As building contractors who specialize in residential remodeling, we encourage folks to do a little sprucing up around the house.
However, as consumer advocates we believe it is our duty to outline the various alternatives to full-blown remodeling so that the buyer can make informed decisions.
Take a chipped bathtub, for example. There are a number of ways to deal with this problem, ranging from a simple do-it-yourself patch to tub replacement.
Generally speaking, the removal and replacement of a bathtub will affect various finishes surrounding the tub. There might be tile on the walls or the floor that needs to be removed to get the tub out. Some contractors will recommend removing only a few rows of tile here and there to accomplish this. Beware! We have seen countless cases where this was done that later resulted in leaks and rot.
If you decide to remove and replace the tub, it might be necessary to remove the entire wall finish that surrounds it, the tub-shower valve trim, the toilet and lavatory depending upon their locations relative to the tub and the flooring. In the business this is referred to as a full-blown remodel.
For some, a chipped tub is just the incentive needed to remodel an old tired bathroom. For others, a complete remodel is a budget-buster that simply is not an alternative.
For years one of the most popular methods for tub restoration was reglazing it with a paint-like substance. The tub is professionally cleaned with high-power industrial cleaners and chemically etched to prepare the surface for the new finish. Chips are filled with a "bondo-like" compound and the tub primed and finished. Most of these finishes are sprayed on and cured chemically with the help of heat lamps.
The cost for such a process is $300 to $500 and has an average life of three to five years. It's an excellent alternative when budget doesn't permit replacement. Just remember it's temporary.
Another alternative to bathtub replacement is the bathtub liner. This method has enjoyed widespread use in the hotel and motel business for years. In recent years residential use of liners has been on the upswing.
This method best can be compared to crowning a tooth. The existing tub remains in place and is completely covered with a form-fitted acrylic tub liner. Many manufactures of such products boast of having more than 200 molds that allow them to create a liner that will fit virtually any tub.
Aside from the obvious advantage of not needing to replace the tub, this system also offers the homeowner a minimal level of inconvenience. The installation takes just a few hours and the tub can be used the same day. This is in sharp contrast to remodeling which can take up to several weeks or the reglazing process which typically takes a couple of days.
The process is simple. The old overflow and drain are removed and the new liner is trimmed at all edges for a custom fit. The liner is then installed over the tub with special adhesives. A bead of caulking at the entire perimeter finishes the job.
The liner is manufactured with an integral non-skid surface to minimize the danger of falls. This surface also eliminates the need for those "decorative" non-skid appliqués.
There are a couple of potential disadvantages with this system that should be weighed before deciding one way or the other. If the existing tub has a porcelain finish you might be disappointed that the new surface doesn't have that same highly polished and abrasion-resistant qualities. This effect is best achieved using the reglazing process.
Also, the liner can be prone to flex at the bottom which can become annoying. Ask the installer how this problem best can be avoided.
Finally, be prepared to have a slightly smaller tub. While the liner is constructed from a mold which best matches your tub, it still results in a diminished area. In a worst-case scenario you should be prepared for a couple of inches lost in both directions.
On average, installing a bathtub liner can be a bit more expensive than undertaking the reglazing process. Plan to spend about $400 to $600 for a standard 5-foot tub.