Fiberglass is lightweight and strong, can be formed into a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any bathroom need, and is relatively inexpensive. It can be coated in a variety of colors and is readily available in most home improvement stores.
A Sacramento plumber would tell you that they see more fiberglass bathtubs and surrounds than any other type, with good reason. Fiberglass is the easiest type of fixture to repair if it is damaged, does not typically chip or crack, and is almost always the most economical choice. Fiberglass does need to be cleaned carefully regardless of the style you choose. Both the gel coat colored and matte-finished textured styles of fixtures are not resistant to abrasive cleaners.
Ceramic fixtures are made out of fired clay. A ceramic fixture is dense, durable, and has good thermal mass, an advantage over fiberglass if used in a tub or a sink. Ceramic may or may not be glazed, depending on the type of fixture you have. Once glazed, it is waterproof. Ceramics can be cleaned with any type of standard bathroom cleaning agent and are built to last a long time.
Many people even collect and reuse vintage ceramic fixtures, but keep in mind there is a risk of lead contamination with ceramics from certain sources. Plumbing FAQs you’ll find online can help you make a good choice about safe sources of ceramic, and provide information on what is required to properly install them. Ceramic can chip or crack if it is subjected to abuse, but is still far less likely to do so than enameled metal fixtures.
Porcelain fixtures are also made out of fired clay; you can think of them as a subset of ceramic fixtures. Unlike ceramic however, they are made out of a special refined clay that renders them non porous and thus waterproof without any glazing. They naturally have a glossy translucent appearance like milky glass and are very durable but can also be colored with glaze just like ceramics.
Despite being made out of a dense, hard glass-like material, they are quite resistant to chipping and cracking. While heavier than fiberglass to a substantial degree, which can make large fixtures a challenge to install, the durability and resistance to wear makes for a good choice for fixtures likely to see frequent use.
Not sure what’s best for you? HGTV offers some great advice on picking the bathroom and remodeling materials right for you. Regardless of your finish, if you need plumbing advice, we can help. Please contact us anytime.