You may have seen the infomercials on late at night, but how much do you really know about resurfacing a bathtub? This product, also known as a bath liner or bath fitter, is created to match the dimensions of your tub and is placed directly on top of the existing area.
Resurfacing covers up any ugly remnants of the tub without requiring the work of completely removing it. “Our product is 100 percent acrylic and the walls are all one piece, so if you have mold or mildew issues, we would get rid of all of it and then put a liner over the existing [tub],” says Saiema Quadri, an event manager at Montreal-based Bath Fitter.
Bathtub resurfacing companies are increasingly adding options like grab bars, graphic art and other bathroom accessories attached to the liners. Bath Fitter, which operates in Canada and the U.S., offers an online tool where customers can design their own bathroom remodel virtually.
One sticking point for the bath liners is that customers can get overeager to jump in their new shower or tub. “If people don’t follow directions to let the product sit so the adhesive can stick to the wall, something might pop off a little bit,” Quadri says, “but we’ll go in and fix that.”
Search for bath liners or fitters for resurfacing companies in your area.
• Cheaper than replacing the whole tub
• No caulking in the liner so it resists the problems of bathroom tiles
• Can be customized to turn a bathtub into a shower with a seat, etc.
• If the product develops a crack, water will get between old bathtub and liner, creating problems
• In some cases, plumbing may need to be changed, which may require a permit and a licensed plumber
Refinish It [photos courtesy of Beautiful Finishes]
There are two ways to talk about refinishing a tub. For an easy fix to a small problem, there are DIY products that can repair cracks and chips in a tub if it is made of acrylic or fiberglass/gelcoat.
For a full overhaul, though, refinishing is an inexpensive way to make a big difference in the appearance of a bathtub. “It’s about being able to bring your bathroom up to date on a reasonable budget,” says Jim Pierce, senior account executive at Chicago-based Beautiful Finishes.
Refinishing typically involves first coating the existing surface in a base solution, sometimes known as an etching solution, which makes it easier for the new surface to adhere. Then a primer and topcoat are added. After the tub is refinished, it could take anywhere between four hours to seven days before it is ready for use.
Pierce says many of his customers have tubs with the bright retro colors of the ’60s and ’70s and want to neutralize the colors to prepare a house for sale. Finishes are available in a variety of colors to match with bathroom décor. Other common customers are landlords who want to make their properties more appealing to renters, according to Pierce.
The typical bathtub refinishing job, Pierce says, is about $300, though it can vary depending on the type of material, size of the tub and other considerations.
• Usually the cheapest option
• No need to redo plumbing
• While you’re at it, you can refinish tiles and countertops, too
• Many abrasive chemicals are involved in this process; each company has its own claims to how safe the chemicals are
• Cannot change the size/shape/functions of the tub
Replace It [photo courtesy of Lowe’s]
If you’ve got cash to burn and want to make a major change, you’re better off completely replacing your tub. For instance, for those who want to add luxury features like massage jets, effervescence, built-in lighting and aromatherapy, a full replacement is the right choice.
“It depends on personal preference,” says Aaron Hoegle, merchandising director in fashion plumbing of Lowe’s home improvement stores. “Do they want a new experience? What’s the motive?”
A new tub can accommodate specific requirements, like accessibility, the desire for a different style tub, high-tech features or green materials.
For an aging home, Hoegle recommends a Kohler tub with a side that raises and lowers and is still customizable with bells and whistles that homeowners want. He cites accessibility as a growing concern for consumers looking to buy bathtubs.
Delta has also released a new tub, he says, that is made with low-emitting product for a healthier indoor environment. “It’s exciting because it’s an acrylic material for a fraction of the typical acrylic price,” Hoegle says.
While he says that refinishing and resurfacing are viable options for many homeowners who are looking for a cheaper option, it all depends on the current tub and the customer.
• Get the tub with the features you want
• See the final product at the store before you buy
• Removing and installing requires professional help unless the homeowner is particularly handy
• In most cases, this is the most expensive option