Your authentic period bathtub is the highlight of the bathroom or maybe you’re just partial to having the option to dunk your kids in for a scrub. Alas, at some point the big porcelain cleaning vessel will wear out and need a wash of its own.
But that’s not an easy task, often made so by location alone. Most tubs are set in alcoves or corners and then overlapped with flooring and wall finishes to create watertight seals. Add to that at least two places of secure plumbing and you’ve got a big job on your hands. The first step is knowing the end goal: If you’re diving into a full-on bathroom remodel, it makes sense to just replace the tub with a shiny new one. You could also part with upwards of $3,000 to try and fix the old tub’s worn out looks but prepare for a giant mess and lots of time as well.
There’s a better option—tub liners or refinishing. You get a new-looking tub without the expense and mess of tearing out the old one, while adding years to its lifespan.
Specialty tub liner manufacturers create exact molds of your existing tub and then match a liner that fits like a glove. Measurements and photographs are sent to the company where a sheet of ABS acrylic is vacuum-formed to match the mold. (The acrylic is the same material used to make airplane windshields.) The tub is thoroughly cleaned and the liner then slips right over the tub and secured with adhesives. Finally, a new drain is installed, everything is caulked, and the tub is ready for use.
Refinishing a worn-out tub is another option to bring life back to an old tub; however, this process involves hazardous chemicals requiring a respirator and protective clothing. Surfaces around the tub must be masked and the bathroom well ventilated to clear away toxic fumes. The tub gets doused with hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the old glaze and etch the surface in preparation for the new finish.
A fast-drying epoxy is applied, followed by a final cleaning. The last step is four passes of the finishing coat and a polish. A minimum of 24 hours is required before water can enter the tub.
Replace or refinish, make your tub look like new?
Your final tub makeover decision will come down to individual taste, interior parameters, and budget. Liners are more durable than refinishing but also command a price of $800-1,000 installed, and higher should you choose optional wall liners in various colors. Refinishing costs around $200-500, or higher if you choose different colors than white.
One common aesthetic concern among customers is that plastic liners look the part and might not appeal to everyone. In addition, any water finding its way underneath the liner can elicit a “plasticy” smell and make things hard to clean. Keep in mind that liners typically work best on a tub with a smooth, clean surface.
For more information on bathtub maintenance, contact Maryland Tub & Tile at (877) 717-TUBS (8827) or marylandtubntile.com.