A number of options exist for renewing a bathtub or bathtub/shower if you are not ready for the expense of removing and replacing the entire bathtub. One such option is surface refinishing, a process by which a new surface material is "painted" onto the old bathtub material. But results of that process are often questionable, which brings another option to the forefront—fitting a customized liner over the the old tub.
Bath liners, including those sold under the Bath Fitter® brand name, consist of sheets of acrylic molded to fit over the tub, giving it a fresh new look. These liners generally cost much less than a new bathtub, though wall panels and other extras can increase the price. Some of these can be ordered online and installed by DIYers, but the better option is to purchase from a manufacturer that has works with certified installers, who will consult with you, take careful measurements, manufacture a liner to match your exact specifications, then install the liner.
Most tub liners sold are made from 100 percent acrylic. Acrylic is an attractive material, but it can be somewhat brittle. Unless the liner fits perfectly, cracking is possible, which is one reason why they are normally fitted and installed by professionals.
A slightly less expensive option is a liner made of PVC vinyl. This is often what DIY versions of tub liners are made from, and the cost of the liner itself can be $200 to $300 less. But PVC vinyl makes for a less attractive liner, and they tend to be less durable than acrylic. Most people will find themselves much happier with the performance of acrylic bathtub liners.
Sources for Acrylic Bathtub Liners
: This company offers 100 percent acrylic bathtub liners and wall panels, installed by its own certifed experts. Bathfitter®
takes very precise measurements and fabricates a liner to precisely fit your situation. However, the consultation/manufacuring/installation process may take several weeks to complete.
Bath Planet: Also offering 100 percent acrylic liners, Bath Planet uses a similar business model that requires consultation and installation by certified experts. One-day service may be available for liners that match dimensions of stock bathtub sizes, but customized measurement and manufacture will take longer.
Custom Bath Liners: Also featuring 100 percent acrylic liners, Custom Bath Liners offers a 1-day liner and wall panel installation that starts at $3,000 for some tubs.
H-D Liners (Home Depot): This it Home Depot's bathtub liner service. They can measure and install an acrylic bathtub liner with wall panels in a couple of days, using measurements based on stock sizes.
Bath Wraps: This company also offers 100 percent acrylic liners and wall panels. One-day service is available for liners manufacturered to stock bathtub dimensions.
While you may be able to get a tub liner for less than $1,000 or so, keep in mind that this covers the tub only. If you want matching wall panels, a shower surround or special features such as shelves, grab bars or built-in soap dishes, you price will typically increase.
And keep in mind that these prices reflect tub liners in general, and you may pay a premium for a brand-name product. Always contact a company directly to determine how much your particular project will cost. Many companies, including Bath Fitter®, offer free in-home consultation to help you understand cost and scope. It can be nearly impossible to estimate costs without such a consultation to pinpoint specifications and installation needs.
National statistics show that average costs for the liner itself (not including wall surround panels) range from $700 to $1400, but with with professional installation the costs of a tub liner with wall panels can go into the range of $4,000 to $7,000. Nationally, the average price of a professionally installed acrylic tub/shower liner is about $3,000.
Things to Consider
- While tub lining is an easy and affordable way to change the color of your bath or cover hard-to-clean tiles, it's not the best choice for every bathroom. Liners are not designed to cover problems like mold, rot, or other serious signs of damage. They can't be used on most jetted or claw-foot tubs, and some installers may refuse to work with fiberglass tubs due to the potential for poor results.
- Protect yourself from unscrupulous businesses by taking the time to secure three estimates anytime you hire a contractor of any kind. This helps you paint a true picture of the cost for your particular project, and it helps you avoid any bids that are too low or too high.
- Other smart contractor selection strategies include checking references; reviewing licensing, insurance and other paperwork provided by the contractor; and insisting on a written contract and paying by check instead of shelling out cash.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.