The evolution of a walk-in tub or bath from concept to consumer marketplace is an intriguing process. At one time, in the late 19th Century, the Clawfoot tub was once considered a luxury item. The Clawfoot was originally made from cast iron and lined with porcelain. Today we are seeing the emergence of luxury walk-in tubs, which some could consider the Clawfoot of the 21st Century.
In the preliminary phase of design, the walk-in bathtub is conceptualized with state of the art 3D design software such as CAD or Autodesk, which takes into consideration the optimization of every single angle for the practicality and comfort. Next we move on to the assembly.
Let’s examine the five basic steps:
- The walk-in tub first starts out as a welded stainless steel frame.
- The trimmed acrylic shell of the tub that has been vacuum formed is joined to the frame using fiberglass to make it a monolithic structure. After the fiberglass is cured, the gel-coat is applied to add a second barrier of sealant to cover the abrasive nature of the fiberglass.
- The door is installed and the holes for the jets and the fixtures are drilled.
- The jets and drains are installed onto the shell and the equipment is installed.
- The fixtures and all of the hoses and wires are connected.
Acrylic vs. Fiberglass
As a consumer, you might want, or need to know the difference between acrylic vs. fiberglass or FRP (Fiber Reinforced Polymer) production process:
Pros: The acrylic material is used in higher-end walk-in bathtubs.
Walk-in tubs that are made from the highest quality grade-A cast acrylic sheet are top of the line. The acrylic shell’s surface is a scratch resistant, high-gloss finish and is very easy to clean.
Acrylic has a longer lifespan than fiberglass which has a tendency to warp and/or change shape with age and temperature changes.
Cons: While fiberglass (also called glass-reinforced plastic, GRP) is less expensive, it’s also less durable and less reliable over time. Many of the fiberglass units available today will have bowed and warped in just a few years from normal usage. When you want to contain 500 pounds of water, you should certainly choose the strongest material available.
Fiberglass gel coat materials are factory spray painted and the quality of finish varies.
How can the discerning eye of the consumer tell the difference, you ask?
If you look closely, you may see a wavy surface or inconsistencies in the paint which is sprayed over the fiberglass. Acrylic, on the other hand, will have a smooth seamless surface with a high gloss finish.
Fiberglass uses thousands of glass strands with resin that holds them together. They are applied to a form which is in the shape of the end product. Ella acrylic tubs are made of a single piece of acrylic and are of the highest quality.
Contact Ella today to speak with a product specialist to assure your walk in tub purchase is high quality and the right choice for you.