My friend Lauren moved into her home just a couple of years ago. It was built in the 1940s and still had the original, cast iron bathtub inside. The previous owner had it re-glazed, which gave the tub a refreshed surface, but the finish had begun chipping. Lauren tried to patch the chips on her own with some tub and tile repair she bought at the hardware store, but her repairs did not come out successfully. She was facing a conundrum: What now?

If you encounter a similar quandary, take the time to think about your options.


First, consider the condition of your tub or shower and the bathroom itself. Although the costs of a new tub or shower can be relatively low, the time and labor associated with replacement can be hefty. If you plan to remodel your bathroom anyway, it may make sense. If the tub is the only project, you may want to consider other options.

Refinishing, which is also referred to as re-glazing or resurfacing, involves sanding the tub’s surface, repairing any damage like chips or cracks, and then applying a coating on top. This can be done to tubs made of cast-iron, steel and fiberglass. While the hardware store sells DIY refinishing kits, many professionals warn against using them (and so does Lauren).

When it comes to refinishing, they suggest hiring a professional to do it right the first time. This should save you more money in the long run. Consult a trusted contractor for referrals, and check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to ensure that the company you are hiring has a good reputation.


Another option, and one that worked well for my parents, is relining. This will cost more than refinishing, but the results are likely to be stronger and last longer, too. The company you hire will take photos and measurements of your tub. Then, they will use those measurements to create a liner that goes over your existing tub and surround. This will give you the look and feel of a brand new tub.

The biggest risk with liners is that water can travel between the liner and the original tub. If it does, mold and mildew can develop, and the only solution will be an entire tub replacement. Make sure you hire a reputable company. Check with trusted friends and family for referrals, and double check with the BBB. When hiring, ask about warranties and make sure the manufacturer can make a mold of your tub model.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email