Cast Iron vs Steel Tub in Your Bathroom: Which Is Better?

Both cast iron and steel bathtubs are high-quality and excellent for taking hot, cozy baths. I’ve always dreamed of soaking in a cast-iron clawfoot tub, but which one is right for you? 

For durability and comfort, most people agree the cast iron tub is the best choice. But for affordability and ease of installation, an enameled steel tub is the obvious choice. 

When remodeling, you need to weigh the pros and cons of different bathtub materials. This article breaks down cast iron vs steel tubs so you can make the right choice for your bathroom!

Cost 

When renovating your bathtub, the cost can become insane. One of the most notable differences between a cast iron tub and a steel tub is the price. Before committing to one of these materials, make sure your budget allows for the cost of the tub. 

Cast Iron Cost

Cast iron tubs are more expensive than steel tubs or any other kind of material. A cast iron tub can cost anywhere between $800 and $2,500, depending on the brand, size, and quality. 

In addition to the cost of the tub, the installation costs associated with a cast iron tub are also expensive, costing hundreds or thousands depending on what is necessary. 

Steel Cost

The cost of an enameled steel tub can be less than half of a cast iron tub, making this the clear choice for someone restricted by a bathroom budget. 

You can pay between $200 and $600 for a quality steel tub. Plus, the installation process typically costs less than cast iron tub installation. 

Weight

The weight of the tub plays a role in the tub’s comfort, durability, and installation process. While I hope you won’t be lifting your bathtub, you should consider the weight when first choosing one. 

A heavier tub will mean you need to add additional floor supports if the bathroom floor is not thick or sturdy enough, costing you extra money. Additionally, a super heavy tub will also make it harder to perform the installation yourself if you hoped to save on labor costs. 

Cast Iron Weight

If you ask me, when it comes to weight, cast iron takes the cake. A cast iron tub can weigh between 300 and 500 pounds. They are difficult to maneuver and transport without professional help and equipment.

If you choose a cast iron tub, you may have to add floor supports in your bathroom, which takes more time, effort, and money. 

Steel Weight

Enameled steel tubs are far less heavy than cast iron tubs. The heaviest steel tubs weigh 100 pounds, but most weigh between 50 and 75 pounds, making them easy to transport and maneuver into your bathroom. 

If you want to avoid extra construction and more costs, I’d recommend you choose the steel tub over the cast iron, as the cast iron weight poses significant obstacles. 

Installation

As discussed, the tub material you choose can determine how difficult and costly the installation process will be. 

Bathtub installation on its own, not part of a bigger bathroom remodel, can cost anywhere between $100 and $2,000, depending on the difficulty. Let’s look at the installation process for cast iron vs steel tubs. 

Cast Iron Installation

Cast iron installation will likely cost you at least a few hundred dollars if not over $1,000. The weight of the tub plays a huge role in this installation cost. 

A 500-pound tub will cost far more to install because it will require more people, time, and equipment. And you likely have to add additional floor supports in your bathroom to prevent issues. 

Steel Installation

Good news here: the installation process for a steel tub is much easier! And if you’re determined enough and handy, you may be able to install a steel tub by yourself. 

However, some enameled steel tubs must be built into the bathroom. So steel installation can also cost a lot. However, you can expect the installation cost to be at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than cast iron tub installation in the same bathroom. 

Durability

One of the most important factors when choosing a bathtub is durability. Certain tubs can chip or scratch easily, making them less appealing and uncomfortable. 

And take it from me, the last thing you want is a tub that starts to deteriorate and take damage after just a few months or years. The best tubs will last you decades, if not a lifetime. Let’s look at the durability of cast iron vs steel tubs. 

Cast Iron Durability

Cast iron tubs are undoubtedly more durable than steel tubs. The solid piece of cast iron metal is pure, thick iron, making it resistant to abrasion and corrosion that other tubs can suffer from. 

If durability is your number one priority, even lower-quality cast iron tubs can last for decades, making it a solid investment. 

Steel Durability

Steel tubs are no slouch with durability, as they’re also resistant to corrosion and abrasion. The combination of steel and enamel makes for a super tough tub that can last you years and years. 

However, if not cared for properly, the enamel on the steel could start to chip off, making for an unappealing look. But with proper maintenance, a steel tub should last you decades. 

Heat Retention

If you have a problem with your steamy bath water going cold after just a few minutes, heat retention is probably an important consideration for you. 

Let’s look at how cast iron and steel tubs measure up in heat retention

Cast Iron Heat Retention

Cast iron has fabulous heat retention, as iron is an excellent heat conductor and will keep the bath water warm. When the tub fills with hot water, it warms up the cast iron, which keeps the water warm, rather than allowing all the heat to escape into the air. 

Steel Heat Retention

For this category, cast iron and steel tubs perform equally well. Since steel is also metal, it helps keep your bath water warmer for longer so you can relax in steamy comfort. 

Sounds

It may sound strange if you’ve never thought about it, but as someone who enjoys taking baths, I know it’s important to pay special attention to the sound the tub makes. 

Consider the sound the tub makes when filling it with water, as well as the sound it makes when you touch it or get into it. 

If you haven’t thought about this, you may want to. Some people find the sound of steel tubs grating during a shower or when filling the tub, while others find it soothing, like rain on a tin roof. 

This factor is especially relevant if the tub will be a combination shower, as you’ll have to listen to the sound of water hitting the tub throughout the shower. Let’s compare the sounds for cast iron vs steel tubs. 

Cast Iron Sound

Because cast iron is a thicker, more solid material, it creates more of a thud sound than a tapping. The sound the water makes will be lower and deeper, which people often find peaceful. For people who don’t want the hollow thud sound, a cast iron tub is likely the best choice. 

Steel Sound

Steel has a bouncy and hollow sound when water hits it, which can create a slightly high pitch sound that some people enjoy, while others find it grating and annoying. 

If you have a stainless steel kitchen sink, think about the sound it makes when small droplets drip to the bottom. Does that sound annoying? If it does, consider a cast iron tub instead. 

Maintenance

If you want your bathtub to last you a lifetime, you need to ensure you take care of the tub properly. But when it comes to cast iron vs steel tubs, which one requires more maintenance? 

Cast Iron Maintenance

Cast iron maintenance is relatively simple. These tubs require regular cleaning with strong cleaning products to prevent mold and other harmful substances from growing. 

Steel Maintenance

Steel tub maintenance is just as easy as cast iron maintenance, so they’re comparable in this category. Both tubs need a light rinse and regular cleaning to stay in tip-top shape. The only difference is steel tubs can be re-enameled after a few years to extend their lifespan

Bathtub Material Alternatives

If the price or installation process of cast iron and steel tubs sounds like too much work, you can choose from the many other bathtub material possibilities. Below is a list of some of the most popular bathtub materials!

  • Fiberglass
  • Acrylic
  • Porcelain 
  • Soapstone
  • Ceramic 
  • Stone Resin 
  • Cultured Marble 
  • Copper
  • Wood

So Which Tub Is Right for You?

If you’re remodeling your bathroom on a budget and want to make the installation process as pain-free as possible, an enameled steel tub is the best choice. 

But if you want a bathtub that is the peak of comfort and durability and has a large bathroom budget, most people would agree the cast iron tub is the best option. 

Most people base their decision on the project’s cost, so keep in mind a cast iron tub can cost three times as much as a steel tub.

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