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The case of a tub cover-up
Is your bathtub dull, chipped, rusty or just plain dreary? There are alternatives to hauling out that 800-pound elephant and replacing it.
It can be refinished or covered with an insert, and the same things can be done with showers.
One source for finding a local refinisher is the Bathtub Refinishing Referral Network in Medford, Ore., at refinishingonline.com.
The network's president is Kelly Rountree, a professional bathtub refinisher himself.
After about 10 years of scrubbing and scouring with abrasive cleaners, he said, the bathtub finish starts to wear off, leaving the surface porous, even if the tub is porcelain-coated. "And underneath the porcelain coating is steel, and that steel eventually starts to rust," Rountree said.
Acrylic and fiberglass tubs can develop hairline cracks, he said, particularly on the bottom, which is exposed to the greatest amount of weight.
Rountree recommends using an epoxy for refinishing after a bonding agent has been applied. Because these materials emit hazardous, flammable fumes before they cure, he said, homeowners are generally advised to stay away while the work is in progress.
A professionally applied epoxy coating should last 10 to 20 years and should cost $350 or so, he said.
In addition to referring customers to local refinishers, Rountree's company also sells refinishing products to do-it-yourselfers. "Most kits on the market don't have bonding agents," he said. "But we include a professional bonding agent with our kits." The kits, which cost about $65, including shipping, can be used on tubs and sinks, fiberglass, acrylic, tile and countertops.
An alternative to refinishing an old tub or shower is to encase it with an acrylic liner.
Derek Cassoff, the marketing manager for Bath Fitter (bathfitter.com) of St. Eustache, Quebec and Springfield, Tenn., said his company would send out an estimator from one of its 200 or so North American offices to take a series of measurements of the existing bathtub or shower enclosure.
Homeowners then choose the color, style, accessories and plumbing fixtures they want, and Bath Fitter makes a liner to fit over the existing tub or shower. (The liner is about a quarter inch thick, so the new tub will not be noticeably smaller than the original.)
If the walls that surround the tub are to be covered, the liner is made in one piece, to eliminate any potential for leaking. Prices range from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on style and accessories.
Stewart Pruzansky, president of Re-Bath of New Jersey in Passaic, said that with his system, the walls that surround the shower or tub are installed separately. "With three pieces," he said, "you have room for expansion and contraction."
Generally, he said, the time from measurement to installation runs from three to six weeks. Installation usually takes a day, and the finished job costs about $4,000.