Which is best for your Bathroom Remodel: a Tub Refitting or Tile Replacement?

If you’re contemplating a bathroom makeover, it’s tempting to consider a tub refitting. However, when it comes to upgrading your shower area, you may instead want to consider your tile options. It may be difficult to know which one is right for you, your home, and your budget? Here, we break down the pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision.  Spoiler alert, we think tile is the way to go.

bath fitter vs tile

What is a Bath Liner / Refitting?:

Tub refitting of showers and bathtubs are usually installed in one day and are crafted to fit over an existing tub and/or shower walls.

What You Should Know About Tub Refitting / Liners:

Material:

Typically made from acrylic or PVC, these liners are tight-fitting “shells” that fit over an existing bathtub and/or shower area.

Customization:

Limited to the shape and size of your existing tub/shower; it doesn’t offer much flexibility in terms of design. However, there is an option to create a tub-to-shower transformation.

Installation:

One of the primary advantages of tub refitting is the rapid installation time. Some jobs can be completed within a day, which minimizes disruption for homeowners.

Cost:

Upfront costs are usually between $1,500 and $3,000. When all things are considered (see more below), tub refittings are only slightly more budget-friendly than ceramic tile replacement.

Lifespan:

Approximately 10 to 20 years, but this can be influenced by the quality of installation and ongoing maintenance. It can also be influenced by the need to perform work on walls / pipes that were covered during installation.

Maintenance:

Tub refittings are usually easy to clean, however, will need maintenance and upkeep to ensure they stay looking good.

The Cons of Tub Refitters:

A primary problem with tub refitting liners is that they may cover up existing problems. It’s possible that you could be covering up plumbing issues hiding underneath your tub or behind your shower walls. Installing a cover over such significant issues will make them impossible to detect until they demand your attention with burst pipes, mold, or worse. 

When those issues do surface, the tub refitting will have to be torn out and discarded and repair work will have to be performed.  In that case, the money spent on the tub refitting is wasted. And, the cost of the repair work will be expensive.

Functional Not Luxurious:

They serve the basic purpose of updating a shower or bathtub without any fuss, meeting the needs of those who prioritize functionality over aesthetics.

Limited Aesthetic Appeal:

Tub refittings typically come in standardized designs and colors. Unlike ceramic tiles, which offer virtually limitless customization, the aesthetic possibilities with tub refittings are considerably limited. The cookie-cutter design language of most tub refitting leaves little room for individual preferences or unique style. This can be seen as a significant drawback.

Inexpensive Material Perception:

While advancements have been made in the quality of acrylic and plastic materials used in tub refittings, they still lack the high-end feel of natural materials like ceramic, porcelain, or stone. For clients who appreciate the finer things, the synthetic makeup of most tub refittings might not sit well, especially when compared to natural, textured materials like ceramic or stone.

Short-Term Durability:

While tub refittings are designed to be durable, they are more susceptible to scratches and superficial damage than ceramic tiles, potentially leading to a more frequent need for replacement.

Lack of Perceived Value:

Due to their lower cost and speedy installation, tub refittings may inadvertently signal a lack of investment in a property, which could be a turnoff for potential homebuyers or guests.

Temporary Fix:

For those considering the long-term benefits and resale value of a property, tub refittings might come off as a temporary fix rather than a meaningful upgrade.

Water Leaks May Happen: 

Over time, small cracks in the caulking can be large enough for water to seep between the tub and liner. When this occurs, mold can form and so can foul odors.

Not for Every Tub: 

Free standing, acrylic, and fiberglass tubs are not compatible with a typical tub refitting.

Ceramic Tile for Your Bath / Shower Area

Certainly our favorite, we encourage homeowners to consider tiling their bath / shower instead of a tub refitting.  Why? Because the options are virtually limitless when it comes to colors, sizes, and designs. With minimal and easy care after a proper installation, ceramic tiles can last a lifetime. What’s more, high-quality tile work can increase the resale value of your home.

bath fitter vs tile

You may expect that the materials and labor for ceramic tile are considerably more expensive than the alternative tub refitting. However, many homeowners are pleasantly surprised to discover that having a licensed bathroom contractor like American Home Concepts perform tile work isn’t nearly as expensive as they thought it would be. Installation is a bit more detailed, and therefore can take several days or a week to install.

Pros of Tile vs a Tub Refitting

There are several advantages to installing tile in your bath/shower area. 

Aesthetic Excellence:

Ceramic tiles offer a level of aesthetic versatility that is unparalleled. With choices ranging from minimalist subway tiles to intricate mosaics, the design possibilities are endless.

Moisture Resistance: 

Ceramic tiles have a nonporous texture that can withstand the harshest of wet environments after they are sealed. Well-maintained tile tubs and showers can last for a lifetime.

Material Quality:

Ceramic is a durable material that resists moisture and stands up to high levels of wear and tear. For an even more luxurious option, consider porcelain tiles, which are denser and more water-resistant than regular ceramic tiles.

Personalization:

The opportunity to create unique, eye-catching patterns using tiles of different shapes and colors allows homeowners to imprint their personal style onto the space.

bathroom remodeling

Eco-Friendly:

High-quality ceramic tiles can be made from natural materials, offering an eco-friendly option for the sustainably minded consumer.  Tile may even be healthier.  Synthetic materials like acrylic or PVC expose humans to something called off-gassing. During off-gassing, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pollute your indoor air over time. That means that the heat and humidity of your bath or shower could be causing toxic fumes to be released. There’s no need to worry about off-gassing with ceramic and stone tiles. These are all-natural, non-synthetic materials that do not release toxic fumes.

Value Addition:

A well-executed ceramic tile job not only transforms the aesthetics of your bathroom but can also add substantial resale value to your property.

Expert Tips for an Eye-Catching Ceramic Tile Shower

Opt for Larger Tiles: Bigger tiles mean fewer grout lines, making the space appear larger and more seamless.

bathroom remodeling Philadelphia

Accent with Niche Installations: Incorporate built-in niches for both functionality and aesthetic appeal. Lining them with a contrasting or complementary tile can add a designer touch.

Quality over Quantity: It’s worth investing in a few high-end tiles to serve as accents or focal points, rather than cutting corners to fit a budget.

Consult a Professional: For an optimal high-end outcome, consulting with professionals like American Home Concepts who specialize in bathroom renovations can make a world of difference in the final product.  Best of all, bath and shower tiles can be integrated into the full redesign of your bathroom. If you’re updating your tub as part of a larger bathroom renovation, it is a perfect time to match your vanity backsplash with your bathtub tiling. Performing all the work at the same time will save money compared to smaller projects one at a time.

Conclusion About Tub Refitting vs Tile:

Your choice between tub refittings and ceramic tile replacement will depend on a few factors, including your budget, desired level of customization, and the time you can allocate for the project. Each option has its merits and drawbacks. We believe, however, for long-term satisfaction in your project, tile is the way to go.

Do you have questions or would you like to schedule your free in-home estimate? Reach us by phone at 610-667-7775 or contact us here.

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