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Home Remodeling & Maintenance

Update Your Bathroom

Clean up the look of your bathroom with these easy fixes.

If you have an older home, chances are you have at least one bathroom with a tub or tile work in an outdated color or that’s chipped, stained, or dull and hard to clean. Replacing a tub requires small-scale demolition and can cost several thousand dollars. A cheaper alternative is to have it refinished.[Editor’s Note: For more low-cost bathroom projects, view our 6 Ways to Update Your Bathroom on the Cheap slideshow.]

Expect to pay $350 to $500 to refinish a tub and another $200 or so if a tile surround is included (fiberglass shower stalls and countertops can be refinished, too). You’ll probably get the best price on white, off-white and beige finishes, but other colors and even stone-like finishes are available as well.

The multistep process takes several hours. Cleaning and preparing the surface is key because the new finish will accentuate any irregularities, such as dust or dings. If contractors use a solution of hydrofluoric acid to remove the tub’s old porcelain glaze, they must neutralize it (with baking soda) before flushing it down the drain to keep from damaging your plumbing. Avoid epoxy coatings, which tend to yellow over time, and look for a two-part acrylic urethane, which retains color well. Multiple coats (usually four) are best. Because a bath mat can harm the surface of the refinished tub, ask about adding a nonslip surface on the bottom.

Be prepared for a stinky process -- and make sure contractors provide adequate ventilation and fans. With normal wear and tear (but no abrasive or bleach-containing cleaners), the new finish should last up to 20 years. Companies typically offer a five-year warranty. To find a refinisher, look in the Yellow Pages under “Bathtub and Sink Repairs and Refinishing” or check Angie’s List (membership fees vary by location; $15 sign-up fee and $8.95 a month for membership in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area).