Replacing a worn bathtub and surround used to mean only one thing: weeks of disruption, a mess in the house, carpenters and plumbers coming and going, and one less bathroom to use in the house. In the past few years, though, the acrylic bathtub liner has become a popular alternative to replacing a bathtub and surround. It's not a do-it-yourself project; rather, installing a bathtub liner is a job for a professional.
Before Installing a Bathtub Liner
- Do some research online to find companies in your area that specialize in installing bathtub liners. Ask friends, family and acquaintances if they've had a bathtub liner installed, and if so, whether they'd recommend the company that did the job.
- Choose one or more companies that install bathtub liners, and make an appointment for an in-home estimate.
- The representative will visit you at home, bringing along sample surfaces.
- He or she will take extensive measurements of your current bathtub and surround.
- The representative will describe the installation process, show you what materials are available, discuss prices and a work schedule.
- If you decide to go ahead, the representative will send all your information to the factory, where the typical liner company has literally hundreds of bathtubs, new and old, in all shapes and sizes.
- Your new bathtub liner will be cast from acrylic using an exact model of your current tub and measurements.
Installing a Bathtub Liner
Installation typically takes a day or less with a minimum of construction mess to contend with. It's usually a one-person job.
- The installer will prepare the surface of your existing tub, probably using denatured alcohol, to remove any soap, oils or other residue.
- The fixtures will be removed.
- A sealant and adhesive is applied, and the new liner is placed directly over your existing tub.
- The fixtures are replaced.
- A new bead of caulk is run around the edges of the tub, sealing out moisture.
- The tub must be allowed to sit unused until the next day.
Advantages of Installing a Bathtub Liner
Typically, a bathtub liner and surround can be installed in about four to six hours, making this a very attractive option for today's busy families. Here are some other advantages:
- It's durable and will last for years.
- The surfaces are easy to clean and disinfect.
- Since there is no grout to be cleaned or replaced, it's maintenance-free.
- A wide range of colors and styles are available.
- The liner is just ¼-inch thick, so you won't notice any difference in the size of the tub.
Disadvantages of Installing a Bathtub Liner
You're paying for speed and convenience, and it doesn't come cheap. Prices range by company, but expect to spend anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000, according to the Bathtub Refinishing Referral Network. Some other disadvantages to consider:
- If the liner should leak, you risk trapping water between it and the old tub, creating a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Hilton Hotels had a problem like this in Milwaukee, Wisc., in the 1990s after installing liners in a building built in the 1920s. Hilton decided to have the liners professionally removed and the original tubs restored, according to Miracle Method, the company Hilton hired for the restoration work.
- In rare instances, you may find you have to hire a plumber to extend your drain and overflow because of the additional thickness of the liner.
- If the liner should crack or chip, removal is not an easy task. In most cases, the liners are glued to the existing tub.
- If there's any imperfection in the fit, the liner will flex and give way when pressure is applied. That can lead to a "squishy" feeling when you stand on it or, in the extreme, a crack can develop.