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/ Source: TODAY
By Chrissy Callahan

There’s nothing quite like a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long hard day. But in order to enjoy some TLC in your bathtub, you need a clean space you actually want to sink into. Rust, grime and cracks can quickly turn your relaxing oasis into a gross nightmare, but many of us put off bathtub renovation projects because, well, they're kind of overwhelming.

Whether you're dealing with minor rust spots or a major mess, there's a bathtub renovation option out there to fit your budget, timeline and lifestyle. We're breaking down three of the most popular options with the help of some pros who know all about turning a bathtub nightmare into a dream come true. Here are the best ways to renovate your bathtub.

bathtub remodel, bathroom remodel, bathroom design, fix bathroom
Reglazing is a quick, affordable option for redoing your bathtub.Shutterstock

1. Bathtub reglazing/refinishing

What is it?

This bathtub renovation option goes by many names — resurfacing, recoating, refinishing or reglazing — but has a pretty straightforward process. An expert starts by sanding down the tub's surface, fills in cracks and worn areas, then applies several coats of primer and paint before doing a final buffing.

It's usually a temporary fix since bathtub reglazing is a purely cosmetic update.

“Think of it like you’re putting nail polish on your nails. It’s nice for a little bit, but then as you go through your daily routine, you’re going to need to get it touched up again,” said Jennifer Wagner, a merchant for Home Depot’s home services.

Will it work for your tub?

If your existing bathtub is already in pretty good shape but is covered in minor stains, scratches or other surface imperfections, reglazing is a good option. It’s also ideal for certain types bathtubs. “For homeowners with antique claw-foot tubs made from heavy cast iron, it’s absolutely the way to go,” said Dan DiClerico, a home expert for HomeAdvisor.

Acrylic bathtubs can also be reglazed, as long as they don’t have any significant issues.

Pros:

  • Reglazing is the most affordable bathtub renovation option available and can cost you between $200-$650 on average.
  • It’s quick, usually taking only a day to complete!

Cons:

  • The substances pros use to reglaze a tub can be a bit dangerous. “The material used to etch and glaze is very toxic and the customer would need to leave their house for a day or two so the house could ventilate properly,” said Vince Albachiaro, a merchant for Home Depot’s home services.
  • Reglazing can only be performed once. “If you get a poor job that’s already peeling, then you will have to proceed to other options anyway,” said Leo Lantz, the president of Leo Lantz Construction, Inc.
  • The weather can play a factor in how long it takes for the finishing coat to dry, and how well it bonds to the surface. “Humidity is harmful to the process, so it’s best to avoid tub refinishings during the dog days of summers. Cooler, less-humid weather typical of fall or spring provides the ideal conditions,” DiClerico said.

2. Bathtub liners

What is it?

Bath liners are basically an acrylic replica of your existing bathtub — except, you can change the color and skirt style if you want — and they're relatively easy to install. In fact, professionals install the liner on top of the existing bathtub, then permanently adhere it using a combination of two-sided tape and silicone acrylic.

Installation typically takes only a day or two, but the whole process can take between one and two months since installers first need to take photos and precise measurements of the area before molding a liner out of acrylic.

Will it work for your tub?

If your tub has seen better days and reglazing just won’t cut it, a liner might be the best option.

“If the tub and surrounding area area too far gone, say with cracks or missing tile work, a full relining is the way to go. This is a common solution for homes that were built in the last few decades, since the design and configuration of the bathtub will likely lend itself to relining — unlike an older, historic home with a freestanding tub that can’t be relined,” DiClerico said.

Before you dive right in, do some research and make sure you’re working with contractors who are experts in bathtub liners.

“If the work isn’t done properly, the surface not prepared properly or if there are an pre-existing conditions (water having gotten in anywhere, for instance) you are basically just covering up a problem that will resurface again soon enough," said Dean F. Rascoe, sales and marketing director at remodeling company G.M. Roth.

Pros:

  • Timing: Getting a bath liner installed typically only takes a day or two to complete! If you want to cover the walls as well, it might take a bit more time.
  • A liner is the least invasive option and fairly affordable. You can also update your tub to a shower in some cases.

Cons:

  • Tub liner options can be limited in assortment, and won’t totally change the look of your original tub. “Liners can only mimic exactly what you started with, but you can change the color. If you are looking for a different depth, width or length, however, you must replace the tub,” Wagner said.
  • Pricing varies based on the material you choose and the level of customization (shelving and other accessories cost more). On average, a bathtub liner can cost anywhere between $1,500-4,000.
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Sometimes, your bathtub is just too far gone, and you need to replace it entirely.Shutterstock

3. Bathtub replacement

What is it?

Whether your bathtub is simply nasty or you just want a fresh start, a total bathtub replacement is another option to consider. Naturally, this is the most time-intensive and expensive option, and involves gutting your existing bathtub in order to install a new one.

“This option typically involves removing wall tile, which can then lead to sheetrock and/or plaster repairs as well. While the walls are open is the time to upgrade the shower valve, install blocking for future grab bars and incorporate niches into the new tile walls,” Lantz said.

Will it work for your tub?

If you have the time and money to commit to a larger project like a total bathtub replacement, it makes sense to do so. Homeowners who don’t like the size, shape or location of an existing tub have the chance to totally customize their new space.

Pros:

  • You get to choose the material of your tub, and can always opt for a less expensive option, like fiberglass or acrylic, and put more money towards the labor involved.
  • You can totally transform your existing bathtub! "This is the only option that truly enables a homeowner to have a tub or a bathroom that truly meets their specific needs," Rascoe said.
  • This is a much more long-term solution, rather than a Band-Aid fix.

Cons:

  • Likely the most expensive bathtub renovation option, a new bathtub can cost anywhere between $300-3,000 - plus labor. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost (including labor and materials) is $3,024.
  • Make sure to factor in some wiggle room in your budget for any tile you might need to put the area around the tub back together.
  • The project can take up to several weeks or months if you opt for a custom unit. If you only have one bathroom in the house, you'll have to make alternate showering/bathroom arrangements during construction. “Tub refinishing and relining are cosmetic fixes. Tub replacement is more like major surgery, which drives up the cost and complexity of the project,” DiClerico said.

Which option is right for you?