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Tub Liner Is a Quick Makeover for an Ugly Bathtub

The most difficult and costly step of most bathroom renovations is removing the old bathtub. There’s simply no way to quickly, neatly or quietly bust apart and haul away a bathtub, especially if it’s a tub/shower combo. Also, extracting a tub usually means prying off wall tiles from around the perimeter of the tub, creating additional work and repairs.

bathtub linerHome Depot

Bathtub liner gives an old tub a brand new look.

Thankfully, in most cases you can update your bathroom without removing the tub. How? By hiring a professional to install a tub liner. A tub liner is a custom-made, one-piece acrylic liner that fits directly over the existing bathtub and connects to the shower walls. The installation typically takes less than two days and is completed without disturbing the surrounding walls or floors.

Note that there are certain instances when a tub liner isn’t recommended. For example, if the existing tub is badly cracked or rusted through, or there’s extensive water damage to the floor frame below, it’s best to remove the old tub completely and replace it.

Considering a Tub Liner

An acrylic liner is an ideal solution for tubs that are permanently stained and impossible to clean, spotted with rust, badly scratched or chipped. It’s also a viable option if your tub happens to be harvest gold or avocado green but you’d prefer it to be bright white.

Acrylic tub liners are available at most home improvement stores, and the overall cost includes an in-home consultation with a design consultant. The consultant will inspect the existing tub and then help you choose from the hundreds of options available, including a broad range of tub liner colors and styles.

Once you’ve chosen your new liner, trained technicians will come out to your home to take measurements to ensure that it will fit precisely over the bathtub. It’s important that the liner fit snugly to prevent water from seeping between the tub and liner.

tub liner installationHome Depot

During installation, tub liner specialist seals the new liner to the wall.

After placing the order, it typically takes two to four weeks for the new liner to arrive. At that point, a licensed and insured contractor will install the liner. Here are the basic steps involved:

  • All hardware that will interfere with the installation is removed, including the overflow plate, drain and spout.
  • The surface of the old tub is scrubbed clean, usually with denatured alcohol, not noxious chemicals.
  • The new liner is adhered to the tub with a combination of two-sided butyl tape and silicone adhesive.
  • Caulking is applied to all exposed seams to create watertight joints.
  • The removed hardware is reinstalled.

A professionally installed tub liner typically costs between $700 and $1,000. That isn’t insignificant, but it’s a lot cheaper than removing the tub and installing a new one, which can easily cost three times as much.

Why Not Reglaze?

Reglazing is more affordable option than installing a tub liner, costing only about $500. It consists of having the surface of the old tub chemically stripped and then sprayed with a thick coat of epoxy or urethane, which takes 18 to 36 hours to cure. While the immediate results are pretty impressive, reglazing has a tendency to yellow, crack and fail over time, especially if the tub’s surface wasn’t meticulously prepared.

The advantage of tub liners is that they won’t ever crack, peel, chip, rust or collect mildew. In fact, tub liners are often installed over previously reglazed tubs because homeowners weren’t happy with the durability of the reglazed surface. Plus, once the acrylic liner is installed, you can take a bath on the very same day.


Home improvement expert Joe Truini is the author of multiple do-it-yourself books and writes on home improvement and DIY for The Home Depot. Joe has many years of hands-on construction carpentry experience. For more research information on tub liners and bathroom remodeling, visit the Home Depot website here.

How to Clean a Porcelain Enamel Bathtub

Cast-iron bathtub has a durable porcelain finish. Photo: Porcher

Cast-iron bathtub has a durable porcelain finish. Photo: Porcher

High-quality bathtubs—and a variety of other plumbing fixtures—have surfaces made of porcelain (or “vitreous”) enamel.

This enamel is the result of fusing powdered glass onto a base or metal, glass, or tile at a very high temperature—typically 750 to 850 degrees C. As the glass powder melts, it flows evenly across the surface, eventually cooling to form a very hard, smooth, durable finish that can be plain white or brilliantly colorful. This type of finish is used on products ranging from bathtubs and sinks to appliances and tile.

When cleaning a porcelain enamel surface, it’s important to keep in mind that the material is extremely hard, but still can be chipped by hard blows, or damaged by harsh abrasives and long-term use of acids. Small chips and dings can be repaired with an inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution, available online and at home-improvement centers (be sure to choose the color that is a perfect match).[GARD align=”right”]

Wash porcelain with a dilute mixture of warm water and detergent. A pasty solution of warm water with baking soda will help remove dirt and soap scum.

Inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution disguises small chips in porcelain. Photo: Sheffield

Inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution disguises small chips in porcelain. Photo: Sheffield

Commercial bathroom or surface cleaners also can be used. Chlorine or hydrogen peroxide bleach works well at removing tough stains. Always dilute them before using, and rinse them off after a few seconds of use. Bleaches won’t work on removing rust. Be sure to wear gloves.

You can remove heavy deposits of dirt, grease, or soap scum with a solution of 1 tablespoon of a TSP (trisodium phosphate) substitute mixed with 1 gallon of hot water. Do not combine this with other cleaners.

Most scouring powders have hard, sharp particles that make tiny scratches in the surface. These scratches will catch dirt, grease, hard water deposits, and soap residue. Then more abrasives are needed to remove these imbedded soils. Avoid using scouring powders, but if you must use an abrasive to remove a particularly stubborn stain, use the finest scouring powder you can find.[GARD align=”right”]

Acetic and muriatic acids can be used to remove some stains, but they can slowly disintegrate the surface coating of porcelain enamel, eventually attacking its metallic base. If you use an acid, be sure to wear rubber gloves.

After cleaning with any of these methods, always rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water.

NEXT SEE: Repairing Bathtub Surfaces

Featured Resource: Find a Local Bathtub Resurfacing Pro

How to Clean a Fiberglass Bathtub


Fiberglass bathtubs require careful cleaning to avoid scratches.

Fiberglass bathtubs are easy to maintain, but you must be careful with them because they are vulnerable to scratches. When you clean a fiberglass bathtub, take the following tips into consideration.

Never use abrasive cleaners of any type on a fiberglass surface. Scouring powders, steel wool, or other abrasive scouring pads and scrapers must be avoided.

Depending upon the cleaning needed, try these cleaning options. Make sure to apply all cleaners gently with a non-abrasive applicator such as a sponge, cloth, or brush made of nylon, polyethylene, or polyester.

• Liquid dishwashing soap or liquid laundry detergent.

• All-purpose household cleaners, such as liquid 409 or similar liquid bathroom cleaner

• Mild to moderate alkali solutions such as mixtures of baking soda with warm water, or a diluted TSP (trisodium phosphate) substitute in warm water (make sure it’s fully dissolved)

• Spic & Span® cleaning solution dissolved in a solution of 1 tablespoon per gallon

Always rinse the cleaned surface thoroughly to make sure no cleaning residue remains.

For stubborn areas, such as bathtub rings, you can make a paste out of baking soda and a little water. Wet down the tub’s surface and gently rub the paste onto it with a sponge, soft nylon brush, or cloth.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Bathtub Resurfacing Pro

Repairing Bathtub Surfaces

Bathtubs can become scratched or stained over time. Depending upon the nature of the problem, there are a number of do-it-yourself remedies for cosmetic issues. If stains or scratches are too numerous—or if you want to give the tub an entirely new finish—consider hiring a tub refinishing professional.

Here’s how to handle some cosmetic problems:

Inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution disguises small chips in porcelain. Photo: Sheffield

Inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution disguises small chips in porcelain. Photo: Sheffield

Bathtub Porcelain Rust & Dings

Rust on porcelain is usually the result of a dripping faucet and high iron content in the water. One household remedy is scrubbing the stain with a mixture of lemon juice and salt. If scrubbing doesn’t do it, soaking might. Saturate a rag with the mixture and lay it on the blemish for a few hours. Then scrub it again. If there’s still a stain, ask your local hardware dealer or home center about commercially available rust and iron removers.

Small dings and chips in porcelain can be repaired with an inexpensive porcelain touch-up solution that is commonly available online and at home-improvement centers (choose a color that matches your tub).

Fiberglass Bathtub Scratches

Fiberglass tubs have “gelcoat” surfaces that can be restored with a lot of rubbing and buffing. For this job, you need to get a three-part kit made for removal of fiberglass oxidation these are sold at marine products stores. Follow the label directions. This job normally involves buffing the scratches with a special compound, applying a seal coat, and then buffing again with rubbing wax.

Removing Bathtub Appliques

Bathtub appliques are great for providing traction on an otherwise slick and slippery bathtub floor. However, there comes a time when most have to be replaced or removed altogether. So how do you get the material and adhesive off without damaging the bathtub liner?

Whichever of these methods you choose, make sure to test the removal material on a small, inconspicuous part of the bathtub to make sure the cleaning chemicals will not damage that surface.

Keep in mind that most non-slip bathtub appliques are made in three layers: the (often decorative) top layer, a middle cushioning layer that is usually made of of Mylar film, and a sticky adhesive bottom layer.

1Carefully peel up a corner edge of each applique. You can use a fingernail, a cuticle stick or any rigid, sharp edged scraper made of wood or plastic to get it started.

2Lift up, while peeling back, each applique. Do this slowly and carefully, making sure the top two layers remain adhered together. If these layers begin to separate, the film will tear.

If this happens, begin the process again on other edges and corners of the applique, working each in toward the center until the entire piece comes free. If the Mylar film is left in place and only the top layer is removed, you will have a much harder time removing it, as cleaners and solvents will not disintegrate Mylar.

3After you’ve removed each of the appliques, there will probably be remaining bits of adhesive stuck to areas of the tub floor. You can use certain adhesive removers, such as “Shout” or “Spray-N-Wash,” thoroughly soaking the adhesive spots for at least half an hour.

Once the adhesive has been reduced to a rubbery consistency, wipe it off with a dry cloth. You may have to repeat this procedure a couple times to get all the adhesive off.

Removing Difficult Appliques

If the appliques are too securely placed, and you are unable to lift them off in this way, try this:

1Lift as many corners and edges as you can on each applique. Then pour a generous amount of “Shout” or “Spray-N-Wash” over the entire floor of the bathtub. Since these chemicals will not eat through the Mylar film, these solutions have to be able to get to the adhesive beneath the applique in order to work.

2Let the appliques soak in the solution for at least two hours when using this method. The adhesive should soften enough for the appliques to be lifted easily. If it doesn’t completely loosen the adhesive, repeat the procedure. Wipe off the softened adhesive as directed above.

After completing either of these procedures, thoroughly scour the tub with a mild powder-based cleanser. Then rinse with clean water and allow the area to air-dry before installing new appliques.

If you have a fiberglass bathtub, a porcelain enamel tub, or are concerned about damaging the tub’s surface, use a liquid detergent, all-purpose cleaner, or baking soda mixed with water.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Bathtub Resurfacing Pro

Repair Bathtub Spa Jets

Jets in this spa-style tub churn the water. Photo: Jacuzzi

Jets in this spa-style tub churn the water. Photo: Jacuzzi

If your bathtub spa jets suddenly cease to work, take the following steps:

1Check the electrical panel’s circuit breaker to see if it has tripped. If it has, reset it.

2If that isn’t the problem, consult your owner’s manual to see if the pump has a “high limit manual reset” or a separate circuit breaker on the equipment. If it has either of these, try resetting it.[GARD align=”left”]

3Spa jets still don’t work? Turn off the spa’s electrical circuit and call a repair person. The problem could be anything from a loose wire to a faulty float switch to a bad pump. (When the repair person arrives, be sure to let him or her know you’ve turned off the circuit.)

Clearing Bathtub Drain Problems

Use quick, stabbing motions with a flat drain plunger to clear a drain blockage. Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

Use steady, firm stabbing motions with a flat drain plunger to clear a drain blockage.

A bathtub drains to the sewer or septic tank through a system of drainpipes that are connected to vent pipes, which expel sewer gases out the roof. A bathtub has a “trap”—a U-shaped pipe that contains water in order to block sewer gases from entering your home.

If the bathtub drain is backing up or blocked, check all the toilets, sinks, and other fixtures in the house to see if they’re also draining poorly. If other fixtures are backed up, the blockage is probably beyond where they join a branch line. (For more about the drain-waste-vent system, see Drain, Waste, and Vent (DWV) System. Backups at lower points in the system—or throughout the entire system—usually mean that the main stack or sewer line is clogged. To remedy this situation, it’s usually wisest to call in a plumber.

If only the bathtub is clogged, the stoppage is usually located in its trap or branch drain. Try to clear out a hair blockage in a tub drain with the help of a straightened coat hanger with a small hook at one end. Remove and clean the pop-up as hair and debris often collect around this assembly (see Repair Bathtub Pop-Up Stopper).

If a drain is simply moving slowly, you can use a chemical drain cleaner, but beware—the caustic nature of most drain cleaners can damage certain kinds of pipes and upset the delicate chemical balance of a septic system. And, if the drain becomes fully clogged, the caustic solution can back up into a fixture, making it hazardous to plunge the drain.

The next thing to try is breaking up the clog by plunging the drain with a flat drain plunger. A plunger always works better if you put enough water into the fixture to cover the plunger. To plunge a tub, first remove the pop-up. Stuff a rag into a plastic bag, and use this to plug the overflow hole.

Fill the tub with enough water to cover the plunger’s flat rubber cup. Plunge steadily up and down 15 or 20 times and intersperse a few powerful pushes. Keep the plunger tightly sealed against the fixture. (A plunger doesn’t usually work on shower drains, but it’s worth a try if your shower is clogged; be sure the water level covers the plunger.)

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Drain Plumbing Pro

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