Refinishing vs Replacing Tile

Bathtub Replacement Basic Procedures

There are four options for a worn bathtub:

Basic Bathtub Installation

Average Cost of Professional installation $2500 to $5000

Tool and Material Checklist

  • New Bathtub
  • Hammer
  • Pipe Wrenches
  • Prybar
  • Safety Glasses
  • Level
  • Pliers Adjustable Wrench
  • Putty KnifeScrewdriver
  • Cold Chisel
  • Tape Measure
  • Pipe Caps
  • A good attitude

Read This Entire Page For Specific Tools and Materials Not Noted in the Basics Listed Above

Replacing an old bathtub with a new bathtub is a moderately difficult project. If the old tub is readily accessible, the project can move quickly; Accessible means you already are replacing the tile or taking the walls down for one reason or another.

HOWEVER, if you have to open a wall to remove the old tub and position the new tub the task is much harder and much more expensive. Either way, the project is within a home handyman's skills. You will need a helper to move out the old tub and set in the new one especially if the tub is an old cast iron unit. Some tubs require sawing completely in half to remove. You may want a professional plumber to make tube connections. On this page you will find ONLY the basics of replacing an old bathtub with a new one—or a "change-out," as the professionals call it.

Removing the Old Tub

Your present bathtub probably is sandwiched between two walls, with the faucets and shower head located on one of these walls. You should be able to disconnect the piping and then pull the tub strait out. If this doesn't work, you may have to remove a wall section, cut the piping, and remove the tub through the wall.

Your bathtub may be freestanding, giving you open access to the pipes and fittings. Removal is simply a matter of disconnecting the piping and lifting the tub out. Remove the toilet and flush tank, or lavatory to make room (or lift the tub over these fixtures). This will take more then two people if the tub is cast iron. On this page, we show how the piping is disconnected/connected and the tub is removes/replaced when the tub is between two walls. If your tub is free standing, the steps will be similar. Here are the steps:

  1. There may be an access panel on the backside of the plumbing wall of the bathtub. If not, this wall will most likely be finished with drywall, plaster and lath, or paneling. Remove the access panel of the wall surface so the piping is exposed. Find the wallboard joint and work from this point. Figure 1 should be helpful in locating the framing and piping.
  2. Turn off the water before proceeding any further.
  3. Disconnect the tub drain using a large adjustable wrench or Channel-lock pliers. Then loosen the slip nut connecting the overflow pipe that runs from the bathtub drain pipe. If necessary, remove the tub drain strainer, which will release the drain pipe below it.

Figure 1: Framing Detail

figure 1  figure 1b

The walls surrounding your bathtub will be framed something like this. If the walls) is load-bearing, (meaning it helps support the house structure), you have to support the remaining studs when others are cut out. Do not cut the studs until the wall is properly supported. A ledger may be used to support the tub, or it may be supported by clips attached to the studs. Before you buy the replacement bathtub, make sure the new tub will fit into the space, and make sure you can move it through all doorways.

Figure 2

figure 2

Disconnect drain, waste, and overflow pipes by loosening locknuts. Tub strainer screws out.

Figure 3

figure 3

Remove wall covering to expose ledger (if present) and release tub support clips. Wear safety glasses while removing wall tiles.

Figure 4

Tub may rest on ledger strip. If so, lift it off the strip when you remove the old tub.

figure 4a

Tub may be held with hanger clips, which have to be loosened or removed before the tub can be taken out.

figure 4b

If hot and cold water faucets are inside the bathtub (not above it), remove these fixtures back to supply connections.

  1. Remove the wall covering (such as tile) from around the tub. One course of tile is plenty. Use a hammer and cold chisel for this and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris (Figure 3). If the wall is not tiled, remove about four inches of material to expose the clips holding the tub. These fasteners will be attached to a ledger strip around the tub. Remove of disengage the fasteners. The tub may simply sit directly on the ledger strip (Figure 4).
  2. With a pry bar and a piece of scrap wood to protect the wall (if needed), gently pry the tub away from the wall. Go completely around the tub. With a helper, try moving the tub out a tad more. If you meet any resistance, chances are that the tub is not completely disconnected from the water supply and/or drainage system. Go back and check this. If you find a hang-up, disconnect it or reposition it. Then try moving the tub again.
  3. Hopefully, you will be able to move the tub straight out from the wall. If so, put down some 1x4 skids or a piece of plywood so the tub won't damage the floor as it is moved out and so the tub is easier to slide. You will need a helper for this; bathtubs weigh plenty. Don't try to move the tub alone. If the tub can't be removed by sliding it straight out, remove the wall opposite the faucet and exit here (Figure 5). This will involve cutting framing members,
  4. Figure 5

    You may have to remove tub from side wall. If so, remove the wallboard from framing members, shoring up the wall with 2x4s before making cuts. Remove pipes, if needed.

    figure 5

    which you will replace later. However, the wall may be load bearing, and you must shore up the framing—before you make cuts—with two or three lengths of 2x4 or 2x6. If you are unsure about the house structure, consult a building contractor, engineer, or architect.

    If you can't get the tub out of the back wall, it will have to go through the plumbing wall. The pipes will have to be cut accordingly and capped. If the pipes are plastic or copper, you can remove them with a hacksaw just above the opening for the tub. If the pipes are galvanized steel, you may be able to disconnect them at the coupling. Use pipe wrenches for this: One wrench goes on the fitting and the other one on the pipe. Put down skids for the tub, as suggested above, and have a helper assist you in the tub removal. When the tub is out, you can lift and carry it with aid of helpers.

Installing the New Tub

The procedure for installing the new bathtub is almost the reverse of taking out the old one. We will assume that the new tub is approximately the same size as the old one, therefore, the piping and fixture will align properly. If not, the piping will have to be modified to match the new tub before it is moved in. Also check the wall surfaces. You will have to install a new wall surface or patch the old so it rests on the flange of the new tub once the bathtub is in its final position. Use cement backer board under tile in the tub area. Normal drywall cannot withstand the extreme moisture in these locations, Do not paint cement backer board.

  1. With skids in position and a helper to assist you, move the new tub into the tub space. Align the water supply and drain pipes accordingly. Level the tub when it is in its final position. Lay the level along the rim of the tub and add shingle shims along the bottom of the tub to level it. Use enough shims to stop any rocking or instability. Then connect the tub to the hangers, adding hangers for support, if necessary (Figure 6).

    Figure 6

    Move in new tubs on skids and with a helper. Tub flange rests on a ledger of hanger clips. Level the tub when in final floor position.

    figure 6

  2. Connect the drain and water supply pipes. The slip connection is simply pulled down (or up) on the drain pipe and the slip nuts tightened.
  3. The drain in the tub is seated in plumber's putty before it is pressed into place and the strainer cap is tightened (Figure 7).

    The lift rod for the drain stopper may have a turnbuckle type arrangement. You turn the turnbuckle to adjust the linkage so the drain stopper seats properly into the drain opening in the bottom of the tub (Figure 8).

  4. The hot and cold water faucets are screwed onto the fittings on the supply pipes; use joint compound on the male threads only to seal the threads as the fixtures are tightened. An escutcheon usually fits over the faucet openings and is fastened with a set screw. To complete the project, screw on the hot/cold faucet handles (Figure 9).
  5. Measure for the tub spout from the face of the drain nipple in the wall to the face of the wall. Then measure from the threaded coupling inside the spout to the edge of the spout, plus about 1/2 to 5/8 inch. If the spout is too long or deep to accept the threads, you will have to increase the length of the nipple.

    Figure 7

    A spring-type bathtub drain has a rocker arm that works off a lever in overflow plate. Assembly is removed by taking off the plate.

    figure 7
  6. Figure 8

    To adjust the rocker arm, turn the "turnbuckle" type fitting with pliers and reseat in overflow and drain pipe. Adjust rod until stopper fits perfectly.

    figure 8

    Use a brass nipple for this and seal the threads with joint compound (Figure 10).

  7. If you had to cut the pipes to remove the tub, replace the pipes, going back to the first connection you can find and working toward the tub from this point. Reinstall any other fixtures you may have had to remove. Turn on the water supply and check the lines for leaks. Make adjustments as needed.

  8. Figure 9

    Thread faucets into housings on supply pipes. Put on escutcheons and the handles.

    figure 9

    Figure 10

    The faucet spout attaches to a threaded nipple extending from the water supply pipes. A lift-gate diverts water from the spout to the shower head.

    figure 10

  9. Finish the wall around the tub. If you have to replace the wall around the tub, we recommend that you use cement backer board. Regular drywall may be used on the other side of the framing. Add new framing where the old was cut to make room for the tub removal. Apply the drywall, tape and sand it, and then finish the wall. You may want to mark the panels next to the baseboard in case you have to remove the panel again for repairs. Tile or paint the wall to complete the project.


Keep in mind these are basic instructions and in most instances three tradesman are required:

  • A licensed plumber
  • Tile setter
  • Carpenter

Warning: Be suspect of anyone who claims to be all three!

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The Truth about Bathtub Liners

feature 6

What do you do with a washed-up bathtub? You could replace it with a new one, but that's not an easy proposition. Most tubs are set in an alcove or corner, lapped by the flooring and wall finishes to create a watertight seal and tied down in at least two places by plumbing. If you're ready for a full-scale bathroom remodel, replacing the tub makes sense. If you're not, you're looking at creating a real mess and spending $2,000 to $3,000 for little visual change.

But two better options are available to price-conscious homeowners with tubs in need of a face-lift: tub liners and tub refinishing. Both add years of life to an existing tub at a fraction of the cost of full-scale replacement—and in a fraction of the time.

Bathtub Liners

feature 4

Bathtub liner companies create exact molds, which they use to make liners that fit tubs almost perfectly, wherever they're installed and whatever shape they're in. The installer plays a critical role here as they are the ones who take the precise measurements. Here's how the process works:

feature 3

A local installer sends precise measurements and photographs of the tub to company headquarters. The company identifies the model, pulls it off the shelf and with a sheet of 1/4-in. ABS acrylic—the same material football helmets and airplane windshields are made of—vacuum-forms an exact mold of the tub. The result is a 35-lb. liner that slips over the tired tub like a new glove. To install it, the local rep cleans the old tub with denatured alcohol, removes the drain and overflow and trims the liner so it fits snugly against the walls. Then, using a combination of two-sided butyl tape and silicone adhesive, he attaches the liner to the old tub. He finishes up by installing a new drain and overflow, and caulking the seams. Once the liner is delivered, which can take four to eight weeks, a single workman can install it in six to eight hours, and the homeowner can bathe in it that same evening. Here are some of the pros and cons of bathtub liners.

Pros & Cons Of Bathtub Liners


  • 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.
  • Most liners are fairly durable and resist chipping and scratching.
  • 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 $850 –$1500.
  • 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. Companies within the Bathtub Liner industry shy away from working on fiberglass bathtubs, and most liner companies won't do jetted tubs, where a professional refinisher can do either one. Keep in mind they can not line claw-foot antique tubs. Chipped, dented or even rusted-through tubs are no problem, however, but be prepared to pay more if repairs are necessary.

Damage from Pin Hole Leaks

P.S. Bathtub liners are not available for fiberglass fixtures. In this case you must refinish. Since your putting coating on coating the refinishing job will out last a liner.

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Bathtub Refinishing A Look at the Process

Bathtub refinishing or Reglazing, a worn-out bathtub is a more site- intensive process, The first step is a proper cleaning. Bathtub refinishing involves masking the surfaces around the tub to protect from overspray and properly venting the bathroom to extract any odors. A reputable bathtub refinisher will use scent masking agents such as cherry, lilac, cinnamon etc. After he has removed the caulk, the refinisher swathes the bathtub with a delaminating solution that not only dissolves what's left of the porcelain glaze but also cleans and opens the pours to allow our adhesion promoter to penetrate. A reputable refinisher will use some type of silane based bonding agent to ensure maximum adhesion. We use the best in the business.

Next, the refinisher washes away the delaminating solution and prepares the area and surface for spraying, He then sprays on coats of a fast-drying primer mixed with a proprietary bonding agent to promote adhesion. To finish, he gives the bathtub a cleaning with a tack cloth to remove any dust particles or insects, and then sprays four applications of a finish coat. Finally, the refinisher polishes the tub.

The whole process takes a single technician about four to six hours, depending on how extensive the repair is, but the tub needs to cure for a minimum of 10 hours before the water is turned on. A refinished bathtub will mimic the original surface in everyway except durability. A properly refinished and maintained bathtub will last up to 20 years. At an average of $350 nationwide and unlimited colors it is the most cost effective way to restore your bathtub.

This bathtub has been cleaned and is now undergoing the delaminating process. This is a critical area for a successful bathtub refinishing process. The old coating has been removed and the refinisher is applying the safe delaminating solution.

Next a Primer is applied along with a proprietary silane bonding agent to ensure maximum adhesion.
Once primed a refinisher will tack cloth the surface and apply the topcoat glaze.

The end result is a bathtub that looks and feels like the day it was manufactured.

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Will it stand the test of time or look and feel new?

The answer quite frankly is no. I've been in this business over 10 years and have never seen one that lasted a year. The do it yourself kits sold on the internet, local hardware stores, or your favorite home improvement stores are not designed to stand the test of time nor do they have chemical resistance a professional refinishing company can offer you. Most products available to the general public, through hardware stores and on the Internet, fail within the first year.

The problems with DIY kits are many but let concentrate on the the most important ones which cause most failures. We have spoken to Hundreds of consumers who have used various Do-It Yourself refinishing products over the past 10 years and not one was happy with the results they achieved. The complaints were centered around poor appearance, product peeling, sometimes within one week of the application.

The two biggest problems are with the bonding process and application processes. Proper bonding of these products, to a porcelain sink or bathtub, requires a professional strength bonding or whetting agents, plus a delaminating solution. They are usually only available with to professional refinishers. Some kits may include what they call bonding agents but these bonders and delaminating paste are hazardous chemicals. This is why companies do not include them in the DIY kit you purchased from the hardware store or off the Internet. If they do offer a so called bonding agent they are usually just acetone or alcohol (not a real silane based adhesion promoter). There is no one single product that can be used on all surfaces. Refinishing requires many different products. There is no single cure all.

Some companies may ask you to wipe your fixture with muriatic acid, alcohol, or TSP (trisodiumphosphate). None of these products will help properly bond their coating to your fixture. In fact if they are not neutralized properly they will interfere with the whatever small bonding they offer.

These products are not strong enough to delaminate porcelain to a degree needed to form a proper mechanical bond and not chemically correct to bond on a molecular level. Keep in mind muriatic acid is very hazardous, this is a chemical used in swimming pools to balance PH levels. Bonding agents are rare too. They must be formulated correctly as there are literally thousands of different silane bonding agents each designed for each coating or process. They are not interchangeable.

You must also be able to perform flawless body work and chip repair for the surface to be smooth as glass. Take a flash light and lay it in the bottom of the tub. Let the beam travel along the entire surface. This will reveal every imperfection. You must be able to repair and contour these imperfections or a high gloss coating will only amplify their existence much like a new car hood where a hail damage storm has hit. Nice and shinny but many dings and dents pronounced. If you use regular BONDO or some cheap polyester product they probably will not stand the test of time due to thermal shock or continual Hot and cold water.

As for appearance, well, let me ask you this, "How much experience do you have refinishing sinks and bathtubs?" Refinishing is an art into itself, and requires years of experience to perfect. You cannot expect to just brush on one of these products and have your sink, or bathtub looking new again. Using a brushed or rolled on coating is like burning down the barn to kill the rats.

To be smooth as glass the tub must be sprayed. How much experience do you have spraying? My youngest crew member has 7 years experience and it requires all his concentration on every job to get professional results. I have 13 Years experience and it requires all my concentration and the best equipment possible to achieve acceptable results.

This is a picture of the equipment necessary for an experienced refinisher to attain professional results.


Does your DIY KIT COME equipped and How many bathtubs have you prepared and sprayed?

DIY KITS are self defeating. Why is It is self defeating you may ask? For a DIY kit to be semi smooth it must be "SELF LEVELING". therefore it will be very slow drying. A DIY kit must use a slow drying epoxy to minimize the brush or roller marks left behind. IT NEVER WORKS! Brush marks will always be present. Another con to a slow drying coating to consider is the maintenance. Remember the purpose of your refinishing is to make the surface easy to maintain and clean. (All Epoxy Paints will Chalk and Fade)

A slow drying coating will then be at the mercy of the environment for surface contaminates from the A.C. sanding dust, or just minor air particulates that will land on the surface. I don't care how clean the environment is after 4 days the usual required dry time the surface will be full of these foreign objects. Even a Diy Spray Kit Will be slow drying. This brings us to another hazard. Have you ever sprayed in a confined area?

A regular dust mask does nothing for toxic fumes

Now that you have dust and other particles imbedded in the surface plus brush marks for soap residue and body oils and hard water deposits to cling to you you will now have a surface which will require often and more aggressive cleaning methods thereby defeating the initial purpose of having the surface refinished anyway. During those four days of curing the Diy kits will have dust settled into the surface. Only a professional equipment and a professional knows how to prevent this.

When the product does fail, and it will, I do not expect a refund from the company you purchased it from. They will say that you did not properly follow the application directions. But even if you get a refund you still have to contend with a tub that requires stripping. Stripping a bathtub is a dangerous chore. I know personally of 4 Fatalities of professional refinishers who actually died stripping bathtubs. One here locally in San Antonio.

You must use an aircraft stripper or a car stripper which contains fumes which can burn and kill quickly. This is why most refinishers charge $100 to strip an improperly refinished bathtub. Even at $100 to strip a bathtub most refinishers dread this chore and some will not even take the risk. We must wear special fresh air systems when stripping a bathtub. The chemical stripper required burns like na-palm if it touches your skin.

I offer you the following test. Ask your DIY SELLER to send you a sample and paint a black tile with the coating. Or just buy the kit and paint a 12x12 tile. Let it cure in a normal environment. Remember a tub is mostly a horizontal surface. By the time it dries it will have so many dust particles in them we sometimes jokingly call them built in anti-slip systems with all the granules present. Perform the following test.

After Painting a Tile with a DIY Kit

Within 24 HOURS use marker and mark the sample tile. THEN TRY AND WIPE IT OFF USING A MILD CLEANER LIKE 409 or FANTASTIC.



Finally consider this If your are already saving thousands of dollars using a professional go cheap on yourself now?

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