Bathtub Refinishing vs Fitted Tub Liners: Which is Best for You?

If your bathtub is no longer working for you, there are three common options; replace the tub completely, refinish the tub, or install a bathtub liner over your existing tub unless you have a solarium or a sunroom. Most of the time, replacing the tub isn’t practical unless you are doing a full-on bathroom remodel because it affects how flooring sits in your bathroom and can put the room out of commission. Both bathtub refinishing and installing a liner are popular options, and both have their share of pros and cons as a method of bathtub repair. If either of these projects are on your radar, you can find help and guidance by hiring a bathroom contractor with the help of Angi, formerly known as Angie’s List.

Putting a Liner on Your Tub

Adding a liner to your tub has been a popular option for many years. It involves taking a liner made of PVC material or acrylic and placing the whole thing over your existing tub. Often these liners can extend over the shower walls and shelving can be added as well as part of the process. Installing a bathtub liner is something that can normally be done in a day and can quickly give your tub a whole new look. The cost of a new liner is usually reasonable, at around $1100 to $1400, and once the job is done your tub will be ready to use, but there are plenty of steps in the process in order to get the tub the facelift you want. Some of the steps necessary include:

  • Inspecting and measuring your tub in order to make a properly fitting mold
  • Removing drains, handles, and knobs prior to installation
  • Fixing any cracks or chips in the existing tub
  • Wiping the tub down with denatured alcohol
  • Applying the proper adhesive to your tub’s surface
  • Attaching liner for a snug “glove-like” fit
  • Replacing drains, knobs, and handles, and assuring that they are properly caulked.

Some attempt to install bathtub liners as a DIY project, but if you are not fully confident about your ability to do this, it can potentially affect the quality of your tub for years to come, especially if any steps are missed. Getting a referral from Angi is a good way to find a local contractor that will take your project seriously and help you find the liner you want.

Refinishing Your Bathtub

There are many ways of refinishing a bathtub that can give it a sense of new life, but the process can be even more time-consuming than adding a liner and can actually leave your tub out of commission for at least a full day. There are also more dangers associated with the process due to the chemicals used. Professionals will do their work while wearing protective gear in order to keep themselves protected. A lot of care goes into refinishing a bathtub, and you can end up with a refreshed version of the tub you already have, or use the project as an opportunity to bring a new look to your tub by updating the color. Here are some of the important steps and precautions that need to be observed.

  • Protect surfaces, drains, and knobs with plastic sheeting
  • Remove all caulking from the tub
  • Use hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the porcelain and add texture for a stronger application surface.
  • Wash away the acid and let them dry completely.
  • Add two coats of epoxy to the tub’s surface
  • Dry the epoxy completely and remove dust or dirt particles with a microfiber cloth.
  • Add the first coat of polyurethane finish, sand, and add another coat and repeat until there are four coats of the finish on the tub
  • Polish the tub.

Making the Right Choice for Your Bathtub

Whether you refinish your tub or have a liner installed depends a lot on your sense of style as well as the dynamics of your household. The cheaper option is to refinish the tub — the price tag is about half of installing a liner, and it is also the choice that lasts the longest. A refinished tub can last up to fifteen years, while a liner usually needs to be replaced within five years. Liners typically provide a more modern look for your tub, while refinished tubs can be an option to restore a tub and preserve more sentimental value. Liners are generally easier to clean than a refinished tub, but there is a possibility of mold developing under the liner.

While refinishing is cheaper, it takes longer to be able to use the tub after the process. There are also more harmful chemicals used, so it is important to watch out for kids and pets and have a good ventilation system. It will also need to be cleaned more often in order to be properly maintained. If you are ready for the precautions and maintenance, bathtub refinishing is a good value, and also keep maintaining the immersion heater for hot waters from time to time. Either way, it isn’t a choice to take lightly.

Samantha Nguyen

Samantha Nguyen, a graduate of the Pratt Institute with a degree in Interior Design, has made a mark for herself in the home decor scene for 15 years. She started her career with a renowned design firm in Los Angeles, gaining critical acclaim for her innovative approaches. Samantha joined our platform in 2019, where she shares her expertise in creating aesthetically pleasing yet functional living spaces. She is also a staunch advocate for incorporating sustainable materials in home decor. In her leisure time, she loves to paint to establish inspiration from her travels.

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