February 5, 2014

Refinishing or Replacing with Bathtub Liner Pros and Cons

Bathtub refinishing or tub liners: Which is better?

Date Published: Feb 28 2013
by Michael Franco, Angie’s List Contributor

Ah, the tub. It can be the perfect spot to soak away your stress. Few things wash away the cares of the day like a fragrant basin of warm water surrounded by a couple of flickering candles. But if your tub is looking shabby, it can create stress instead of cure it, so it might be time to think about bathtub refinishing solutions or tub inserts for your next bathroom remodelingproject.

At first glance, purchasing a new tub might seem like a good solution, as you can pick one up for as little as $300. But when you consider the demolition and removal of the old tub, the possible relocation of plumbing and other carpentry jobs that could accompany a replacement, the costs can easily reach $3,000. So, you might want to consider a liner or a refinishing project as a more affordable option.

Bathtub refinishing

Although you can find DIY kits for refinishing a bathtub, most professionals will advise against this course of action. The kits require that you apply the special coating with a brush or roller, which can give your tub a painted look rather than a refinished look.

When you work with a professional tub refinisher, he or she will carefully sand the old coating off the tub, fill any chips or scratches and apply a new coating in several stages using a sprayer that creates a smooth, glossy surface. Because the coating is, in effect, a type of paint, you can choose to redo your tub in any of a myriad of colors, which not only brings it back to life but lets you do a bit of redecorating at the same time.

Tub refinishing (also known as reglazing) can cost as little as $300 and is therefore the cheapest tub revamp project you can do. If you work with a reputable contractor, the coating can last for years. When cleaning your tub, be careful not to use harsh abrasive powders or scrubbers because the surface can scratch and eventually wear away.

During the refinishing process, you won’t be able to use your tub for approximately three days, so plan accordingly.

Bathtub liners

Tub liners are molded acrylic inserts that slip over top of your old tub. You can place them only atop cast iron or steel tubs, however, so if you have an old acrylic tub, this option won’t work for you.

To order a liner, a representative comes to your home and takes photos and measurements, which are sent out to a manufacturing facility where your insert is created. Two to three weeks later, the insert is delivered and installed. The installation process can typically be accomplished in a single day, so the downtime of your tub is less than with refinishing.

One advantage of liners is that you can also order a matching wall system that can have built-in shelves and storage areas. So if your walls are also in rough shape, a full liner system that covers both the tub and the walls can instantly improve the look of your bathroom. Liners are also very durable and easy to clean because you can use abrasive materials to get them to shine.

Because of their very nature, however, liners simply cover up — rather than solve — problems. So if you have any existing moisture problems around your tub, they will be sealed under the acrylic liner, which isn’t a very good idea. Additionally, unless the liner is installed perfectly, water can collect between the liner and the walls or the old tub, which could lead to mold and mildew problems. Homeowners have also reported some liners feeling a bit spongy or hollow underfoot.

Lastly, tub inserts are more expensive than bathtub refinishing, costing roughly $1,100 to $1,400 (and more if you install a wall unit).

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