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Tub Turnover: Replacement vs. Repair

Home ownership is not for the faint hearted. There's always something that needs scraping, nailing, painting, etc. Take the tub. This seemingly simple fixture can be a big deal to replace, says Better Homes and Gardens--such a big deal that you may want to consider refinishing or relining your existing tub instead. The tub tear-out process is basically a mini bath remodel involving floors, plumbing lines, and walls. Whatever option you choose, make sure you're comfortable with it. It's too much work to do all over again.

For the tub with scrapes and bruises, relining or refinishing gives you a new look. Home improvement companies specialize in tub makeovers. You can apply polyurethane coating for a nice, hard, high-gloss surface. Or install an acrylic liner molded exactly to size with the style you want.

If it's a brand new tub that you want, your first step is choosing a material and price range. The least expensive is enameled steel, at around $150. Unfortunately, it's also more prone to chipping and conducts heat quickly so your hot bath doesn't stay hot as long compared to other materials. Plastic, i.e., fiberglass or acrylic, is a flexible material that insulates well, lasts long, and can be molded into the shape or design of your choice: price tag about $250. Just watch out for abrasive cleaners. Cast polymer costs a little more than acrylic but offers marble, granite, onyx and other attractive faux finishes. It's less durable, however, and prone to cracking over time. Look for brands certified by the Cultured Marble Institute or the Institute of Associated Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.

Cast iron and composite materials are at the upper end of the price range. Cast iron coated with enamel insulates well. Iron tubs are strong, durable and heavy to the tune of 350-500 pounds. Finally, new composites are now available that combine the best traits of heavy-gauge steel, porcelain enamel and resins. You'll pay about $350 for a cast iron or composite tub.