Ask the Architect

Fixing a damaged tub

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Q. We noticed a chip in our porcelain bathtub, made by the tile guy when our bathroom was renovated about three months ago. The tile company sent someone to repair it, because we didn’t want to replace it, which costs much more. We had kept the old tub, which was fine, so we didn’t have to replace the plumbing. We aren’t satisfied with the repair because, even though the color matches, the texture is slightly different, and we still notice it. Guests may not say anything, but we see it and don’t like it. What would you do?

A. We had just such a problem when the guy who caused the chip dropped a power tool while putting in a towel bar. He didn’t want to admit it at first, but then finally agreed to “fix” it, because otherwise everything would have needed to come out, again, and be completely redone, from the tub to the tile to the plumbing. The tile was never going to be a perfect match, either. So the same guy who dropped the tool dabbed a matching primer on the spot, waited until it cured, buffed it out just like the instructions said, then brushed on the final coat with a little eye-dropper brush.
It looked like a repair, and was very obvious and disappointing. After much wasted discussion and time, when the guy tried his best to convince us “nobody would see it, it was hardly noticeable,” we decided to call a bathtub refitting company. The estimate wasn’t bad and the tile company agreed to pay for the repair. I was impressed at how much simpler the process was than I anticipated. I had doubts that the tub wouldn’t look as substantial as the porcelain tub finish and wouldn’t last.
Putting in a bathtub can affect the waterproofing of the bathroom if it isn’t installed with redundant materials to prevent water from getting into the walls. Typically, the lipped edges of the back of a wall-to-wall tub go up against the surrounding waterproofed walls before the tile is installed, so the tile overlaps the raised tub edge. This prevents water from flowing against gravity into the wall, especially after the sealant is installed. With the original tub still in place, the junction of the tub and tile isn’t disturbed, and the new tub covering joins at the tiled wall edge and is then resealed to actually reinforce the original waterproofing.
The bathtub replacement took one trip to thoroughly measure and a second trip to install. Because the new tub is an exact match with the shape of the original one, there are no air pockets between the old and new tub. The tub fixture looks perfect, and was not only an exact fit, but has been there for eight years and still looks brand new.

That’s what should be done. Don’t waste time, just recover the tub and move on. Good luck.

© 2021 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.

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