Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bathtubs... to replace or not replace

I've been thinking a lot about bathtubs lately.
Having a baby, I need a good bathtub. The one in my soon-to-be house has cracked porcelain down the middle and around the drain. This is the perfect environment for bacteria to collect. No good for brand new baby bums.

So... here are my options:
1) Bath fitting cover (I won't name names, but you know what I mean)
2) Re-glazing, aka re-surfacing
3) Try to find a used tub in good condition
4) Buy a new tub

My concerns are indoor air quality, mold control, toxins, and keeping as much stuff out of a landfill as possible.. oh yeah and my SANITY!

I've spent more than 10 hours searching reviews, reading responses to questions posted on Yahoo Answers and talking to my real estate friends. Here is what I found...

1) Bath fitting costs on average $2,500.
I gutted the bathroom in my last property down to the studs by myself. I hung cement backerboard, built a frame for a new whirlpool tub, installed the tub and tiled the whole thing for less than $1,000 (plus $600 for plumber and electrician, but that was because I went all crazy with a new electric line, roman tub filler and tub spray).
Too much money!!!
I read a bunch of reviews that complained that mold was prolific behind the new tub fitting.

2) Re-glazing - $400 for the tub, $1,000 for the tub and all the tile in the bathroom.
The price didn't scare me too much. The glaze can also cover the caulk and grout, sealing it and making it easy to keep the tub clean.
OK, now for the bad news. Re-glazing uses a caustic chemical abrasive and automobile or airplane paint. Reviews said that the fumes were so bad that people had to stay in a hotel for days after the process. More common were reviews that said the new glaze started to peel a few weeks after the process. There are bubbles, streaks, discoloration, etc. It seems like this is something home sellers do just before listing their homes for sale. NOT a long term solution.

I searched and searched for a glazing procedure that was non-toxic and had no VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds). I found some companies in California, but nothing here in the east.
I really wanted to go this way because it would keep a great cast iron tub out of the landfill, but it looks like I would have to rip out the tub shortly after this treatment and that we would inhale some seriously nasty fumes.
Bottom line is that the porcelain on a cast iron tub is baked on in a high temperature kiln. You just can't get the same level of coating with a spray kit.

3) Try to find a used tub in good condition.
I am going to try this. There is a ReStore near me (a thrift store of used home improvement items that benefits Habitat for Humanity).
The main issue I have here is that I need to find a tub with the same dimensions as my current tub so I don't have to rip out tile and/or walls. Augh.
I really hope that works!

4) Buy a new tub.
I might have to go this way, but donate the old tub to ReStore if they will take it (or give it away on
The local big box home improvement stores do carry the same sized tubs that would slide right into the space where the current tub resides.

As green as I want to be, I won't let my daughter suffer any ill effects from mold or toxic fumes. I simply will not put her at risk if I can avoid it.

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