There are times when homeowners face a tough choice: repair something in the house or buy a new one. In order to add value to the house come time to sell, new appliances or systems make sense. Often in remodels, homeowners will buy new things. On the other hand, bathtubs present a unique challenge: refinish them or buy new. The challenge is not what homeowners think, though. Definite health concerns stem from bathtub reglazing that makes a new bathtub much more attractive. Health issues can be and often is the result of refinishing a bathtub if the homeowner does it himself or if the contractor is not properly safety-conscious. We don’t mean to frighten you, but homeowners need to know this most compelling reason not to refinish a bathtub.
THE PHYSICAL AND THE FINANCIAL
Ripping out a bathtub for replacement with a new one is undoubtedly messy and noisy. The plumbing will be disconnected for the rip-out and reconnected for the replacement. The woodwork, trim and possibly damaged subflooring will be torn up and replaced with the new tub. Dust, wood chips, tools and random things will be lying around ready cause a problem. The cost of a new tub varies with features selected and the labor costs, running more expensive than reglazing. Alternatively, the reglazing of an existing tub will cause just as much clutter and chaos. It will only cost hundreds of dollars, but could have one major side effect that will cost more money than the refinish did.
As you may or may not know, existing tubs need to have the finish removed before reglazing can begin. This involves using chemicals to strip the paint and finish off. The chemical used most is methylene chloride, a chlorinated solvent used in paint removal and degreasing among other industrial uses. Also called dichloromethane, it has a sweet smell and is heavier than air. Workers not properly suited up with a respirator who breathe in the fumes and get it into their skin run the risk of health issues from exposure. When the CDC gets involved, you know it’s bad for you. In a 2013 blog, they report that “14 workers since 2000 have died from exposure to methylene chloride”.
The CDC blog goes on to say that “When methylene chloride enters the human body, it affects brain function, such as concentration. At high enough levels, it can stop breathing. Methylene chloride exposure may cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, a “feeling of intoxication,” and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Prolonged skin contact may cause irritation and even chemical burns.” The blog also states that heart attack, even in those with no previous predilection to heart trouble can happen as well as loss of consciousness and coma. The chemical has been known to cause cancer in humans.
Another chemical contained in bathtub refinishing products is isocynates. The Centers for Disease Control or CDC has this to say about the chemical: “Exposure to Isocyanates is irritating to the skin, mucous membranes, eyes, and respiratory tract. The most common adverse health outcome associated with isocyanate exposure is asthma due to sensitization; less prevalent are contact dermatitis (both irritant and allergic forms) and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, cancer, lung disease, and respiratory irritation. Contact dermatitis can result in symptoms such as rash, itching, hives, and swelling of the extremities.” The trouble with this ingredient in refinishing products is that off-gassing occurs long after the reglazing process has been completed.
Sanding the tub to remove the old finish is far preferable to chemical usage, but it causes so much dust and noise that professionals prefer something else. It takes longer, too. However, there are refinishing products on the market that don’t contain life-threatening chemicals. In the CDC blog, it is interesting to read the comments, some of which are authored by those in the business. These authors prefer other chemical refinishing products strictly because of the harmful effects of methylene chloride.
All in all, homeowners might find a new bathtub much preferable to the frightening effects of chemical refinishing agents. Yes, it will cost more, but what’s your life worth? That is the stark reality. Consider the benefits of a walk in bathtub complete with hydrotherapy, chromotherapy and aromatherapy designed into the tub by Joyce Factory Direct’s designers. Relax in the colorful aromatic bubbles as you de-stress from the day. These things don’t come with a refinished bathtub.