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Refinishing or relining are excellent ways to bring new life to a bathtub.

Whether it’s for relaxing bubble baths, or hastily washing up, one thing’s for certain — your bathtub likely gets a lot of use in your home. If you use it regularly, the wear and tear of frequent water flow, dirt and mineral deposits will take a toll over time on even the highest quality bathtub. Maybe your ceramic bathtub has some stains or cracks, or you simply want to spruce up its appearance and give your bathroom a makeover.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spring for a new bathtub. Refinishing or relining a tub can make it look brand new — and you’ll save money, to boot.

Bathtub refinishing

Refinishing a bathtub, also known as resurfacing, reglazing or recoating, is a relatively quick and less expensive way to upgrade your tub. You’ll pay about $450 for the work, and it will last 10 to 15 years. This process applies epoxy and sealant to the tub to revitalize the surface and create a hard, smooth new outer layer. If you have an older clawfoot tub, this may be the only way to keep it in good order and repair any damage.

You can accomplish this work as a DIY project, but be cautious. The fumes can be dangerous, and if you don’t apply the sealant correctly and allow the layers to dry individually, the result won’t look as good or last as long. If you decide to do the work yourself, follow the safety and installation instructions to a T.

Refinishing is ideal for cast iron, steel, acrylic or fiberglass bathtubs. This job takes several days, so have a backup plan for bathing while work is being done. You should only use gentle cleaners once you’re done refinishing it, as abrasive cleaning chemicals can damage the finish.

Bathtub relining

A bathtub liner is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a liner that’s placed over your tub, molded to fit the surface, and looks like a brand-new tub placed right on top of it. Bathtub liners are often made of acrylic or PVC and heat-molded to the existing shape. The installer needs to carefully apply the process since mildew or mold could start forming between the tub and liner.

One big advantage of relining a tub is that the job doesn’t take very long, so your tub will be ready to use again quickly. Bathtub liners will usually last three to five years and cost about $1,000 for standard-sized tubs. If you’re doing a custom replacement on a larger tub, the cost can go much higher.

The biggest downside of relining a tub is that it doesn’t fix existing problems. It’s perfect for laying over stains, but cracks or broken elements will need to be repaired. Freestanding tubs can’t be relined, and fiberglass or acrylic tubs can’t take the process.

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