Bathtub Liner | Pros, Cons & Everything Explained
Does your bath make you sad? The floor is fine. You changed the vanity last year. But the stains, scratches, and vintage colour of the bath make the whole bathroom feel old and dingy. A bathtub liner could change the way you perceive your bathroom and turn it into a stylish spa without knocking down walls. It may even cost less than you expect.
In this post, I’ll explain what a bathtub liner is, the different types available, their pros and cons as well as answer some popular questions around the topic.
Let’s get into it!
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What Is A Bathtub Liner?
A bathtub liner is a thinly moulded form that slides over your existing bath. It is designed to hide cracks, chips, or simply an outdated colour.
Bath liners are a less intrusive way to update the look of your bathroom as it requires little to no demolition and does not require any major plumbing. When properly installed a liner can look almost like a real tub and can last 10 to 20 years before needing replacement. If the liner cracks, it can be repaired to extend its functional life.
Many liners are sold as standard sizes, which works in most flats and suburban homes. If you have an antique tub, you may need to order a custom liner. Using a poorly fitted liner can result in cracks and a buildup of moisture between the liner and the tub. That can lead to hidden mould, stale odours, and even water damage to floors and walls.
If your old bath just won’t come clean, is still Avocado Green, or is scored with cracks and scratches, a liner can erase your dislike for a completely functional unit.
For just a few pounds more, change out your taps at the same time and you get a bath that looks and functions like a contemporary space.
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Type Of Bathtub Liners
Bathtub liners are typically sold in three different materials. PVC liners are sometimes sold at your bargain DIY store. Acrylic is the most popular and used by many bathroom refitter services. Solid surface polymers are gaining traction with custom bath contractors.
The least expensive type of bathtub liner, the polyvinyl chloride material gives you a fairly durable liner and is available in a decent range of colours. You can expect it to last about 15 years, and it will require minimal maintenance.
It is lightweight and flexible, which makes it an attractive option if you are thinking about a DIY upgrade. On the downside, its flexibility means that it is more susceptible to cracks.
You need to find a liner that is shaped to match your existing tub. If you have a custom tub, the cost for a PVC liner will skyrocket as you may require a custom liner. At that point, replacing the tub may be just as cost-effective and will get you a more durable upgrade.
Are you aiming for an upscale bathroom redo? PVC is not a good choice as it often looks like a budget renovation.
Acrylic liners appeared in the late 80s as an option to the imperfect PVC liner. They are now the most common type of liner installed in home bathrooms. They are more rigid, heavier, and have a more polished appearance.
Acrylic is more durable than PVC. The liner itself will be up to twice as expensive as a PVC liner, and it is recommended that you hire a professional. A poor acrylic installation can lead to water getting behind the liner and creating a mould and wood-rot situation.
You can order your acrylic liner in matching decor colours or opt for the standard white and beige.
Acrylic is a great option when you want to do a full bath renovation without pulling up the floor or exposing the walls.
Solid Surface Polymer
So, you absolutely must have a bath in baby blue or one that looks like marble, but nobody supplies that in PVC or acrylic. Solid surface polymer is a pricey yet beautiful option. The material can be coloured in any hue that you desire and the finish looks as close to the original porcelain as possible.
The polymer is mixed with resin and moulded into a solid surface ready to last for decades. It is less likely to crack or chip. If you are spending big on the solid surface liner, you will want a contractor to put it in place to protect your investment.
Advantages Of Bathtub Liners
- No need for major demolition
- No need for plumbing or electrical work
- Installs in a day or two
- Low-cost upgrade due to minimal labour
- Immediately improves the appearance of a dated bathroom
- Can last for decades with proper maintenance
Disadvantages Of Bathtub Liners
- Limited colour selection available
- DIY jobs can go horribly wrong
- Potential for water infiltration behind the bath liner
- Cheap liners result in a cheap appearance
- Liners can crack and chip
- Professional installation can be as expensive as installing a new tub
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How Much Do Bathtub Liners Cost?
A PVC bath liner is the most affordable option with liners starting at around £150. Acrylic liners are often competitive at the bottom end of the range starting at around £200. You have a wider range of colours and sizes available in acrylic and most bath refitter companies use acrylic. The solid surface liner will run you at least £500.
Your cost will significantly increase if you are doing a bath/shower combination or want to add panels to the walls. Some bath installers will do liners for jetted tubs, but the cost can be prohibitive. At some point, you should compare the cost of a traditional bath replacement.
It takes a crew of two about four hours to pop a standard size unit into place. The average installation will run you about £1,700 including parts and labour. Top-end updates can run close to £4,000.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know about bathtub liners.
It may not be the best answer for every bathroom renovation. However, if you’re looking to quickly refresh your dated or chipped bathtub, a bathtub liner could be the perfect option.
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.