By Fran J. Donegan
When tackling a bathroom remodeling project, the homeowner usually has two options for replacing their bathtub: ripping out the old tub and replacing it with a new one or covering the old tub with a tub liner. We’ve outlined the pros of cons of each option to help you decide which one works best for you.
Running the Numbers
Tub Replacement. You can find a standard tub for about $500 to $600; jetted tubs start at about $1,200. However, the cost of a new tub is often dwarfed by the cost of labor to remove the old tub and install a new one.
Bathtubs are usually hemmed in by walls. In many cases, the tile or other wall finish covers a small lip along the edge of the tub. This means that part of the tub is actually behind the wall and to get it out, part—or all—of the wall has to be removed.
Because most bathrooms are small, the vanity or toilet could prevent your contractor from simply lifting and carrying out the old tub once it has been disconnected from the plumbing and drain lines. Many contractors have to cut up the tub and remove it in sections. Costs vary from project to project, but the price tag for this process can run as high as $5,000.
Tub Liners. Tub liner installations usually do not involve any demolition. A licensed installer will come to your home to measure the existing tub and order an acrylic liner that fits the measurements of the tub. Fabrication of the liner usually takes a few weeks, and installation can be completed in a day or two.
When considering a tub liner, it’s important to find a qualified installer who has extensive experience with this type of project. If the installation isn’t done correctly, which means making the necessary plumbing and drain connections and making everything watertight, water can make its way between the liner and the tub, leading to mold and possibly structural problems.
Tub liner or shower pan installation is an all-inclusive project. To ensure that you have a tight seal to prevent leaks, the walls are included in the install process. The full project, including the liner or pan, walls, and installation typically costs around $3,000. There are dozens of colors and styles, including tile and marble looks, to choose from, and some surrounds can even be fitted with built-in shelving and soap dishes.
If you have a standalone shower that needs a facelift, the same process can be used to install an acrylic shower pan liner and new shower walls.
If you’re planning a total remodel, where everything will be removed from the room down to the wall studs, it’s a great opportunity to include a brand-new bathtub, especially if you want to upgrade to a higher-end model. But if your project isn’t as comprehensive, having an acrylic bathtub liner installed can provide you with the look and feel of a new tub at a fraction of the cost.
DIY expert Fran Donegan has written several home improvement books and writes for The Home Depot. In addition to writing about bathroom remodel options, he has expertise on everything from plumbing to general home construction.
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