Cast iron bathtubs are enjoying a resurgence as a popular choice in bathroom remodels and newly built homes. The most common are known as claw-foot tubs. With a layer of porcelain covering a cast iron shell, they are attractive as well as durable. Most cast iron tubs are deep and were designed for soaking. What could be a more inviting way to forget your cares for a while?
Cast iron porcelain-covered bathtubs first became popular in the Victorian Age. They were made in various sizes, the most common being 30 inches wide and five feet long with a rolled brim. Claw-foot tubs that are smaller or larger than that are worth more, as are those with more unique shapes like slipper tubs, which have a raised back and are generally smaller, or soaker tubs which have no legs and sit flush with the floor. Later versions were built into a bathroom rather than free standing but most are the standard five feet long by 30 inches side.
Setting a fair price on a cast iron tub depends a great deal on the tub’s condition. In areas where people’s bodies came in contact most with the tub’s surface, like the bottom where people sat and the back where they rested their heads, the porcelain might be dull and perhaps worn through to the cast iron underneath.
Although these tubs are quite durable and often remained in their original houses for decades, they chipped easily and will show other signs of wear and tear; some affect the price more than others. If the tub’s surface is mildly scratched or stained, a good cleaning may take care of the issue. Porcelain finished cast iron tubs can be safely cleaned with products you would use to clean any tub, like Scrubbing Bubbles, Fantastic and Soft Scrub. For badly stained areas, more abrasive cleaners may be necessary like Ajax or Spic and Span diluted in water. If all else fails, try a mixture of one part muriatic acid to one part water and be sure not to get any on your skin.
If there are deep cracks, nicks, chips and stains that aren’t improved by scrubbing, the tub may need to be refinished. If the seller has the tub restored, he can charge more for it but if not the price will be less.
You may find a porcelain tub that has been cracked all the way through the cast iron underneath. This tub is good only for scrap because of the possibility of it leaking and/breaking into pieces.
Buyers will look for tubs with all four original feet, or legs, in good condition. The more ornate the feet, the higher the market value will be. If a leg or legs have been replaced, removed or if one or more is badly cracked or dented, the price will fall.
What the Experts Say
When you visit antique shops and flea markets with cast iron tubs for sale, make note of the tub’s condition and what the dealer is asking for it. Check out online auctions like eBay and be sure to see what the tub actually sold for compared to what the original asking price was. Salvage yards and businesses that deal in old house renovations can also give you an idea of the going price of a cast iron tub.
Think about having the tub appraised by a licensed, professional appraiser who will be able to evaluate how much the tub is worth.
Jan Czech has been writing professionally since 1993. Czech has published seven children's books, including “The Coffee Can Kid," which received a starred review from School Library Journal. She is a certified English/language arts teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in education from Niagara University.