Pros & Cons of Different Plumbing Materials Learn the pros and cons of different kitchen and bath plumbing materials to help you decide which counters, cabinets, and fixtures are right for you Kitchen & Bathroom Surfaces Acrylic The type of acrylic used for plumbing fixtures is a thermoplastic made from polymers of acylic acid, methacrylic acid or other related compounds. Typically the color is consistent throughout, and acrylic is known for being lightweight yet durable with careful use. Where it's used: Kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and bathtubs Maintenance: Use nonabrasive cleaners; wipe down after use with a dry, soft cloth. Apply a non-grit paste wax occasionally. Cost range: Medium to high Is it right for me? Top-of-the-line choice for large two-person tubs and whirlpools. Ceramic Tile Ceramic tile is made from clay that has been permanently hardened by high heat. It comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Sometimes the color runs throughout the tile, but is most commonly a decorative glaze. Where it's used: Floors, counters, and backsplashes Maintenance: Use a mild, nonabrasive household cleaner or soap and water. Cost range: Low medium to high Is it right for me? Virtually limitless colors and sizes provide maximum design freedom. Durable, but hard and sometimes slippery underfoot. Conversion Varnish Conversion varnish is a special type of varnish that is sprayed onto wood or veneer. It is similar to lacquer, but must be mixed with a hardener for application. Not a typical paint or varnish application or DIY-type of project. Where it's used: Cabinet finish for wood and veneer Maintenance: Wipe clean with a damp sponge Cost range: Medium to high Is it right for me? Toughest factory-applied finish used on wood and wood veneer. Copper Copper is a common base metal known for its durability and the ease with which it can be transformed into all kinds of useful items - from sinks and cooking pots to pennies and electrical wire. Copper sinks add flair to your kitchen or bathroom, and will last a lifetime. Where it's used: Sinks and backsplashes, occasionally counters Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Copper Cost range: Low to high, depending on quality Is it right for me? Copper is naturally antimicrobial and highly durable. It will patina over time, which some find desirable and others do not. Enameled Cast Iron Super durable cast iron that has been coated in a porcelain enamel to help prevent rusting and provide a smooth surface. Very commonly found in older homes as it is long-lasting and easy to maintain. Where it's used: Kitchen sinks and bathtubs Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Enameled Fixtures Cost range: High Is it right for me? Traditional luxury choice for standard-size tubs. Very strong, long-lasting. Offers unmatched depth of color and gloss in sinks and tubs. Enameled Steel Steel that has been coated in a porcelain enamel. Typically found in high-abuse applications (i.e., hospitals, prisons, sports stadiums) as it is more durable than ceramics, but not so expensive as to make replacement a financial hurdle. Where it's used: Kitchen sinks, bathtubs, and commercial toilets and urinals Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Enameled Fixtures Cost range: Low Is it right for me? The low cost is its primary benefit; not as durable as more expensive options. Fiberglass/ABS Fiberglass and ABS are basically reinforced plastics. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and durable enough for regular daily household use. Requires some care to extend the life of the fixture, but will not last as long as other more expensive options. Where it's used: Bathroom sinks, bathtubs, and shower surrounds Maintenance: Use nonabrasive cleaners; wipe down after use with a soft, dry cloth. Cost range: Low to medium Is it right for me? A good economy choice for tubs and one-piece shower units. Fireclay Fireclay is molded from a clay and mineral mixture, but it is fired at a higher temperature than vitreous china/porcelain which gives it greater resistance to heat - making it ideal for use in kitchen sinks. Where it's used: Kitchen sinks Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Fireclay Fixtures Cost range: Medium to high Is it right for me? Super durable and easy to maintain. Stands up to high heat and offers a traditional look and feel. Granite & Composites When talking plumbing fixtures and countertops, you have two main options - 100% Granite, and Granite Composite (usually composed of 85% quartz granite and 15% acrylic resin). Where 100% granite sinks and countertops run on the expensive side, granite composite offers a more cost-effective alternative. Like their natural stone counterparts, granite composite sinks and countertops have a high resistance to heat. Where it's used: Sinks and counters Maintenance: Use a mild household cleaner or soap and water. Dry with a soft cloth to prevent limescale buildup. Cost range: High Is it right for me? Very durable and very beautiful, but very heavy. Available in 100% natural granite colors or choose a granite/quartz composite for more color options. Lacquer A common type of paint/shellac that dries into a high-gloss and hard coating for wood, metal, or even glass. Where it's used: Cabinet finish for wood and wood veneer Maintenance: Clean with a soft, damp cloth. Cost range: Medium Is it right for me? Wide variety of colors; reasonable price compared with polyester. Laminate Laminate wood is a synthetic flooring that is designed to look like natural wood. It is typically comprised of a high-density fiberboard core with a moisture barrier backing and a detailed photographic image to simulate wood grain, topped with a clear protective layer. Where it's used: Cabinets, counters, and floors Maintenance: Use a mild, nonabrasive household cleaner or soap and water. Cost range: Low to medium Is it right for me? Great durability-to-price ration; staggering array of colors and patterns. Experienced DIY'ers can usually install flooring. High-pressure more durable than low-pressure. Rubber When used for flooring, it can be synthetic or natural rubber. It is bacteria-resistant and nonconductive. Flooring is available in many styles, from interconnecting tiles to sheets to pads that can be laid over other types of flooring. Where it's used: Floors Maintenance: Vacuum/sweep and mop with household cleaners. Cost range: Low to medium Is it right for me? Nonporous, water-resistant, and durable. Easy-on-the-feet/back choice for flooring with a high-tech look. Excellent for families, commercial kitchens, and bathrooms. Solid Surface A non-porous alternative to natural stone, solid surface is made of resin and minerals. Used for countertops, sinks and tubs, it is highly versatile, durable, and reparable. Where it's used: Sinks, counters, and showers Maintenance: Use soap and water or a mild ammonia-based cleaner; buff out stubborn stains with a polishing compound. Cost range: Medium to high Is it right for me? Extraordinarily durable, can be worked like wood to create molded shapes. Available in a variety of colors, excellent for kitchens and one-piece vanity tops/sinks. Stainless Steel Stainless steel sinks are renowned for their durability and longevity, as well as their cost-effectiveness. Stainless steel is rated by gauge, often between 16-gauge and 22-gauge. The lower the number, the thicker and higher quality the sink. Where it's used: Sinks, kitchen counters, and work tables Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Stainless Steel Cost range: Low to high, depending on quality and gauge Is it right for me? Traditional kitchen sink choice, moving more into bathrooms. Comes in many bowl configurations, easy to maintain and clean, long-lasting and durable. An interesting, but costly countertop option. Stone Natural stone is a uniquely beautiful option for your home. When used in sinks, it is quite heavy, and requires special preparation of the cabinetry for installation. Remember, however, that natural stone is porous, and will require initial sealing and regular resealing to protect against stains. Where it's used: Sinks, counters, and floors Maintenance: Use mild household cleaners or soap and water. Seal to protect porous stones against stains. Cost range: High Is it right for me? Timeless look in scores of natural colors/patterns. Will outlast your house, though marble can stain. Thermofoil Sometimes just called "foil", thermofoil is a plastic surface finish that is attached to the underlying wood core using a high heat process. Where it's used: Cabinets Maintenance: Use a mild, nonabrasive household cleaner or soap and water. Cost range: Medium Is it right for me? Offers a low-maintenance surface - good for homes with young children. Can be formed over angles and curves for unique designs. Vinyl A flexible, durable material made using vinyl, felt, fiberglass, and dyes. Where it's used: Floors Maintenance: Use a damp sponge for spot cleaning. Vacuum/sweep and mop with a mild household cleaner. Cost range: Low to medium Is it right for me? Easy on the feet, very low maintenance. Save money by installing tiles yourself. Vitreous China/Porcelain Vitreous china/porcelain is made by baking a refined mixture of clay and other minerals at a high temperature after glazing. Vitreous china/porcelain is naturally mildew- and bacteria-resistant with a non-porous surface that is ideal for maintaining sanitation - hence its common use in lavatory sinks and toilets. Where it's used: Sinks and toilets Maintenance: Guide to Caring for Porcelain Fixtures Cost range: Low to high, depending on quality and size of fixture Is it right for me? Naturally bacteria-resistant, super durable with proper care. Basic white toilets and sinks represent good value, colors up the ante, and hand-painting is strictly a splurge. Wood Trees (and sometimes other plants like bamboo) that have been cut into boards. Where it's used: Counters, cabinets, and floors Maintenance: Use a damp cloth on counters and cabinets; for floors, use products made specifically for polyurethane-treated wood. Cost range: Medium to high Is it right for me? Traditional choice, but can be modernized with exotic woods or patterns. Wood tone and grain patterns offer natural warmth. Long-lasting and can take abuse. Wood Veneer Trees that have been cut into very thin boards instead of big chunky boards. Where it's used: Cabinets Maintenance: Use a damp cloth and dry thoroughly. Cost range: Low to high, depending on species and availability Is it right for me? Can be just as well-made as solid wood cabinets; superior dimensional stability. Related Items & Articles Plumbing Dictionary Bathroom Remodeling Shower Head Buying Guide Bathroom Sinks Whirlpool Tub Buying Guide Kitchen Sinks Kitchen Sink Buying Guide Benefits of Steam Bathing return to top ↑ Copyright© 1995-2018 PlumbingSupply.com.All Rights Reserved.