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Tub Tinkering Tips to Enhance the Bathroom

Shower space, the final frontier... homeowners are constantly exploring new ways to enhance the bath. It's more than just plumbing; it's a quest to design the most attractive and efficient space. But before you start tearing out your tub or shower, you'll need to consider both the big picture and the little details. Should you buy and install a new tub or refinish the existing tub? What easy upgrades are available to make the shower user-friendly? Tub Replacement vs. Repair
First, assess the state of your tub. Is it basically in good health, except for minor scrapes or bruises? If so, you may want to consider relining or refinishing your existing tub instead of replacing it with a new one. Why? To reduce the expense of buying a new tub and the hassle of tearing out the old tub. The tub tear-out process is not for the faint-hearted do-it-yourselfer. It involves a certain amount of work to floors, plumbing lines and walls. To enhance your existing tub, check out remodeling companies that specialize in tub renovation. Polyurethane coating provides a nice, hard, high-gloss surface, or an acrylic liner can be molded to fit the contour of your old tub.

On the other hand, if you simply must buy a new tub, decide how much you are willing to spend, which depends on the material you choose. Enameled steel is the cheapest at around $150 but it's also the least durable. At around $250, fiberglass and acrylic are more durable, flexible materials that insulate well and can be molded into the design of your choice. (Don't use abrasive cleaners.) Although it's more prone to cracking over time, cast polymer offers fancier finishes such as marble or granite. At the high end, composites are now available that offer the best attributes of heavy-gauge steel, porcelain enamel, and resins, price tag about $350.

Tub Enclosure
Nothing's worse than an outmoded tub enclosure, the kind with two large panels that slide back and forth. Getting into the tub involves clambering through the 30-inch opening--only half the tub is open or accessible. You need all the space you can get, especially if you have limited mobility. Not only that, the horizontal rails that the panels slide on collect muck and are tough to clean. One possible solution is a new tub enclosure like the Sterling FreeStyle enclosure. It has no choke points because it has no horizontal rails. In fact, it has three ways to open. Four narrow glass-panels slide or pivot in different directions, independently, according to your whim. The two center panels can be opened and closed, or doubled up so they swing out into the room making the whole tub accessible.

Soap Dish
Another poor design idea is the inconvenient soap dish located low on the wall, near the tub. Ostensibly, the lower location is designed to let you reach the soap while using the tub. But that's a back-bending location for the shower. The more paranoid theory is that tub designers are conspiring with soap manufacturers to place the soap in the direct line of fire from the shower, so it washes away and you go out and buy more soap. Whatever your theory, installing a new soap dish solves the problem. If your shower stall is acrylic or fiberglass, simply buy an accessory soap dish that glues to the wall. If it's ceramic, you'll need to buy and install a porcelain soap dish. Buy a smaller dish, and you won't have to punch out as much tile to make room for the dish.

Sources used to create this article include Today's Homeowner magazine.

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