Bathtub manufacturing has gone full circle
Evidence suggests that as early as 2500 BC the Egyptians designed and constructed limestone bathing areas in the homes of the wealthy, where servants would pour water over their masters. In around 1000 BC the Greek island of Crete was home to to the forefather of the modern freestanding bath, which was made from clay. The shape resembled that of a 19th century freestanding claw foot bath and over the next 500 years they became more popular in rich communities around Greece.
Fast forward to the mid 20th Century and acrylic thermoformed baths were introduced to the modern day bathroom and became the most popular material to use in bath manufacturing across the world. The flexibility in the manufacturing process meant that more shapes and designs were made available and saw the evolution of the modern freestanding bath.
Modern techniques now allow manufacturers to utilise natural stone compounds with creative freedom not previously viable. This has led to a number of freestanding bath manufacturers reverting back to natural materials, even with the added complexity and expense this creates. It is believed that natural stone provides a more durable material to create a freestanding bath, retains heat more efficiently and provides the modern bathroom with a more luxurious centre piece. Limestone composite has become the common selection for stone freestanding baths, due to the combined beneficial characteristics of limestone and modern resin.
Limestone can withhold working temperatures of up to 355 C as opposed to 50 C of acrylic, has a thermal shock resistance five times that of acrylic, and conducts (therefore retains) heat at almost ten times the rate of acrylic. The compressive strength of acrylic is 80 MPa compared with 700MPa of limestone.
Based on these results, it is clear that a freestanding bath made using limestone will be considerably more durable, will retain heat much more efficiently, will withstand hot water system temperatures more effectively, and will be far less likely to crack due to thermal shock (impossible in any domestic environment) than a comparable freestanding acrylic bath. The modern resin compound used in limestone baths provides a non porous blend, thus cancelling out the superior water resistance of acrylic.
In summary, there is no question that a freestanding limestone bath is superior to that of an acrylic bath in pretty much every way. The market trends suggest that it is also a more desirable and luxurious type of bath. However this comes at a price, with the average freestanding acrylic bath being available from reputable manufacturers for just shy of £1,000, compared with a similar sized and design of freestanding stone bath being almost three times the price.
If within your budget, a freestanding stone bath will certainly add value and prestige to any project.