A bathtub liner is a custom made liner, usually made of acrylic, designed to fit right over your bathtub. Basically they are a surface covering or "skin" that can mask scratches, stains or other blemishes in the tub. Some liners are made of poly vinyl chloride, or PVCs, and come in various colors that may be suited to how you want your bathtub to look like.
Why would I need a bathtub liner?
If a bathtub turns unsightly and stained over time, most people would think a bathroom remodelling job is in order. Nevertheless, if you want to save on finances and the inevitable inconvenience of having your bathtub remodeled, the most practical way to achieve the whole "new" look is to have a bathtub liner installed.
The bathtub liner, however, is simply a cover-up for defects on bath surfaces, and not a solution to any technical problem you might have with your bathtub. There is also the risk of getting water trapped between the liner and tub during installation, subsequently causing mold and mildew and fostering a breeding ground for bacteria. The liner may feel "spongy" due to air retention; in any case, they may feel less stable under foot. This is because the liner will give way when pressure is applied, and considerable care should be given to avoid any potential accidents. Also, installing a bathtub liner will take up space in your tub, as the addition of material will considerably reduce its dimensions. In extreme cases, a plumber may be needed to extend the drain and overflow because of the resulting thickness. In the case that the bathtub liner needs to be replaced, difficulty may be encountered in removing it from the tub, as it is glued into place. The alternative would be to place a new liner over the old one, and that would reduce tub dimensions even further.
On the brighter side, a bathtub liner is ideal if you need a quick way to fix your tub as opposed to completely demolishing and replacing your bathroom. The cost is definitely less than a full remodelling job, and its durability will last for years. The surfaces of the liner are easy to clean and disinfect, other than the occasional cleaning, it's relatively maintenance free. Most liners are only about a quarter of an inch thick, so the difference in size is not usually felt.
How do I install a bathtub liner?
First of all, bathtub liner installation should ideally be done by a professional. There are things that you can still do to involve yourself in the installation.
Before the liner is installed, research on which companies in your locality specializes in bathtub liner installation. Contact one or more companies and make an appointment concerning an estimate of their services, and a representative will present sample surfaces you can choose from. At this stage it's important to see if you feel comfortable working with the company, so ask the representative questions regarding installation, pricing and a possible work schedule. If you like things so far, the representative will take the necessary measurements for the liner, and will forward your information to the company.
The installation process usually takes a day or even less, and knowing what the process entails will leave you informed about what the installer is doing. It's a one-man job, so there's no need to worry about repair men constantly walking in and out of your house and hammering away in your bathroom.
The installer will first use denatured alcohol to clean the tub surface, removing soap scum, oils and other residue. The fixtures will be removed, and then a sealant and adhesive will be applied, after which the liner will be placed directly over the tub. The fixtures will then be replaced and a new bead of caulk is run around the edges of the tub to seal out air and moisture. To allow the liner to settle, the tub should be left unused for the next twenty-four hours.
How much does bathtub liner installation cost?
Purchasing a bathtub liner includes the installation process; it's a package deal that won't leave you worrying about the additional expense of hiring a professional to install the liner. A custom made liner will cost approximately $700 to $1000 to have installed, while a liner and tub surround will cost an average of $2000. This is relatively cheap compared to the $3000 to $5000 you'll need for a total bathtub replacement. A bathtub liner is the quickest and most convenient way to fix any surface problems in your tub, and still goes a long way in durability if properly and meticulously maintained.