Bathtub Refinishing vs. Liners

Total bathtub replacement is what we all want. But it is expensive, messy, invasive, and difficult for homeowners to DIY.  That is why bathtub refinishing and tub liners exist:  to meet the needs of homeowners who want a renewed tub but do not want to replace.

Both share one attractive feature:  your current tub stays in place.  This takes the mess of demolition out of the equation.  But from that point, the two options diverge:


  • 01 of 08

    This Is What They Are

    Refinishing Bathtub With Spray Gun
    Refinishing Bathtub With Spray Gun. Getty / BanksPhotos
    • Refinishing:  A company cleans, sands, patches, and paints over your existing surface. They use a special coating made just for bathtubs, not ordinary paint off the shelf.
    • Liners:  Your current bathtub is measured.  If an appropriate liner is not in stock, one is ordered. On the day of installation, fixtures, drain, soap dishes, and other obstructions are removed. The liner is installed over the old bathtub and surround.
  • 02 of 08

    Which One Looks Better?


    While appearances are always a personal choice, refinishing stands a better chance of turning out a good-looking product because it closely aligns with the contour of your current tub.  

    Tub liners completely cover the old surface and may look better if you had a particularly bad bathtub--rusted, scratched, dented, etc.  However, if you have a unique bathtub, to begin with, it would be a crime to cover it over; refinishing will allow your bathtub to maintain the same lines, yet with a...MORE new surface.

    Also, tub liners reduce the inner size of your bathtub.

  • 03 of 08

    Which One Is Cleaner and Less Intrusive?


    Upon project completion, both should result in the same level of cleanliness.  It is expected that any remodeling company delivers a clean house along with the finished project.

    But during the process, refinishing is messier because it involves sanding and spray-painting. The refinishing company will create negative airflow in the bathroom, moving paint-laden air out a window. Also, elements in the bathroom beside the bathtub will be covered up.

    By contrast, tub liners are mainly a...MORE construction project, involving no paint and few solvents.  

  • 04 of 08

    Which Is Cheaper?


    It depends on the company, but on the whole refinishing will be cheaper.

    Bathtub refinishing starts around $550.  Some homeowners report getting estimates for $250 to $300.

    With a liner, costs begin around $850.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Which Can You Do Yourself?


    While there may be a consumer demand for it, no market yet exists for DIY bathtub liners.  

    You can perform a basic bathtub refinishing job by yourself for less than $100.  Results may be less than satisfactory, though.  It is recommended that you hire a professional to refinish your bathtub.

  • 06 of 08

    Which One Will Last Longer?


    Liners' weak point is the double layer that can allow water to infiltrate. Once water gets between the liner and the tub, mold and mildew can develop.  

    But if correctly installed, the thick acrylic "skin" of the liner is far thicker and more durable than the microscopically thick refinish coating.

  • 07 of 08

    Best Thing About It?

    • Refinishing:  Cost is its chief advantage. As noted earlier, you can scale refinishing up or down, according to your budget. You do have to accept that the cheaper refinishing job may not last long, but for some homeowners this is acceptable.
    • Liners:  Longevity is its greatest advantage. If properly installed, liners can last as long as new bathtubs.
  • 08 of 08

    Worst Thing About It?