When it comes to bathroom renovations, two popular options for upgrading old, worn-out tubs are bathtub refinishing and tub liners. Both can revive an outdated tub and give it a fresh, new look at a fraction of the cost of full tub replacement. But which resurfacing option is best for your needs? Here is an in-depth comparison of bathtub refinishing vs tub liners to help you decide.

Overview of Bathtub Refinishing

Bathtub refinishing, also known as reglazing or resurfacing, involves applying a new coating over the existing tub surface. The process typically involves these steps:

  • Cleaning and lightly sanding the original tub surface
  • Applying a bonding agent to help the new coating adhere
  • Spraying on a fresh coat of durable finish, usually an acrylic-polyurethane blend
  • Adding a final protective topcoat sealant

Properly refinished tubs look shiny and new. The new surface is also easier to clean and more stain resistant than a worn factory finish. Refinishing can hide chips and cracks, though extensive damage will still show through. The process takes just 1-2 days and can be performed onsite without removing the existing tub.


  • Less expensive – $300 to $1000 range
  • Wide color selection – match any decor
  • Quick, easy, onsite process
  • Preserves existing tub and plumbing
  • Long-lasting with proper prep and materials


  • Not a full replacement, existing tub remains
  • Results depend heavily on technician’s skill
  • Off-gassing odors during curing process
  • Not effective with serious tub damage

Overview of Tub Liners

As the name implies, tub liners involve installing a molded liner right over the old tub surface. Liners are made from various materials such as acrylic, ABS thermoplastics, PVC, or fiberglass. Professional installation involves these basic steps:

  • Lightly sanding and cleaning the old tub
  • Applying adhesive to the old tub and liner materials
  • Cutting and fitting the liner to the tub walls and dimensions
  • Trimming and sealing the excess liner material along edges
  • Caulking around seams and edges for a watertight seal

With a liner, you get a completely new tub surface wall covering. The slip-resistant bottom can be textured for safety. Liners are available in many colors and even patterned designs.


  • Fresh new surface covers over any existing damage
    -Anti-microbial and stain resistant materials
  • Can upgrade to walk-in tub with door and access features
  • Wide style and color selection
  • DIY-friendly liner kits available


  • More expensive than refinishing – $1000 to $2000 range
  • Professional installation often recommended
  • Existing tub remains underneath liner
  • Risk of leaks or seals failing over time
  • Limited tub access during installation

Factors to Compare Refinishing vs Liners

When deciding between resurfacing options for your bathtub, here are some key factors to weigh:


Bathtub refinishing is the clear winner when it comes to price. Costs average $300 to $1000, while tub liners typically run $1000 to $2000 installed. Liners do offer more customization and styles that can increase costs further.


With proper surface prep and application, quality refinishing materials can last 5-10 years or longer. Liners may peel, warp, or leak over 5-15 years. Refinishing is a more permanent solution.


Liners offer a wider range of colors, patterns, and custom sizing. Refinishing is limited to solid colors, but special effects like granite patterns are possible. Either can yield excellent cosmetic results.

Installation Process

Refinishing is quicker, easier, and can be done onsite in just 1-2 days. Liner installation requires removals, precision cutting, and extensive adhesives for a 2-3 day process.

Tub Usage

Normal bathtub usage is fine after either process. Walk-in tubs are only an option with tub liners, however.

Damage Limitations

Liners cover over any existing tub damage, while refinishing requires a tub in good structural condition to work well. Refinishing can correct minor chips and scratches.


Refinishing has moderate chemical smells during curing. Liners have minimal odor issues. Proper ventilation is recommended with either project.

Bathtub Refinishing vs. Liners: Which Is Best?

When comparing tub resurfacing methods, there are good arguments to be made for either approach. Here are some guidelines for choosing between bathtub refinishing and tub liners:

  • For a lower budget option under $1000, refinishing usually makes the most sense
  • If you want extensive color and style options, tub liners provide more variability
  • For minimal fumes and odor issues during and after installation, liners have an advantage
  • If your existing tub is in very poor condition, a full liner may be required to cover damage
  • For moderate tub damage like chips or cracks, refinishing can provide solid results
  • For a quick 1-2 day resurfacing that keeps your existing tub, refinishing is preferable
  • If you want to upgrade to a walk-in or step-in tub, a liner will be required
  • For long-term durability, bathtub refinishing lasts longer when properly done

Carefully inspect your existing tub’s condition, research installers, and consider your budget, style, and usage needs. For many homeowners, refinishing provides an affordable way to refresh a structurally sound but cosmetically dated tub. But tub liners offer greater customization for those wanting to change the look and function of their tub enclosure. Consult with professional installers to determine if your tub is a good candidate for these resurfacing solutions.

FAQs About Bathtub Refinishing vs. Tub Liners

Is bathtub refinishing or a liner better?

Refinishing is generally more affordable and durable long-term but liners allow for more customization and walk-in tubs. The existing tub’s condition often dictates which is preferable.

How long does bathtub refinishing last?

With proper surface preparation and materials, refinishing can last 5-10 years or longer before needing to be redone. Proper cleaning helps extend the finish.

How long does a tub liner last?

On average, tub liners last 10-15 years but they can start showing wear and tear in as little as 5 years. Lower quality liners may separate or leak earlier.

Can you change a tub to a walk-in tub?

Yes, converting to a walk-in tub is only possible with a new tub liner that comes sized and equipped with a watertight door and access features.

Can you put a tub liner over refinishing?

It’s not recommended. New refinishing needs to fully cure first, and the slick surface makes it hard for liners to adhere properly long-term.

Should I reglaze or replace my tub?

If your tub is structurally sound but scratched or stained, reglazing is the more affordable option. If it has significant damage or you want to change styles, replacement may be better.

How do I maintain refinished or liner tub surfaces?

Use non-abrasive cleaners and soft sponges. Avoid harsh chemicals. Touch up any scratches right away. Re-caulking and resealing can help prevent moisture damage long-term.


Upgrading a worn, outdated bathtub can give your bathroom a fresh new look and add value to your home. Both tub refinishing and liners offer affordable options for resurfacing your existing tub vs. full replacement. Consider costs, longevity, customization, and your tub’s current state when weighing these two popular approaches. With some careful planning and an experienced installation company, you can revive your old tub with a like-new surface. Just evaluate each method’s advantages to determine the best tub resurfacing solution for your situation.