Acrylic vs Fiberglass Shower (Pros & Cons)


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Acrylic and Fiberglass Shower Units Style

If you are looking for a modern and budget-friendly alternative to porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone tiles, then might we suggest you check out acrylic and fiberglass shower units. Both acrylic and fiberglass showers are low-cost and low-maintenance alternatives that also offer practicality. However, while both might appear identical, key differences separate acrylic and fiberglass shower units. 

In this article, we will be taking a closer look at acrylic and fiberglass showers to help you decide which one best suits your needs. We will be factoring in all aspects from durability to lifespan in order to help you make an informed decision between the two shower stalls. 

Quick Overview: Acrylic and Fiberglass Shower Units

If you prefer not to use tiles in your shower stall, installing either acrylic or fiberglass shower units is a great alternative. These two shower stalls are the most common types available due to the material used. Acrylic and fiberglass are pretty similar in that both are molded plastic, and both these materials are present in each other’s composition.

Acrylic and fiberglass are also quite durable materials while also being lightweight. Moreover, the light composition of both makes installation relatively easy. So, what factors separate the two from each other? Which one is the better option? Let us find out. 

Acrylic Shower

 Ella’s high quality acrylic walk-in bathtub
Image Credit: Ella’s Bubbles LLC via Creative Commons

Acrylic shower stalls are known for their high scratch resistance and solid durability. Those two elements combined make acrylic shower units long-lasting options in the bathroom. In addition, if you are using colored acrylic shower stalls, then scratches are even less visible due to the color being blended into the acrylic rather than just at the surface. 

The process of development implemented in acrylic also makes this material non-porous. This means that acrylic shower units are entirely immune to mold, mildew, and hard-water buildup. 

Pros:

  • Acrylic has a high level of scratch resistance. 
  • This material is non-porous, making it resistant to water damage and stains. 
  • It is a lightweight yet durable material.

Cons:

  • Acrylic shower units fall short in terms of aesthetics as it comes in a somewhat limited selection. 
  • Acrylic shower installation requires a professional or experienced hand. 

Fiberglass Shower

Bathroom with a shower cubicle in hotel

If you are looking for a budget-friendly shower unit, fiberglass shower stalls are for you. In fact, fiberglass showers are more affordable than acrylic models. However, that lower cost also means that fiberglass showers might need to make some cuts in terms of quality. 

One of the most significant drawbacks of fiberglass showers is their longevity. Unfortunately, fiberglass simply won’t last as long as acrylic. In addition, acrylic material offers excellent scratch resistance, which fiberglass does not. Being more susceptible to scratches means that you will need to take extra care of this type of shower stall

A thick layer of extra gel coating will be applied to the fiberglass to improve its durability in the manufacturing process. However, this gel coating erodes over time, and once it wears away, the fiberglass is pretty much at the mercy of the elements. Now, if you consider that fiberglass is a porous material, you can probably see where this is going. Simply put, fiberglass is more at risk of mold, mildew, and water damage/stains than acrylic. 

Pros:

  • Fiberglass shower units are affordable. 
  • Any scratches on the surface of a fiberglass panel can be repaired. 
  • Fiberglass shower enclosures come in a wide variety of styles and designs.

Cons:

  • This material is not that durable, and it has a shorter lifespan than acrylic.
  • Fiberglass shower units are typically sold in one-piece designs, which means transporting and installing might be a hassle. 
  • Fiberglass panel surfaces require specific cleaning methods to avoid damaging the gel coating. 

Acrylic and Fiberglass Shower Unit Comparison

Let us make a blow-by-blow comparison between acrylic and fiberglass shower stalls to distinguish the clear winner between the two. 

Durability

modern bathroom design

While both appear similar, their construction is quite different from each other. Acrylic shower units feature single large pieces of panels, which are further strengthened using glass fiber embedding. Fiberglass shower stalls are made using polyester resin construction. Both are lightweight, yet acrylic offers more durability and longevity due to the molding process it uses. 

Acrylic shower stalls can be pretty expensive to repair. On the other hand, fiberglass shower units can cost less to patch up compared to its counterpart. 

Winner: Acrylic 

Fiberglass simply cannot hold up to the level of durability and scratch resistance than acrylic materials provide. That said, if an acrylic shower panel gets damaged, the repair cost will be considerably higher than fiberglass. 

Price

Bathroom with blue mosaic

Acrylic shower units tend to sell at an average of $800 and above, while fiberglass shower stalls range between $300 to $800. While fiberglass is indeed cheaper, acrylic is longer-lasting. It would be best if you weighed the long-term cost as you might spend more in the long run with a fiberglass shower unit due to possible repairs. 

However, a fiberglass shower unit might offer similar longevity as its sturdier and more expensive counterpart with proper care and maintenance. 

Winner: Fiberglass

A fiberglass shower enclosure is definitely the more affordable option between the two. Even so, fiberglass is less durable and more prone to scratches than acrylic, so consider that. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

Large elegant master bathroom with shower, and big bath tub.

Acrylic and fiberglass showers are both equally easy to clean. However, there are do’s and don’ts regarding the cleaning and maintenance process. The most crucial factor to remember is not to use harsh cleaning chemicals or use highly abrasive cleaning tools. 

Fiberglass is highly vulnerable to scratches, so remember only to use a soft cloth when cleaning this type of material. Besides that necessary cleaning precaution, both acrylic and fiberglass showers are low-maintenance units that only require the occasional clean-up. 

Winner: Draw

Both acrylic and fiberglass showers are low-maintenance models. Cleaning both will require a little bit of extra care, though.

Conclusion

All in all, we recommend you go with acrylic showers as these offer better long-term quality investment. While it is true that fiberglass shower stalls are cheaper, they are also less durable and significantly less scratch-resistant. So go with acrylic shower units if you want longevity and practicality.