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Customer Discussions > Home Improvement forum

cast iron bathtub vs. steel

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Showing 1-25 of 82 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2011 6:53:01 PM PST
Steve Wolfe says:
I am redoing my bathroom and the bathtub is 50 some years old. I'm trying to deside whether to replace it or refinish it. I was looking at the steel tub's that say's they're just as good just don't weigh 400 LBS. Then someone told they chip easy and rust easier. I also saw a refinishing kit at a hardware store . anybody got any ideas

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2011 9:52:39 PM PST
David says:
Hello, I am a builder and have used both kinds of tubs. Just know that a cast iron tub is as good as it gets, top of the line, thicker and the most durable. Maybe you already know but the finish inside your old tub is glass melted onto the cast iron. The Porcelain (glass) finish that you have on your tub is much harder and tougher than ANY finish that anyone will ever put on it. Tub refinish products are just a type of tough epoxy paint.

Steel tubs look the same but are thinner and will chip a little easer because they flex more when hit with something. I don't think they rust any easer but are hollow sounding when you tap on them.

I don't know how bad your old tub looks but if the finish is not worn thru to the metal you can go a long way towards cleaning it up. Rough, dirty, stained or pitted areas can be sanded with very fine grit silicone carbide sand paper (by hand) in increasingly finer grits and polished with polishing compound to look like new.

Posted on Nov 7, 2011 6:19:29 AM PST
Dan Edson says:
If you are debating on replacing it, think about using the cost of the replacement to hire a professional refinisher, rather than a DIY kit. IF I was going to refinish the tub, I believe that a professional spray gun will apply paint much better than a roller.

Also, the old tub, if refinished well, could be a positive in resale for the "green' "reuse" crowd.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2011 11:24:42 AM PST
Steve Wolfe says:
David Thank you for the input . I will try to polish a small area to see if I can make it shine although there is one area that must have been dinged/chipped along time ago that will need special attention. I will have some time to think about it( a few day's). while I remove the walls and stucko. The real problem is the mold around and behind it . If I can save the old tub and fix everything else that's the way I'll go. It's a small house I can't even get a full sheet of drywall in there . I just don't want to redo the bathroom and find a while down the road that I need to replace the tub. I don't have a job right now so now's the time to get it done. thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2011 11:28:18 AM PST
Steve Wolfe says:
Dan if I can find a pro. to do it .it might be the way to go. Thanks

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 6:21:50 AM PST
mschiap says:
an old cast iron tub is more rust resistant than a new steel tub because the old cast iron has a higher lead content than new steel (or so I have been told.)

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 1:38:23 PM PST
I work in the apartment industry where I have seen a lot of tubs. I agree with David in that if you can save the cast iron, yay! I, personally have had to change several steel tubs because they rusted out around the corners and the drains. The only cast iron tub I changed was just to change the style, the tub was ok. It took 4 men to get it out! Cast iron is the winner for the long haul.

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 1:38:31 PM PST
A cast iron tub will also keep the water warm longer than a steel tub will. Better insulated than the steel.

Posted on Nov 9, 2011 9:42:13 AM PST
Steve Wolfe says:
What is americast

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 10:32:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 9, 2011 10:35:54 AM PST
Cheryl® says:
We were recently faced with your dilemma.
We called the refinsher, the cost was $650 and we were told we could not put a rubber suction mat down on it because when we pulled it up the finish would come with it.
We found a Kohler Villager cast iron for $600 through our plumber. Installed it last week, looks beautiful.

We had a cast iron that had been in the house for at least 70 years, never any issues. The only difference with this new one is that it is only 14 inches high. Making it easy to step over, but low if you want to soak.
There was no issue getting it into the house. We have the same tub on our second floor that we've had for 21 years, looks as good as the day we bought it.

BTW: A friend just refinished his tub, fumes are awful, finish is temporary (epoxy). He's selling his house and wanted a quick fix. Prospective owners, unfortunately, probably won't have a clue.

Posted on Nov 9, 2011 12:09:14 PM PST
Islander says:
Cast Iron

Posted on Nov 9, 2011 8:15:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 9, 2011 8:18:38 PM PST
Plumber, 35 years; Find a reputable refinisher, I have seen many of these, they do a beautiful job, save yourself a lot of labor, and headaches. Of course you shouldn't be there when they do it. Whoever said steel was good, either didn't know or wanted to sell you something.

Posted on Nov 10, 2011 3:31:03 PM PST
Elroy Jetson says:
Iron is best, steel is maybe second if all you want is duribility. But for comfort, easy installation, price, just about unlimited styles, color options, good quility availibility, you should not rule out fiberglass tubs. And "Rusting" is not an issue, which is another plus. But above all --"Comfort"! Comfort you say? Of course! Here's the picture-You get home late, tired and would like to freshen up. A very Durable,Hard, Cold tub with very slippery surfaces, especially when wet, awaits you. And you're NAKED . Water gets colder much faster and is in fact losing heat as it's filling. Oh, and if it's winter... Just remember:"It'll out last you."

Posted on Nov 11, 2011 6:26:26 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2011 5:24:36 PM PST
B. Speer says:
Looks to be fairly recent discussion so here's my two cents (times two):

As an architect and contractor I have lots of experience with both steel and cast iron. I even owned a rental then moved in and tried refinishing the steel tub. The new finish lasted about five years then rusted through. Basic diffenece is that steel bends when you step in and eventually cracks through finish. Cast iron is absolutely rigid thus the enamel finish does not crack or chip.

Took out the steel refinished tub and replaced with HomeDepot cast iron which was not that expensive. Cast iron will last more than a life time unless you drop a sledge hammer in it. Bathrooms are the most expensive rooms along with the kitchens in a home but quality at the basic level is the best choice over time. Fancy tubs can cost a lot but basic cast iron is not that expensive and worry free.

If you have put steel in then it is done otherwise go with cast iron. Even "speculative builders" use cast iron because they know it is not worth the call backs they will surely get. Most things in life come and go like cars but homes are around for us for many years. Stuff lots of insulation under and around the new tub to keep water warmer longer and use quality fixtures too that might cost $30 more than cheap ones. They get used thousands of times and replacing gaskets is easier in quality fixtures. Good luck, Fourcents

Posted on Nov 13, 2011 4:56:23 PM PST
E. Armstrong says:
I wouldn't install a steel tub if my life depended on it. They're cheap. There is absolutely nothing you can do to it to make it better, either. The finish doesn't last, and it WILL rust out on you. The big difference between iron and steel is that iron generally only rusts on the surface, while steel can rust one little hole straight through. It doesn't need to rust out layer by layer like iron.

Americast is better than just steel, but only because of all the plastic. I've put them in before, but still didn't particularly care for them. I'd choose them WAY over a steel tub, but they still do not compare to iron.

I don't mind most of the fiberglass products, but you have to install them in a bed of mortar mix to get the same "feel" as iron on the bottom.

In bath tubs, ignoring the extremely expensive end, you really do get what you pay for.

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 7:44:52 AM PST
Carlgo says:
I worked next door to a bathtub refinisher and learned a few things from him. One, it is a very, very difficult and not fun job and the success depends entirely on the skill and dedication of the crew and the quality of the materials they use.

You have to remove all the hardware like the chrome drain part, shower doors, etc. It is better by far to remove the tub and have the work done at their shop. Even then the finish is not as durable. I had a nice big old sink and he said not to do it because banging pots and pans would damage the surface.

It is very toxic, although in time the smell goes away.

I would recommend a nice new cast iron tub if you can afford it, but I would think a thick top of the line plastic one would be good as well. At that point, though, you are in the same price range. You would have the opportunity to get jets and bubbles.

You've seen those home shows on TV. You know that replacing a tub will almost always cause further problems. You may have to redo the plumbing, the tiles, the shower doors, the floor, structure under the tub and deal with ick and rot. So, now you are in a bathroom remodel and maybe more. The cost of the tub itself is now only part of it!

So, in a small bathroom with difficult access it might well be cheaper and better in the long run to put in a nice modern shower.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2011 7:30:56 AM PST
Mike says:
I dont know about rust but the finish seems much more durable on cast iron. I have had to refinish the steel tub in my house twice now. My parents home has had the same cast iron tub for 70 years, and it looks like the day it was made.

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 10:22:46 AM PST
kinzie says:
if you want to stay with same size tub, try and refinish the cast iron. If you want to replace it, check the kohler mendota. it's deeper than the villager, and still cast iron. increasing the depth a couple inches is considered more desirable these days. if you have trouble entering/exiting the tub, this depth may not be appropriate.
I'd also consider using acrylic. The industry has long used acrylic for bath tubs. Make sure you select a better quality tub. The acrylic should be backed with plywood, and fiberglass to alleviate the cheap, flexible feeling when stepping into a tub. I'd also consider selecting an air system whirltub. Very theraputic.

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 9:53:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2011 9:54:52 PM PST
Kim says:
Just FYI, my husband I remodeled our bathroom years ago. The cast iron tub was pink and it had to go. We were afraid of the work it would take to remove it out of the alcove and put a new one in so we paid a professional refinishing company to spray the tub. It was horrible. They taped the drain so when the epoxy was dry, there was a distinct line of product so there was not a smooth transition between the chrome drain and the tub. After 6 months, water was able to get in under the seam and bubble up and crack and peel away, revealing the pink tub. Also, I dropped my shampoo bottle and chipped the tub in the middle of it. Water also got under the chip and it bubbled up and peeled away. Eventually the pink spots got bigger and bigger. We had the refinishing company come out (after a fight about it) and they repaired (not removed and re-did the work) the damage. Within a few months, it bubbled up and peeled away again. We gave up and just removed the tub and replaced it like we should have done in the first place. Refinishing the tub was a huge mistake.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2011 11:10:51 PM PST
Steve Wolfe says:
thanks for the warning

Posted on Nov 22, 2011 6:13:00 PM PST
DO NOT REFINISH. It will not last unless you plan to not use it. They cannot be cleaned well because the finish is not hard enough to scrub.

Go with cast iron or Americast.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2011 3:18:18 PM PST
TBird says:
Refinish it !!! I have been doing this for over 20 year and have hundreds and hundreds of happy customers. Life expectancy is anywhere from 8 to 15 or more years depending how you take care of it. Then, you just do it again! BTW, the prices quoted here are NUTS!!!
True, you don't want to use bathmat's with suction cups on it - but then again, I wouldn't put duct tape on my wall paper and rip it off. Just get a mat without them. It's a bonding process. If you find a good refinisher who has been around for 10 or more years, good chance he knows what he is doing. I am in the western Philly burbs if I can be of help (don't work in the city).
Stop by and get some more info. ~barry

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2011 10:49:32 PM PST
Cast Iron tubs are still able to be purchased. Try and search for what you are looking for.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2011 5:53:40 PM PST
Catharine says:
Renovated our masterbath last year and bought a Kohler cast iron tub. Amazing to watch three men bring it up a narrow staircase, around the corner and into our bathroom on the second floor! Tub was pricey but worth it: solid and sturdy. I would advise against a really deep tub because one truly only needs to much water and it takes a lot of hot water to fill an extra deep bath tub.

Posted on Dec 2, 2011 7:23:20 PM PST
kalamata guy says:
cast iron 1000% will last you alot longer and it wont rust. kohler is the best i replaced mine a year ago
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Discussion in:  Home Improvement forum
Participants:  57
Total posts:  82
Initial post:  Nov 6, 2011
Latest post:  26 days ago

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