When your bathtub becomes dingy and chipped, it makes your bathroom look old and terrible. A nice new bathtub and shower enclosure would be terrific, wouldn't it? But the cost of replacing the tub and enclosure could be a real turn-off, making you look for alternatives that would make the tub look like new without making your household budget take a dive. Reglazing is one of those alternatives; when you have your tub and tile reglazed, you can cover up minor imperfections and make the fixture look clean and new. There is a line, though, between a bad-looking tub and a tub that's in bad shape, which would require replacement instead.
When Damage Is All Surface-Level and Minor
If the damage or dinginess that you want to cover up is only minor, then reglazing is a great way to make the damage look like it never existed. The reglazing covers minor scratches, stains, and shallow chips, creating a smooth surface. Tubs that are eligible for reglazing should not have mold; surface mildew that you can clean off is one thing, but if the caulking around the tub has a recurring mildew problem that happens in the same spots, you'll have to replace the caulking and get rid of the mildew spores before reglazing.
Cracks Are a Bad Sign
More severe damage is not a good candidate for reglazing, especially if there are cracks. A surface crack in the existing glazing on the tub is one thing, but a crack that actually goes into the tub's structure is not. That's a structural defect that needs to be replaced, and covering it with glaze won't do any good. The crack will likely widen, tearing the new glaze layer over time too. Any damage that can't be filled in quickly or that goes through the tub is a sign that you need to replace the fixture instead of reglazing.
How Much You'd Have to Fix First Might Influence Your Decision
If the tub doesn't have structural damage but does have really bad cosmetic issues on it and all around it—think cracked tiles on the wall, caulking that needs to be replaced completely, rusty drain spouts, and so on—you'd have to do a lot of repairs before having the reglazing done. The money involved in that could rival the cost of a new tub. Before you decide to go with replacement, though, speak with a tub reglazing company to find out exactly what they'd need you to do to get the tub ready for reglazing. It might not be as much as you'd feared, allowing you to have the tub reglazed soon.