Two cost saving solutions to the
ugliest bathroom problems
What can be done about old, worn and
Replacing a bathtub is an expensive
proposition, not because a new bathtub is particularly
costly itself, but because there is so much labor involved in
removing the old and replacing it with the new. Tubs are
often set in corner or nook, and held secure by a drain, overflow
and faucet plumping. Replacing the tub can make some sense if you
are doing a full remodel of the bathroom, but otherwise there
are other more practical and cost effective options.
There are two popular alternatives to
replacing a bathtub or bathtub shower unit:
bathtub liners and bathtub refinishing. Either method will save
money and time over replacing an old bathtub, although
refinishing is normally a lot cheaper. But which one should you
choose? For price conscious apartment owners the cheapest method
and the lowest estimate is the easy conclusion to this
question which explains the popularity of refinishing in
apartment buildings. Homeowners will often opt for what they
feel looks best or will last the longest, and homeowners
are the primary customers of the bathtub liner industry. But
surprisingly there ARE times an apartment owner should consider
bathtub liners. And homeowners likewise should hesitate before
assuming the more expensive solution is better for them. So what
are the pros and cons of these solutions, and is there a place for the tub liner for
apartment owners? Is a tub liner the right choice whenever money
is not the primary concern?
Here's how the bathtub liner process
goes. The installer gets measurements and photos of the tub and
sends these to their supplier. The model is identified and a
prefabricated liner that is designed to fit the specific tub is
shipped to the installer. The old tub is cleaned, the drain and
overflow are removed and the liner is trimmed so it fits snugly in
the old bathtub. A new drain and overflow, are installed and
seams are caulked. Once the liner is delivered, in four to eight
weeks, it is usually installed in one day. The homeowner can
bathe in it that same evening.
Reglazing, or refinishing, a worn-out
bathtub is done entirely onsite. It can be started as soon as the
technician has an opening in his schedule. There is usually no
wait for materials. Processes vary in detail from one company to
another, but there are some essential steps normally followed.
First the area is masked off to protect surfaces not to be
treated, then the bathtub is thoroughly cleaned, and often etched
with an acid. Any chips or cracks are repaired and sanded smooth.
Sometimes a bonding agent is used other times a primer coat is
used. The surface is then sprayed with a coating that if
successful will closely resemble a real porcelain finish. The
surface can be used normally in 24 to 48 hours.
Which is for You?
Liners are certainly more durable than a
refinished tub coating. But liners cost two or three times the
price or more. I have heard customers say could have replaced the
tub for the price they paid. But can be a
considerable saving over replacing.
Refinishing a tub, on the other hand,
costs $200 to $450. Although most customers want white,
refinishing is available in virtually any color. This is compared
with the five common colors (white, almond, biscuit, gray and
black) that most liner companies offer.
There are some esthetic issues with
liners. Some people like the clean, simple lines of the liner,
but if you have an older tub with detail and character in the
skirt for instance, liners hide these details. Liners are plastic
so they look plastic. But a complaint we hear most is that when
there is leakage around the liner water will get under it, which
can make it squishy to walk on and smelly with mold. This is a
difficult problem to solve.
Warranties vary. Refinishers usually
offer 2 or 5 year warranties. Bathtub liners offer 3 to 10 year
to lifetime warranties. Be skeptical of a company that has only
been in business for a short time but is offering a lifetime
guarantee. Read the warranty on your contract and find out if you
need to prove your warranty coverage by producing a copy of your
warranty. Most people lose track of warranty documents after a
few years. Pacific Reglazing is one refinishing company that
keeps records of all work performed so warranty coverage can be
Most liner companies won't do jetted
tubs, nor will they line claw-foot tubs. Chipped, dented or even
rusted-through tubs are no problem, however, but be prepared to
pay more if repairs are necessary. And here is where the
Apartment Owner may find bathtub liners a tempting option.
Pressed steal bathtubs that have rusted through are difficult or
impossible to repair, and once the rust has set in enough to show
through the tub, it is pretty much beyond repair and out of the
realm of what can generally be refinished. A liner provides the
alternative to replacing that rusted out old tub.
Picking the right company
The best advice is to act as you would
hiring any contractor -- ask lots of questions. Get
recommendations from friends and neighbors when you can. Ask how
long the company has been in business. Check the status of their
In California a specialty contractors
license is required to operate as a bathtub refinisher or tub
liner installer. Particularly in the refinishing industry, there
are many illegal immigrants and other individuals who attempt to
get work by offering cut rate services using cheap materials, by
cutting corners, and by holding no insurances. These companies
can be mostly identified very easily by simply looking for a
license number in any ads you respond to. It is a requirement
that all ads by licensed contractors display their contractor
license number. You can check the status and legitimacy of a
license by visiting the Contractors State Licensing Board website
If you are considering a bathtub liner,
find out if the company has your exact tub model before you sign
Be skeptical of any claim that
refinishing materials and solvents used are "safe." They are safe
once they have dried, but make sure the refinisher has plenty of
ventilation in the room being refinished while the work is being
performed, and you should be asked or required to stay out until
the fumes are gone.
Armed with this information you should be
able to save money solving those difficult bathroom surface
If you have any questions, would like an estimate or to place your order, give us a call.
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