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Bathtub Liners vs Refinishing: Which is Best?

Bathtub liners and refinishing: The alternative to an expensive bathroom remodel

When it comes to bathtub liners or refinishing, it’s a question of convenience and cost. Replacing an old bathtub is messy and expensive, so the alternative is to reline the old tub or refinish it.

We look at the pros and cons of each, helping you decide which is the best route to a new bathtub look without the mess or expense.

Key Takeaways

  • Refinishing is a quick fix that involves sanding and recoating the tub surface, while liners are solid inserts that fit over the existing tub.
  • Refinishing is cheaper, costing between $350 to $650, while liners can cost between $850 to $1,400, not including installation fees.
  • Both methods can make your bathtub look new, but liners may last longer (10-15 years) compared to refinishing (up to 10 years).
  • Refinishing involves chemicals and odors, while liners are more convenient with less mess and instant results.

What Is Bathtub Refinishing?

Bathtub refinishing involves sanding back the original surface of your tub and recoating it with shiny new paint. It’s a speedy way to transform a faded, discolored, or scratched tub surface, yielding “like-new” results.

While refinishing is a quick fix for your old tub, it is still a relatively skilled job and should be done professionally. Your technician cleans the surface of the bath and then sands away the old coating. They then patch any repairs before painting on the new material.

You can get DIY kits, but you rarely get the same results that the professionals achieve. Plus, you really only get one shot at refinishing your bathtub because the surface material won’t bond very well with the new coating.

So, what may seem like a money-saving ploy could be more expensive getting a professional in to rectify any amateur defects.

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Bathtub Refinishing Costs

One of the main reasons why people choose to refinish their old bathtub is the cost. Replacing a bathtub is messy, inconvenient, and expensive, so refinishing is an ideal solution.

Expect to pay between $350 to $650 for your reglazed tub, which is considerably less than a complete remodel and a liner.

This includes $$30 to $150 for materials and between $200 to $500 for labor costs.


  • You get instant results, which is more convenient.
  • Good for the environment because you are not adding to landfills.
  • Cheaper than replacing an entire bathtub.
  • Possible DIY job, saving you even more money.


  • Chemical odors and potential overspray.
  • It’s still your old tub, not a shiny new one.
  • The coating will eventually chip and peel.

What Are Bathtub Liners?

A bathtub liner is a solid insert that fits over your existing bathtub. It follows the same contours as your existing bath but is slightly smaller.

The remodeling contractor will employ a specialist liner company to supply and fit your new bathtub liner. They visit your home, measure your bathtub, and then check to see if they have a liner in stock that matches the requirements.

If not, a new liner is fabricated to match the contours of your tub. When the specialist comes back to install it, all the drains, faucets, and other plumbing is disconnected and removed. The liner installs directly over your old bathtub, and the fixtures are then refitted.

If you want to achieve that “new bathroom” look, it might be an idea to replace the faucets, drains, and other fixtures as part of the remodel.

Bathtub Liner Costs

Lining a bathtub may be convenient and less messy than removing the old bathtub and replacing it with a new one, but it is not a cheap option. You can buy a completely new tub for a couple of hundred dollars, compared to between $850 to $1,400 for a new liner.

And that doesn’t include the cost of installation. You can add another $1,500 to $3,000 to the final bill. While these figures may seem steep, the average cost of relining a bathtub ranges from $1,700 to $2,500.

You can increase the amount you spend depending on what fixtures and add-ons you choose. It could inflate the total costs by another $500 to $1,000.


  • No tub removal, which is less messy and more convenient.
  • No odors or chemical residue, unlike refinishing.
  • Instant results, with no waiting for the surface to dry.


  • Water gets trapped under the liner, causing mold.
  • Reduces the size of your tub by a fraction.
  • The liner may flex, which causes distortions.

Bathtub Liners vs. Bathtub Refinishing Comparison

Features Bathtub Liner Bathtub Refinishing
Ease of installation Professional installation Professional and DIY installation
Appearance Looks like a new tub Looks like a new tub
Durability As tough as your existing tub Will chip and peel over time
Longevity Last for 10 to 15 years Lasts up to 10 years
Disruption Minimal Chemical odors and overspray
Budget $$$$$ $$


How Many Times Can You Reglaze a Tub?

You can reglaze your bathtub a second time or third time, but the old refinish coating is not an ideal surface for the new glazing to bond to. If you care how it looks, and you want the best results, you should only reglaze your tub once.

Does Reglazing a Tub Smell?

Refinishing a bathtub involves stripping off the old layer using methylene chloride, which is highly toxic and leaves a chemical residue in the air. It has a sweet smell that can be deadly if inhaled.

Sealing the bathroom from the rest of the house is a must, and make sure the windows are wide open to circulate fresh air and remove the chemical odors.

Can You Put a Tub Over an Existing Tub?

You can’t put a tub over an existing tub, but you can install a liner. You need a qualified liner expert to measure and fit your new bathtub liner. Some bathtubs, like a Jacuzzi, are more challenging to fit.

Fitting a liner is less messy and more convenient, plus you get instant results rather than waiting while your bathroom remodel is completed.

What Can You Do With an Old Bathtub?

Rather than tossing the bathtub in the trash, think of new ways you can upcycle the old tub. Repurposing old fixtures is one of the most satisfying things you can do. So, what can you do with your old bathtub?

  • Turn it into a garden planter.
  • Transform it into an outdoor sofa.
  • Turn it into a couch.
  • Upcycle it into a chair.
  • Turn it into a coffee table.
  • Turn it into a garden pond.
  • Make it into an outdoor hot tub.

You can repurpose your old bathtub into so many things; it would be a crime to throw it away.

How Much Does Miracle Method Bathtub Refinishing Cost?

It will set you back anywhere between $500 to $650 for refinishing a complete bathtub. However, it rises steeply if you include refinishing the shower as well as the tub. You should expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,200.

Bathtub Liners vs. Bathtub Refinishing: Which Is Best?

Deciding which is the best comes down to cost, convenience, and overall appearance. You should also keep in mind how durable the finished product is because you wouldn’t want to shell out more money again if it starts to chip or flake.

The most permanent solution is a liner. Because it molds to the shape of your existing bath, it should stay looking good for up to 15 years. Refinishing lasts for about 10 years, so there is not much difference between the two.

The cost is where the two diverge. Lining your bathtub could be a god few thousand dollars while refinishing is as little as $350 to $650. However, the lining is more convenient because it doesn’t involve nasty chemicals and foul odors, and you get instant results.

Lining your bathtub does reduce the size of the tub, but it should look like new. Refinishing your old bathtub means you get a shiny new surface, but it is still your old tub.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.