Installing a bathtub or shower liner is an easy and affordable way to refresh your bathroom’s look and protect its surfaces. As experts in home renovation, we recommend considering several factors before purchasing new liners to ensure you select the best options for your needs.
Types of Bathtub and Shower Liners
Several types of liners are available to fit different bathtubs and showers:
Plastic liners are the most widely used and affordable option. They are lightweight and easy to install. The most common materials are:
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Lowest cost, but less durable. Best for temporary solutions.
- Polyethylene – More tear resistant than PVC. Good for rentals and temporary uses.
- Acrylic – Most durable plastic. Resists scratches and stains. Ideal for long-term use.
Plastic liners come in many colors and textures, like stone and tile finishes, to match your bathroom’s decor.
Fiberglass liners provide a glossy, built-in finish. They are more durable than plastic, but also more difficult to install, cutting and fitting to the tub or shower pan. Often used for bathtub replacements.
Precast Acrylic Liners
Precast acrylic liners are custom-molded to fit your existing tub or shower base. This provides a seamless installation. High-end acrylic sheets offer natural gloss and color options.
Some homeowners prefer natural liners made of stone, marble, granite, or tile. These provide high-end luxury but are usually the most expensive option. Professional installation is also recommended.
The first step in selecting a bathtub or shower liner is carefully measuring your existing tub or shower pan:
- For bathtubs, measure length, width, and depth in several places. Check for any rounded corners or irregular shapes.
- For showers, measure the length and width of the bottom and the height of the surrounding walls. Include any shelving or seat areas.
- Measure faucet locations to ensure the liner will fit around plumbing fixtures.
Knowing the precise dimensions will ensure a proper fit and smooth installation. Most liners include sizing charts to help match your measurements. Custom-fit liners are also an option.
Consider the orientation of your new liner. Options include:
- Standard rectangular shape
- Oval or rounded edges
- Corner tub with two adjacent sides
- Freestanding design with finished outer sides
- Square or rectangular base
- Neo-angle with one angled wall
- Rounded pan
- Walk-in with no doors
Measure where the shower door will install and any desired shelving or seating. This will help select the optimal layout.
Liner thickness impacts durability. Most plastic liners range from 2-6 mil thickness.
- 2 mil: Temporary use, less durable
- 3-4 mil: Standard thickness, good durability
- 5-6 mil: Most durable, ideal for long-term use
Thicker acrylic and fiberglass liners also resist staining and scratches better over time. Consider thickness along with expected usage when choosing materials.
Color and Pattern
Liners come in every color imaginable to match your décor. Popular choices include:
- White – Clean, brightens space
- Biscuit – Warm, inviting tone
- Gray – Sleek and modern
- Almond – Soft, subtle neutral
Bold colors like glossy black or vibrant blue provide dramatic accents. Many liners offer realistic stone, marble, or tile designs. Measure the area and opt for larger, less busy patterns in small spaces to avoid overwhelming the room.
Upgrade your liner with special features:
- Textured floors – Slip resistance
- Built-in shelving – Storage solutions
- Seating – Convenience and accessibility
- Shampoo caddies – Organization
- Grab bars – Safety and stability
- Corner caddies – Space for bath necessaries
- Premium materials – Unique visual appeal
DIY vs. Professional Installation
Installing a bathtub or shower liner is a doable DIY project for some homeowners. It involves:
- Thorough cleaning of the existing tub or shower walls and floor
- Proper measurement and liner selection
- Carefully cutting and fitting the liner to the space
- Securing the liner with adhesive and caulk
However, professional installation is recommended to ensure proper sealing and waterproofing. Hiring a contractor is advised for:
- Fiberglass, acrylic, or natural stone liners – Require expertise to cut and fit
- Irregular shaped tubs or neo-angle showers – Challenging layouts
- Concerns over existing water damage – May require repairs before installing
- Limited DIY experience – Precision work for clean finish
- Existing plumbing issues – May need servicing to install properly
The extra cost of professional installation is usually worth it for long-lasting results.
Liner prices vary based on material, thickness, size, and custom designs:
- Plastic: $100 – $400
- Fiberglass: $300 – $1,000
- Acrylic: $500 – $1,500
- Natural Materials: $1,000 – $5,000
Professional installation averages $500-$2,000. Measure carefully and research material options to balance affordability with the look you love.
Simple care keeps liners looking fresh:
- Use a squeegee after showering to prevent soap scum buildup
- Avoid harsh cleaners which can scratch surfaces – Mild dish soap and water is best
- Disinfect monthly with bleach or other antimicrobial cleaners
- Inspect seals regularly for mildew and re-caulk when needed
- Consider re-coating every 1-3 years for added protection
With proper maintenance, liners can last 5-10 years, extending the life of your existing tub or shower at a fraction of replacement cost.
Focusing specifically on bathtub liners, here are more factors to weigh:
Bathtub liners come in two main styles:
- Drop-in liners: Rest inside the existing tub, adhered to the bottom and lower sides. Allow full access to the tub rim for easier cleaning. Best for straightforward installations.
- Alcove liners: Designed for alcove-style tubs installed between three walls. The liner fully surrounds the inner tub surface. Provide a seamless look when walls need refreshing too.
Measure the tub surroundings to choose the appropriate liner style for your bathroom’s layout.
Carefully note the drain location when measuring for a new bathtub liner. The drain hole in the liner must align precisely with the existing drain pipework. This ensures proper water flow and no leakage issues.
If the drain placement makes installing a liner problematic, a plumber may need to adjust the drain configuration before placement.
Check that any faucet plumbing, tub spouts, and shower arms have enough space for the new liner thickness. Thicker liners may require extending the existing pipes so they protrude properly through the liner.
Also consider if the arm length provides optimal faucet placement. Longer arms that extend into the tub area more may improve showerhead positioning and spray coverage after liner installation.
Standard tubs are 60″ long, while longer and deeper models are available. Consider custom sizing if you desire extra length or depth after installing a new liner. This provides a larger bathing area.
Measure carefully to determine available space for any potential upsizing. Custom liners do come at a higher cost but can refresh the entire tub’s footprint in your bathroom.
Acrylic vs. Plastic Liners for Bathtubs
We recommend acrylic over plastic for bathtub liners when possible. The thicker material resists damage from daily use better long-term. Key differences:
- Durability: Acrylics are less prone to punctures, tearing, and scratches. They maintain a glossy, like-new sheen longer.
- Cleaning: Acrylic resists staining and is easier to keep looking clean compared to plastic.
- Comfort: Acrylic provides a warmer, softer surface to rest against while bathing.
- Aesthetics: Richer color tones and realistic stone/tile designs are easier to achieve with acrylic.
While acrylic costs a bit more upfront, its longevity provides greater overall value in a bathtub liner.
For showers, also consider these points when selecting a liner:
Unlike bathtubs where you sit while bathing, showers pose a slip risk. Choose a textured liner floor or apply nonslip strips to reduce this hazard.
Etching the surface or integrating grip patterns into the liner material itself during manufacturing are the most durable options. Avoid smooth plastic liners which become slippery when wet.
Seamless Wall Liners
Preformed, seamless wall surrounds simplify installation along the sides compared to piecing together separate panels. This provides an integrated look and minimizes seams that can harbor mildew.
Measure shower walls carefully and order custom lengths if needed to achieve a seamless enclosure.
Corner Benches and Shelves
Look for liners with built-in corner shelves and seating to optimize unused spaces in larger showers.
Shelves provide storage for toiletries while seated areas offer easy accessibility for shaving legs or feet. These features make the most of the available footprint.
Shower Pan Slope
Ensure any new liner maintains proper drainage slope to keep water flowing toward the drain:
- Standard showers: 1/4 inch per foot slope
- Accessible showers: 1/2 inch per foot minimum slope
Account for existing slope levels when measuring and lining up the drain location. Adequate pitch prevents standing water from collecting.
Glass Door Adjustments
If replacing a shower liner, check that existing doors still align properly and seal well once the new surround is installed.
New metal or glass tracks may be needed to recalibrate the swinging or sliding doors. An offset caused by the liner thickness could leave gaps for water leakage.
Moisture buildup can lead to mold concerns. Select a liner backed with an antimicrobial additive to inhibit mildew growth. Also, maintain proper ventilation using an exterior fan or operable window.
The ideal bathtub or shower liner improves aesthetics, protects against leaks, and fits your lifestyle needs. Measure carefully and select materials that provide long-lasting durability. Focus on sizing, layout, special features, color and texture when making your decisions.
Professional installation is recommended to ensure proper sealing, drainage, and waterproofing with your new liner. Annual maintenance will keep it looking fresh and extend its longevity.
With the right tub or shower liner choice, you can affordably rejuvenate your bathroom for a fraction of full replacement cost. Enjoy a revamped space that keeps your family safe during bathing for years to come.