Bathtub liners are molded plastic, PVC, or acrylic inserts which are placed over an existing bathtub. Liners are marketed as an alternative to replacement or refinishing. The pros and cons are as follows:
- Most liners are fairly durable and resist chipping and scratching.
- Liners may be the only alternative to replacement for tubs which are severely damaged or deteriorated to a point where they can't be economically refinished.
- Liners may be appropriate to use in dorms or apartments where tubs are likely to be subject to heavy use.
- Liners are expensive. While liners themselves usually cost $100 - $175, the total price to the consumer tends to be from $650 - $1900.
- Most liners look and feel like plastic.
- Liners can take several weeks to install - they must be custom molded, which requires one trip to measure, time to order from the factory, time to ship, and a second trip to install.
- Liners can create plumbing problems because the added thickness of the liner may require an extension of the drain and overflow.
- Liners suffer a bad reputation for allowing water to accumulate between the old tub and the new liner. This water is almost impossible to remove. The result can be a "squishy" feeling each time someone steps in and out of the tub. Not only can the misplaced water create "squishy" noises, but even worse, the standing water can become stagnant, creating obnoxious odor problems. Any small crack or hole which develops in the caulking along the seam between the liner and the vertical wall surround can allow water to penetrate.
- Liners are fairly durable, but they can be scratched and damaged. They eventually will wear out.
- Liners can be difficult to replace. Since liners are glued to the old tub when installed, they usually have to be ripped or cut out in order to replace them.
- If liners do not match the contours of the existing tub, then the liner may flex back and forth and can crack over time.
- Liners come in a limited number of colors.
P.S. Bathtub liners are not available for fiberglass bathtubs or showers. In this case you must refinish. Since you’re putting a coating on a gelcoating, the refinishing job will outlast a liner.