Bathtub Liners vs Bathtub Replacement: Cost, Materials, & More

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If you love a good soak in the tub every now and then, chances are that your experience will be ruined once you see signs of damage or wear and tear on your tub. Or, when it has some noticeable stains, grime, and other icky-looking stuff that no amount of cleaning can fix anymore.

Instead of relaxing, you will be left wondering how much it will cost you to have your bathtub repaired to address those issues. But if repairing is out of the question, you will likely have to look into three other options: getting bathtub liners, a bathtub replacement, or bathtub refinishing.

Among the three, a bathtub replacement is known to be the costliest option. While a bathtub may only cost a few hundred dollars, it is a labor-intensive job that also requires a lot of materials and finishing because it will also involve renovating your bathroom at the same time. You cannot replace your bathtub without any demolition involved.

Goodbye, savings.

Because of this, many homeowners opt to install bathtub liners, also known as a bathtub overlay, if simply reglazing the tub is not ideal. This bathtub insert is seen as a more economical choice for many, as it can be a permanent fix for problematic bathtubs but without the price tag of a replacement.

For those who are looking into the merits of getting bathtub liners versus a bathtub replacement, this article is for you. Here you will learn about how much it costs, the materials available, and a whole lot more.

Is Bathtub Refinishing Worth It?

While a refinishing is one of the popular ways to deal with issues, in some cases it is not worth it, even if it just costs between $300 to $600 on average. Refinishing a bathtub is the go-to solution for those who only need to deal with cosmetic issues, as well as easily repairable minor cracks, chips, rust spots, and holes.

This means refinishing a bathtub is simply giving it a makeover. If the damage or issue involving your bathtub is much more than, your bathtub will likely need replacing, but it can also still be addressed with a tub liner installation.

You also need to consider the fact that not all bathtubs can be refinished or reglazed. This is because the entire process involves stripping and sanding the tub, repairing any minor damage, and applying several coats of a special paint or coating. In most cases, only older tubs can withstand the entire process because they are made using higher quality materials than those commonly found nowadays.

While it is possible to reglaze newer bathtubs, they must be in great condition and the effect may not be as good as it is when done with older tubs.

Since refinishing makes use of harsh chemicals, your entire household will have to temporarily move out for a few days while it is being done. Even if it is already in the curing stage, you may still be exposed to the hazards caused by these chemicals.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, warns about the dangers and health effects of the chemicals involved in such a task. Reglazing may be a cheaper fix but it is also a lot more dangerous.

While there are DIY kits that use safer chemicals, the tradeoff is that you do not get the same effect and it is likely to not last as long as a professional refinish. Keep in mind that refinishing your bathtub, whether through DIY or professionally, only extends its already limited lifespan by a few years.

While a bathtub refinish can last as much as 15 years, most only last for 3 years on average. The new finish will still succumb to wear and tear due to frequent use, since it is only a thin layer of paint or coating. Even cleaning it using abrasive cleaners will shorten its lifespan significantly or alter its appearance.

And if a contractor does a poor job of reglazing your bathtub, the finish can discolor and turn yellow and eventually develop cracks; if you are not aware, discoloration is a known issue of refinished bathtubs.

Refinishing may only be done for a limited number of times, with some even saying that it should only be done once for a bathtub. If you choose to keep reglazing, each finish will have a shorter lifespan than the older one. In the end, you will still have to eventually replace your bathtub.

If you have plans to add modern features or change its size, you must entirely replace your bathtub to accomplish that. A simple bathroom refinish will not allow you to do that because it is only a cosmetic fix.

Even with all the cost factors considered, bathtub refinishing will still be generally cheaper than a bathtub replacement. However, the total cost may be nearly at par with getting a bathtub liner, especially if you keep redoing it over the years.

A bathtub refinish will only be a temporary solution, unlike a bathtub liner installation, that is why it will not be worth it in the long run.

How Much Does a Bathtub Liner Cost?

Many homeowners whose bathtubs are in poor condition and needing replacement look into getting bathtub liner installations first in hopes of saving money. After all, the total cost of a bathtub liner is just a fraction of the price of a bathtub replacement.

If this is a relatively new concept for you, think of bathtub liners as a solid covering that is placed over your current bathtub and is adhered to it permanently. These bathtub inserts used are molded into the shape of your bathtub and also comes in different materials and colors, which also gives you the opportunity for a minor bathroom remodel minus the mess and the high costs involved.

The average cost of a bathtub liner ranges from $850 to $1,400 on average. But when factoring in the installation costs, the total cost can range from $1,600 to $3,000. This is because the cost of installation is nearly the same as the price of the bathtub inserts, averaging between $700 to $1,900. A bathtub liner installation should ideally be done by a professional, not through DIY.

Cheaper standard-sized bathtub liners are also available on the market, which DIYers can use but they do not ensure a watertight fit on a tub. Because of this, the risks associated with a poor installation of bathtub liners are higher with those kinds.

Installing a bathtub liner is not a simple feat, and it requires proper installation if you don’t want to deal with various issues, such as water settling under the liner, mold and mildew growth, leaks, and so much more. Because of this, installing a bathtub liner should only be done by a bathroom contractor – it is not a DIY project.

If you decide to include accessories often installed together with the bathtub inserts, such as wall surrounds, grab bars, soap and shampoo shelves, etc., expect your total expenses to be significantly higher.

To help consumers save, some manufacturers offer kits that combine the liners with wall surrounds. These kits can cost between $570 to $2,530, excluding installation. The total cost of getting such kits installed can range from $4,000 to $7,000, with many homeowners reporting an average cost of $3,000. And if you prefer a customized design, expect to spend a lot more than that amount.

You may also need to hire a plumber at the same time becayse adding a bathtub liner will add a few centimeters or inches to its surface. Because of this, the connected plumbing and fixtures must be adjusted – something that only qualified plumbers can do. For this type of work, plumbers usually charge between $45 to $65 if going for an hourly rate or $500 to $1,600 for the entire task.

Unlike refinishing, it is possible to install a bathtub replacement liner if the old one is damaged. However, it is treated as a new installation; the replacement of your current bathtub liner cannot simply be installed over the old one. The original bathtub liner must be removed first before the replacement liner can be installed following the usual method.

Its removal costs $150 on average and the installation cost will be the same as a regular installation. However, not all tubs can withstand multiple replacements of bathroom liners because removing the old liner may damage a bathtub beyond repair.

How Do Bathtub Liners Work?

By now, you are already aware that bathtub liners are installed over your current bathtub, like a cover for it. To understand how bathtub liners work, you need to first understand how they are installed.

Installing a bathtub overlay starts with getting the right measurements, which is done by a technician, sales personnel, or representative of the manufacturer. He or she will take the exact measurements, as well as photos of your bathtub. The measurements will be sent to the manufacturer, who will then create the custom-fit bathtub liner according to those measurements and the shape of your bathtub.

Producing the bathtub overlay, no matter what material is used, can take two to eight weeks on average. Installation, on the other hand, usually only take a few hours. This is because once the bathtub liner is delivered, the installer will glue it to your bathtub after removing any connected fixtures, including overflows and drains. Gluing is done using a special kind of chemical compound, often a silicon acrylic adhesive, and durable double-sided butyl tape.

This newly installed liner acts a layer that covers up the surface of your existing bathtub and its flaws, making it look brand new. But it does not fix non-cosmetic issues, which means any necessary repairs must still be done separately.

And because it is customizable, you can use it to improve or update the look of your entire bathroom, especially if you opt to get a custom tub surround at the same time. Like a liner, installing wall surrounds is unobtrusive because they will simply be installed over your existing wall tiles.

In some cases, having bathtub inserts installed will even require less maintenance on your part. This is because certain bathtub liner materials are known to be low maintenance and resistant to damage when compared to the material used for the bathtub itself. And in most cases, you can use any type of cleaner for it.

Because it is seamless and crafted in one piece, you can hardly tell that you had a liner installed over your old bathtub. Bathtub liners are ideal for those who want a safer and longer lasting fix to their unsightly bathtubs, minus the cost and mess associated with a tub replacement.

Do note that tub liners also have its own faults, which are traced to poor fit and installation. If it is a poor fit, which is common to ready-made ones, the tub liner can develop cracks over time. Also, water can get settle under the liner if the installer does a poor job of caulking or waterproofing it, which can cause mold and mildew to form, as well as let you experience a squeaking sensation when using the tub. If these happen, the only way to fix it is to remove the liner and replace it with a new liner or a bathtub.

Bathtub Liner Materials

When choosing a bathtub liner, many homeowners are unaware that they can be manufactured using different materials. If you are looking to get a tub liner installed and have no clue which one to use, here is a list of the most common bathtub liner materials available, as well as their pros and cons.

Acrylic

Acrylic is the most common type of bathtub liner used, and for a good reason. Pure acrylic is known for its durability and sanitary properties, which are vital for bathtubs hence the higher price. Acrylic is also known to be durable and can withstand frequent or heavy uses. However, it is also known to be brittle, that is why liners made of pure acrylic are known to crack over time.

Surprisingly, acrylic bathtub liners are not recommended for acrylic tubs. But on the upside, it offers customizability because acrylic comes in a wide range of colors.

PVC

The cheapest material available, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is another popular tub liner material. A type of flexible plastic, PVC is also known to be durable but is softer than acrylic. Because of this, PVC liners have a higher risk for damage and cracking than other bathtub liner materials. While it looks a lot like the typical surface of a bathtub, some people claim that PVC liners are the least appealing of all liner materials.

ABS

Known as the toughest bathtub liner material, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is suitable for those who are primarily after durability since it is the same material used for football helmets. At the same time, it almost looks as good as acrylic, but with a bit less clarity and gloss.

Unfortunately, ABS bathtub liners are not completely failproof. The material is known to be susceptible to UV exposure and moisture, which can affect its sanitary properties and also cause discoloration over time. Because of these downsides, ABS liners are cheaper than the less durable acrylic.

Solid Surface Polymer

Although not a popular option, bathtub liners can also be manufactured using solid surface polymer. This type of material is known for its durability, not to mention its scratch-resistance that other materials do not have. Do note that not all manufacturers use this kind of material.

Composite

For those who want the durability of ABS and the appeal and sanitation properties of acrylic, composite liners that combine the two materials are the most suitable. The composite material consists of 85% ABS and 15% acrylic, and is also known as acrylic-capped ABS.

Produced mainly for sanitary purposes, this composite material combines the best characteristics of acrylic and ABS, which makes it the most ideal material for a bathtub liner. Surprisingly, it costs a little less than those liners made with pure acrylic.

Despite the various bathtub liner materials available, acrylic and PVC are still the most popular because many people are more familiar with acrylic liners, while PVC ones have the most attractive price tags.

Bathtub Liner Companies

If you recall, we emphasized the importance of getting the right contractor to properly install your bathtub liner. This applies not just in residential homes, but even more so in mobile homes where a faulty bathroom installation can wreak havoc to the entire home.

However, you also need to keep in mind that the choosing the manufacturer of your bathroom liner is equally important. Various bathtub liner companies may claim to manufacture tub liners, but their reliability may be questionable. Reputable ones will assure you that you are getting a suitable liner that will last as long as your bathtub itself.

To help you with your search, here are some reputable bathtub liner companies that you should consider:

  • Bath Fitter – in business since 1984, they are one of the more established companies around. Since they are involved in the entire process, as their experts will do the entire installation from measuring to sealing the tub liner and any wall surrounds you choose, you are assured of a flawless installation that is backed by a lifetime warranty, as long as you own the house where the liner was installed. Offers acrylic liners.
  • Lowe’s – another go-to home improvement store, they also carry bathtub overlays that are budget-friendly and will suit your basic liner needs. Offers PVC liners.
  • BCI Acrylic – prides itself with the manufacture of affordable yet durable bathroom liners that are independently manufactured since 1999. Offers acrylic and acrylic-capped ABS or composite liners.
  • Re-Bath – considered a pioneer, they started by selling and installing bathtub liners and wall surrounds and eventually extended to include whole bathroom remodels. They offer a lifetime warranty on their products and limited warranty on their services. Offers liners using their own material that they call DuraBath.
  • Bath Planet – a sub-brand of BCI Acrylic, they offer high quality bathtub liners at budget-friendly prices. Their services and products are backed by a lifetime warranty that can be transferred to the new owners if you sell your home within two years after the liner installation was completed. Offers acrylic liners.
  • Custom Bath Liners – their major selling point is the installation of both the liner and wall panels within the same day, as well as their 100% satisfaction guarantee. Offers acrylic liners.
  • BathWraps – previously known as Liners Direct, their services extend to more than just the manufacture and installation of bathtub overlays but also whole bathroom remodels. They also offer a lifetime warranty for their bathtub inserts, covering liner cracks, peeling, and discoloration. Offers 100% acrylic liners.
  • Home Depot – the popular home improvement store also offers bathtub liners. Since they offer stock sizes, installation is usually quick and can be accomplished in a matter of days. Offers acrylic liners.

Most manufacturers and sellers of bathtub liners also offer tub surrounds at the same time. If you want a minor remodel of your bathroom and have the budget for it, it is best to get the liner and bathtub surrounds at the same time. Not only will it cost less, it will also minimize the possibility of poor installation.

How Much Does Bath Fitter Cost?

Among the bathtub liner companies mentioned above, you may have come across Bath Fitter the most during your search. You should not be surprised, since they are considered the pioneers when it comes to bathtub liners. Because of this, they are the company most associated with it not just because of their history but also their workmanship and satisfaction guarantee.

If you compare various tub liner companies, Bath Fitter is often found on the pricier side. This is because unlike others who only offer the manufacturing and installation of tub liners and wall surrounds, Bath Fitter also provides convenience to their customers by offering other related services at the same time. They also pride themselves with one-day installations, which means you can immediately enjoy a soak in your tub with the newly-fitted liner.

Bath Fitter has become a household name because of the kind of service they offer, from the free in-home estimates up to the installation itself. They will ensure that the liners and wall surrounds are the right fit and are completely watertight, that is why they will custom made them according to your tub’s measurements; they will never use and install stock sizes.

On average, a standard tub liner and surround installation of Bath Fitter will cost $3,000. Since Bath Fitter offers customization in terms of the color and finish, expect it to cost higher if you choose to do so.

The overall charge of Bath Fitter for the service will also depend on the bathtub’s size, the wall’s surface area, their overall condition, any repairs needed, and other accessories or upgrades you are also availing.

Can You Put a Tub Over an Existing Tub?

Since the cost of a single bathtub is cheaper than the total cost of getting a bathtub liner installed, those who have tight budgets may wonder if it is possible to simply put a tub over an existing tub. That way, they can possibly get the same benefits of a tub liner but at several hundred dollars cheaper.

Unfortunately, installing a new tub over an old one is not recommended. Doing so will do more harm than good because water will easily get between the two tubs and settle there, leading to various issues that can affect your entire home as well. And with the added weight of the new tub on top, it may compromise the structure of your home, especially if the bathroom is on a higher floor.

It may be possible to get a custom-sized tub fitted over your old one but with the amount you will spend for it, getting a tub liner, or even an entire bathtub replacement, may end up costing less.

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