July 14 2017 0Comment

Walk-in Bathtubs: Acrylic or Gelcoat?

When installing a walk-in bathtub in the bathroom, one of the biggest decisions a buyer/user has to make is choosing the material of the product. There are currently two different types of walk-in tubs available; acrylic, or gel-coatted, and there is great debate about which is best.

In order to help you make this decision for yourself, we decided to outline some of the major differences between both acrylic and gelcoat walk-in bathtubs.

The Differences Between Acrylic and Gelcoat Walk-in Bathtubs
Walk-in bathtubs: gelcoat vs. acrylic

Acrylic Walk-in Tubs
These walk-in tubs are made from a single sheet of acrylic that is heated, stretched and formed over a mold (this process is known as vacuum-forming). This coats the mold entirely, forming a non-porous, continuous waterproof membrane, which is finally reinforced with acrylic resin saturated fiberglass for added stability and insulation value.

While acrylic sheets are available in a variety of thicknesses up to 30mm, the industry standard for walk-in bathtub and shower application ranges between 3.17mm to 6.5mm.

Acrylic is known for being an extremely durable substance that withstands plenty of use and cleaning. It is also warm to the touch, and many manufacturers claim that it is great for retaining heat. Acrylic walk-in tubs are found to be heavier than gelcoat tubs, and are often more expensive as their manufacturing is more labour-intensive.

Some manufacturers claim to have found acrylic walk-in tubs and bathroom products to be less dimensionally stable. This is because all plastics (including acrylic) that have been reformed into a new shape want to recover their original form. This is often referred to as “memory.”

Walk-in bathtubs: Acrylic or Gelcoat?
Acrylic sheets are heated, stretched, and the formed around a mold in what is called “vacuum forming.”

Furthermore, when an acrylic sheet is heated and stretched, the edges of the sheet tend to maintain their original thickness more than the centre. This means that the thickness of the coating varies between the inner and outer parts of the tub, and generally results in a thinner coating at the bottom of the tub where water drains and users walk and stand. This can also result in a slight difference in shading in certain areas of the tub were the coating is thicker or thinner.

Standard Gelcoat Walk-in Tubs
Standard gelcoat walk-in bathtubs, on the other hand, are made by spraying a colored polyester resin onto a mold before being reinforced with fine glass particles. This process is called open contact molding, and results in a very consistent thickness across the entire tub. Being a thermo-set product, the gel coat used in the production of walk-in tubs is known for consistently holding its shape.

Open contact molding makes for an extremely lightweight final product that is easy to maneuver and install. The manufacture of these products is also less labour-intensive, meaning that gelcoat walk-in bathtubs are generally cheaper than their acrylic counterparts.

Gel-coatted walk-in bathtubs
Gelcoat is sprayed onto a mold in what is called “open contact molding.”

When a gel-coatted product is repaired correctly, the repair becomes a permanent chemical bond. Acrylic repairs, on the other hand, are done with “patches” that can fail. They are also prone to discoloring or mechanical bond releases.

Many manufacturers and re-sellers of walk-in bathtubs claim that the gelcoat applied to these products is more porous and is therefore more likely to discolor over time. This can be the case with certain products purchased from big box-stores that do not specialize in the production of high-quality home health care equipment.

The Difference of Our Gelcoat Walk-in Bathtubs
Here at Home2Stay, we specialize in the sale and installation of gelcoat walk-in bathtubs that are made to withstand everyday use. The manufacturing process of these walk-in tubs is very sophisticated, and guarantees a final product that is durable, reliable, and easy to maintain. It is important to note that general gelcoat walk-in bathtubs and bathroom products bought at big box stores are not made with this same process.

Gel-coatted walk-in bathtubs manufacturing
Our gelcoat walk-in bathtubs are made using the same process as high-end yachts.

After the gelcoat has been skillfully applied to the mold to ensure the same thickness across the entire tub, a blocking material is placed over the top of the gelcoat to ensure the glass fibers in the fiberglass are not coming through the coating. This is the same process that is used in the yachting industry for the production of high-end yachts.

This process increases the thickness and the durability of the gelcoat on the product, which means the color of the product will not fade and can stand up to the intensity of everyday use. These walk-in bathtubs are also easy to clean and maintain without the use of harsh cleaning agents.

Choosing The Right Walk-in Bathtub
While there is plenty of debate surrounding the issue of acrylic and gelcoat walk-in bathtubs, which you choose is obviously up to you. Carefully consider the information that we provided above about the manufacturing processes and differences of each, and feel free to contact us for more information about walk-in tubs or any other type of home accessibility products. We’d be glad to help.

home2stay

Home2stay is a Canadian company founded by Rahim Lakhani. Based in Vancouver, Home2stay specializes in at home accessibility and accessibility home renovations.

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