thin titanium enamel. Swoon! It costs around £11,863.46 (€13,659).

It’s strong, long lasting, and you can paint most cast-iron tubs, so you have creative freedom over all aspects of your scheme.

Plus they often come in a range of finishes, from matt to super glossy, so there really is something for every taste.

That said, this material is also very heavy – so you might need to enforce your floor so it can bear the weight of the tub. In some cases this isn’t possible, so always double check with a specialist to avoid disappointment.

Solid surface

We can sum this up with three words: All. The. Opportunities.

The smooth, comfortable, warm-to-the-touch materials that form this group are synthetic and manmade, including Lapistone and Laufen’s Sentec.

Holborn Knightbridge tub
Buying a bath: If copper is too flashy and cast iron not your style, why not opt for a different metallic finish? Made from high-quality acrylic, Frontline Bathrooms‘ Knightsbridge tub comes in an aluminium-effect finish. It’s right on the beat of the metallic trend, but lighter and easier to care for, too. It is priced £2750.

You can mould all of these into a lot of different shapes, which means you can find a whole host of striking, contemporary designs. Not only rectangles or oval designs, but also silhouettes such as hourglass styles.

A solid surface bathtub is also very easy to clean and if you ever scratch it slightly, simply sand it out. But beware – this only works on small scratches.

buying a bath
Buying a bath: On the whole, I’m seeing a swing towards more natural materials in our homes. If you now think that doesn’t translate to bathtubs, think again – because they’ve made this NuSpa design from Portuguese company Granorte, £8757, out of cork. Not only is the material renewable in itself, they’ve made this tub – and all other pieces in the collection – from cork that is a by-product of the wine industry. How cool is that?

Don’t know where to start when buying a bath? Click here to read my key advice.

Composite stone

This family of materials, which includes Victoria + Albert Baths’ Quarrycast (a mix of volcanic limestone and resins), is also full of possibilities.

Composite bathtubs are typically strong and durable, but also score high on the looks scale – think not only highly polished exteriors, but also terrazzo designs.

If that’s not the dream, I don’t know what is.

a stone tub
Buying a bath: I know I talked about composite stone, but how about going for the full monty? This Riverstone bath from Indigenous is made from from a salvaged riverstone boulder. It originates from the active Marapi volcano in Central Java. Cool origin story aside, this also means that the shape and cost can vary, but prices start from £8750.
Steel enamel

Offering a glass-like sheen, they make these bathtubs from a steel base covered in, you guessed it, a layer of enamel.

This makes them heavier than acrylic, but also typically very robust and durable, not to mention pretty scratch resistant.

buying a bath
Buying a bath: Roca‘s freestanding enamelled steel Art Plus bath comes in white or the shown black. So you have plenty of design opportunities. It is £3220.52 and stands on a natural oak platform.

They’re probably ideal for someone like me, whose butter fingers have seen me drop a whole array of things into the empty bathtub. From my hairbrush to my reusable stainless-steel water bottle (don’t ask…) just to then quickly check it for scratches. Oops…

(It’s fine, don’t worry. No scratches in my household.)


Lightweight, warm to the touch, easy to fit, and cost effective. There’s a reason (well, four) why acrylic is so very popular as a a bathtub material.

It’s a very common choice, especially for more compact spaces or if, like me, you rent your home. But that doesn’t mean it’s lower in quality or necessarily boring.

buying a bath
Buying a bath: Acrylic doesn’t have to be a boring material – see it as something presenting a host of opportunities instead. If you’d like a traditional look but your floor can’t bear the weight, an acrylic bath on claw feet – such as this Bateau design from Retrobad, priced around £1312.37 (€1511) – is a great alternative.

Simply jazz up your bathtub using bright tiles, different-coloured grout, or by featuring elements such as handy niches and even the simplest design can become a standout.

And isn’t that versatility the real beauty here?

So, let me know: which one are you going for?

Featured image: On the topic of different materials, why not go down the proper industrial route? This design from Smithers of Stamford is made from concrete, so is sure to make guests go ‘wow’. It is priced £8500.

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