Q: I love open-feeling, clean, all-white bathrooms and want to create one in my house. In the main bathroom of my house, the sink and toilet are white, but the fiberglass tub/shower is an ugly brown color from the 1970s. Companies that put new tub and shower panels over existing ones won’t cover fiberglass, and quotes for replacing the entire tub/shower with an acrylic one are so expensive. It also seems like a waste to tear out and throw away that much fiberglass. What can I do?
A: It used to be freshening up an existing bathroom with new fixtures and paint was a reasonable expense for an all-new look! These days, though, it seems whenever you get someone to do something in your home, it costs a lot of money. In your case, replacing a tub/shower combo involves not just a plumber but a contractor as well. A plumber will have nothing to do with tearing out a tub, and won’t touch drywall, a paintbrush, or anything that isn’t a water pipe or is connected to one. And a contractor won’t touch a pipe. So that’s two tradespeople, plus all the appropriate permits, and coordination of those schedules along with your own.
Any time you open up a wall such as behind a tub, you don’t know what you’ll find. Have the area checked out thoroughly by some contractors and plumbers; it will be worthwhile to repair them now before they escalate. Fiberglass is a durable material that can be easily repaired, so if your tub and shower are in good shape, consider having it refinished. Search online for “tub refinishers” and see what comes up. Ask around your neighborhood, social circles or at places that sell used or vintage architectural house parts for references, too.
Don’t DIY this yourself, however. Professional refinishers have all the tools to protect themselves and your home from dust and chemicals. They’ll fill in any holes or small chips as needed, such as from a glass shower door or grab bar in an odd spot. White is probably their most popular color.
Reputable businesses should offer a warranty for both residential and commercial use. Just make sure you know exactly what cleaning products you can and cannot use. Not only will abrasive cleansers scratch the finish, eventually it may peel and then it will look even worse than when you started.
If refinishing is what you decide to do, tell your plumber what your plan is. He or she will have helpful ideas on what needs to be done before and after the refinishers’ work. Good luck and let me know how it goes!