Depending on the material that your bathtub is made of, you might have the option to refinish it rather than replace it. If your bathtub is made of porcelain, cast iron, or fiberglass, it can be refinished. The cost-effectiveness of refinishing versus replacing your tub depends on the cost of tub removal, dumping, and the cost of the new tub itself, as well as installation. This is especially true for "period tubs", like old claw-foot tubs. For example, The Fine FInish Shop, an expert painting company near Boston, lists $349 as their standard price for refinishing a bathtub, whereas vintage-style claw-foot tubs are generally listed in the high $900's to the thousands.
The process of refinishing a bathtub is a lot like auto-body work. Uneven or damaged surfaces are etched, then primed, then spray painted with a special enamel. Sometimes the entire tub needs to be refinished, and sometimes just a portion of the tub needs to be refinished. It costs less to refinish just a portion of the bathtub. In some cases, the bathtub refinishing professional only needs to clean the tub in order to restore it to its former glory.
Professional refinishing: The best option for refinishing your bathtub is to hire a professional to refinish it. As I said, refinishing a tub is a lot like auto-body work. The margin for error is high, and the chemicals used in the process must be properly contained and ventilated. Refinishing your bathtub is not an unskilled, easy DIY job. Considering that it really doesn't cost that much (compared to replacing the bathtub), hiring skilled refinishing company who specializes in this kind of work could cost you less in time and money in the long run than doing it yourself.
DIY Tub and Tile Refinishing: If you must, and I don't recommend it, DIY tub and tile refinishing kits exist, and can be found at your local home improvement store. Let the buyer beware: Though these kits can offer quick aesthetic improvements, in the long run their users have some pretty serious complaints, including peeling and wearing off of the finish.
Let's wrap this up: The bottom line with bathtub refinishing is it is generally more cost efficient to have a contractor refinish your bath tub than to replace the tub or to do it yourself.
Chaya Kurtz writes for Networx.com.