Shower/Tub Material Differences


  #1  
Old 04-30-04, 02:44 PM
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Shower/Tub Material Differences

Just to provide some assistance to those shopping, here are some issues that may help you in deciding which way to go.

There are three primary types of tub and shower units:

1. Gel-coated fiberglass
2. Acrylic reinforced with fiberglass
3. Acrylic backed with a structural composite.

Now side by side, these products look very similar, however there are important differences.

The gel-coat products, when constructed with high quality ingredients, can be very hard and durable. The manufacturing process is critical, as the liquid gel-coat must be applied evenly on the molds at the correct temperature. Gel-coated products if damaged or scratched can be repaired with great success. Repairs performed correctly are permanent and virtually invisible.

Acrylic units are usually constructed using large sheets of solid colored acrylic plastic. These sheets are heated so that they soften. The softened sheets are then stretched over a mold to achieve the desired shape of the shower or tub unit. This stretching process, however, sometimes causes the acrylic to be very thin as it stretches around corners. Those units with the highest percent of acrylic tend to offer higher performance levels. Repairs to these units are not always successful.

Many homeowners in the past were dissatisfied with the fact that the floors of these units flexed like oil cans. Some of the acrylic units backed with composites have addressed this problem. The other units often need to be set in wet plaster (5 gal pail of pre-mixed joint compound) or mortar to provide a solid base. This may be required or recommended in the installation instructions.

The care of either cast iron units or the alternatives is important. Never use cleansers that contain abrasives, as these can scratch both cast iron and plastic fixtures. If you simply make a practice of cleaning the tub or shower area every two weeks, you will avoid the heavy soap buildup that often necessitates heavy scrubbing. Virtually every manufacturer has a recommended cleaner that they strongly suggest you use. Follow these instructions and you will have a beautiful tub and shower area for many years.

Finally, if you do select one of the acrylic or fiberglass, you can keep it looking new by applying once a month, car wax. It just takes a few minutes and you use spray on car wax applied to the surface to the wall surfaces only. Never apply wax to the floor of the unit. Buff this wax out and it will be as shiny as new!

The acrylics have a 5 year warranty. Gelcoats have a 3 year.

Just some things to think about!
 
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Old 04-30-04, 09:59 PM
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Good knowledge to go by.


I have been setting all my tubs, tub and showers, and shower pans in a bed of mortar, and I recommend to all my customers the waxing of walls to make maintenance of the surfaces easier.


And I still shock some people about that tip about supporting the bottom of these units; tons of them without support, and those are the ones that are flexing as you described.
 
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Old 05-01-04, 05:51 AM
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DUNBAR PLUMBER,

Thanks! Just wanting to let others know that product and how to install them are more important than the price! The fact is that in most cases you get what you pay for. Knowing how to make it last is important.
 
  #4  
Old 06-03-04, 11:10 AM
Josh G
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Question about chosing Shower Material

I am about to remodel my bathroom, and I have a shower that is currently tiled. I want this to be the last time I have to do this for a long while.
-What is the longest lasting material for shower walls and floor pan?
- If Onyx/Marble panels is your answer, then how dificlut are they to install? and what kind of prep work goes into it? (any specialty tools needed?)
- What should the backing be? Sheetrock? Moisture barrier? what about the floor...?
- also, how long does a typical Onyx/Marble installation last? Does the material every fail in any way?
 
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Old 06-03-04, 01:01 PM
showerguy
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Longest Lasting & other questions

Hello Josh G.

I suspect that natural granite would be the longest lasting material you could put on the walls of a shower, but for the shower base, I doubt if anything lasts longer than Cultured Marble or Cultured Onyx.

Since the filler on Cultured Marble is crushed limestone, it tends to dull and burn cutting tools a lot faster than Cultured Onyx, which uses Alumina Trihydrate as a filler (the same stuff they use in Corian). Alumina Trihydrate is less dense and more resiliant than limestone dust, so the Onyx wall panels are easier to cut and harder to crack during the installation process than the Marble ones.

For Cultured Onyx, you can use a normal electric jigsaw with a metal cutting blade to cut notches around windows etc., and a regular hole saw for the head pipe and faucet handle holes. Fine trimming can be done with a course-tooth belt sander. These tools will work for Cultured Marble as well, but the teeth will get worn smooth much faster.

If you do your installation with 100% pure silicone adhesive as recommended by the manufacturers of these products, you can use plain sheetrock behind the panels because there is no chance they will ever leak. However, since many of the building codes are aimed at tile, you may not have the option of using plain sheetrock. The floor just needs to be level and flat. A screw head sticking up or a small stone trapped under one of these could cause a stress crack to develop in the future.

For prep, all you need to do is dry-fit each piece first to make sure trimming isn't needed to accomodate crooked walls. Most manufacturers will make the panels oversized at your request to give you room for trimming, or even make them crooked for you to match your walls.

It typically takes about an hour to install three Cultured Onyx shower wall panels correctly. It may take a little longer to do the Cultured Marble panels because trimming & drilling goes slower and you need to handle them a little more carefully, but it still goes pretty fast.

How long do they last? Some Cultured Onyx is guaranteed forever. That's a long time. Either material should last at least the rest of your life. Damaging either one requires severe abuse, like you might cause with a hammer or a bowling ball. Also, excessively hot water can cause "thermal shock" fractures in either material, although Cultured Marble is much more likely to be affected by this. However, the temperature required to cause this type of damage would kill or maim a person within minutes in a shower, and is more commonly seen in an old Cultured Marble sink where someone used straight hot water for shaving every day year after year. With the current trends toward safety in the home, having water temperatures set this hot (over 140 degrees) any more is very uncommon.

I hope this helps. Good Luck on your project !
 
 

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