Cast Iron Bath
A cast iron bath is extremely rigid - and heavy! Baths made from this material need a plenty of muscle-power to manoeuvre then into place, so if you are thinking of installing one yourself make sure you have someone to help you carry it (preferably more than one helper).
Cast iron baths tend to be quite plain in design as the manufacturing process does not allow much in the way of fancy detail. This does, however, mean that they will fit in with the simple, clean lines demanded by most buyers these days. There are also many traditional designs available, such as the slipper bath, roll top bath, freestanding bath usually supplied with claw feet. There are also companies who can resurface an old bath, either by spraying on a new surface coating or by taking the bath away to be re-enamelled (a process that involves baking a new surface onto the cast iron).
Like cast iron, steel baths are very rigid but are considerably lighter as the metal used is a lot thinner. Some steel baths have legs or feet attached directly to brackets on to the bath others sit in a cradle attached to the bath. Although quite heavy steel baths need to be anchored securely to the adjoining walls to ensure there is no movement of the bath when it is in use.
Both steel and cast iron baths are resistant to scratching and have a very hard wearing surface. They are, however, susceptible to chipping if a heavy or sharp item if dropped onto the enamel surface.
These baths are made from an acrylic sheet that is vacuum formed into shape and then reinforced with fibre-glass. The sheet thickness is usually 5mm although there are some baths made from thicker 8mm or even 10mm acrylic. Some manufacturers also offer extra reinforcing systems in place of fibreglass to enhance the rigidity of the bath. It is vital that this type of bath is installed solidly to ensure there is no movement.
As an acrylic bath is moulded it can be made into quite complex shapes, which can incorporate head-rests, soap dishes arm-rests and even seats (usually found in a corner bath).
Acrylic baths are very light in comparison with steel or cast iron baths and can usually be carried and installed by one person.
Acrylic baths are a little less prone to chipping than a cast iron bath but are more likely to scratch. If the scratch is not too deep it is possible to polish the scratch out.
Injection Moulded ABS Bath
This type of bath is extremely strong but still remains lightweight and easy to install due to its unique construction. The ABS material used in the injection moulding process provides a tough long lasting glossy surface, and at 7mm thick the bath is extremely rigid.
There are also a few baths on the market made from stone resin and one or two designer baths that are made of wood or even copper!
All of the materials used to make baths have their faults - overall, there is not much to choose between the different materials as they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but whichever bath you decide upon, correct installation is vital.