What's Less Toxic: Refinishing a Cast-Iron Tub or Getting a Fiberglass Tub?

What's Less Toxic: Refinishing a Cast-Iron Tub or Getting a Fiberglass Tub?

Cambria Bold
Sep 17, 2010

Q: What's less toxic for my children who will be sitting in the bathtub: refinishing an old cast-iron tub or getting a fiberglass tub? We would love to get a new cast-iron tub, but it's just not in the budget right now.

Sent by Christine

Editor: Here's what our friends at Green Home Guide have to say:

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP

To answer your question with regard to your children's skin making contact with either a refinished tub surface or a fiberglass tub surface, there is not much, if anything, to worry about, provided you thoroughly clean either surface prior to the kids using the tub for the first time.
  • Both surfaces are designed to be non-porous.
  • So as long as the kids are not scratching up the tub with die-cast metal toys and you clean it with manufacturer-recommended cleaners, it should remain non-porous.
However, if you are interested in a green bathroom, I think there are several other things for you to consider about your tub options.
  • Let's begin with the idea of refinishing the cast-iron tub, which I am assuming is not a freestanding clawfoot. From an ecological standpoint, refinishing is the best option. By leaving the tub in place, you will be preserving not only the tub but also the tub surround, hence minimizing materials that would otherwise be destined for the landfill.
  • However, I strongly recommend that you hire a professional refinishing company and not attempt to do the refinishing yourself. This should ensure a proper finish, minimizing chips and cracks and ultimately providing a longer life. Note: you need to provide good ventilation while the refinishers are working and while the finish is curing because at present there are no low/no-VOC products for this application -- it is pretty stinky stuff, and you will want to schedule the work for a time when the least number of people will be around the house.
  • You mentioned that you have a tight budget. Removing the cast-iron tub and purchasing a fiberglass unit has several cost components associated with it:
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