By Dave Sanders
During a hotel stay, guests expect their bathrooms to have a fresh and modern look. Old, dated or damaged bathtubs, wall surrounds, vanities or toilets reflect poorly on the hotel’s brand. As such, many hotels regularly replace bathroom components to maintain customer satisfaction and earn positive reviews and loyalty in return.
For the hotel industry, however, remodeling bathrooms is not as simple as hiring a general contractor that subcontracts the work to a local crew. While providers of this kind abound, there are many industry specific considerations that are best served by those that already have extensive experience working with other hotel chains.
These concerns include reducing or eliminating construction noise, noxious odors or dirt/dust than can disrupt other guests. The work must leave a lasting impression while, at the same time, be completed within budget and as quickly as possible to return rooms to service.
In addition, there are economies of scale. Because renovation is typically completed in blocks of rooms, installers that regularly service the hospitality industry can often provide better pricing on items—for example acrylic bathtub liners—than those that primarily serve the residential home market.
“There are local companies that I can call right now where an acrylic bathtub liner may cost me $1,000. But I can get one shipped from one of the more established companies for half that price,” said James Rutherford, Chief Engineer at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel, who manages the daily maintenance operations for the National Historic Landmark that opened in 1931.
There are other potential benefits as well. Hotel-specific providers are often already certified to work with existing chains and tend to keep specifications of commonly installed items on file.
Bathtubs – Replace, Refinish, Or Reline
Bathroom remodeling can involve several projects, but the bathtub is always a key component. When it comes to updating a worn-out bathtub, three options are available, all varying in cost, labor, and potential for guest disturbance: replacing, refinishing, and relining.
Replacing an old bathtub is an expensive, labor intensive and time consuming project that often involves demolition and damage to the surrounding walls and floor finishes. Water supply lines and pipes may also need replumbing.
Rutherford explains that for a historic hotel, bathtub replacement is rarely an option. “We wouldn’t consider ripping out the tub unless we were doing a full renovation of the room because our walls have the original tiles. Replacing the walls is just not cost-effective because of the rebuilding cost,” he says.
In addition, replacing a bathtub can take several days and can be extremely noisy and dusty, often leading to complaints from guests.
A second option involves the refinishing, or re-glazing, of the existing bathtub. The process includes sanding the current coating, filling chips with epoxy, followed by coating and polishing. While this option costs less than a full replacement, it can take several days to complete.
Rutherford adds that although re-glazed bathtubs look beautiful, the finish only lasts a few years. Another downside is the obnoxious odors released during application.
“You’ve got to block rooms and take them out of your inventory. Even though you go through all the proper processes and ventilation, the smell lasts for several days,” explains Rutherford.
The third option is to use an acrylic bathtub liner installed on top of the existing bathtub, therefore creating a new bathtub surface that can last for decades. Made from durable materials, acrylic bathtub liners feature high gloss, minimal porosity, and excellent scratch resistance—all of which simplifies cleaning.
Installation is a critical aspect with any acrylic bathtub liner. A few manufacturers have developed their own proprietary and patented installation process to ensure a complete, watertight fit. According to Rutherford, he first used this process to install acrylic bath liners in half of his 560 hotel rooms in 1993. He now orders replacements as the need arises.
Because the acrylic bathtub liner comes pre-fitted, installation takes less than two hours. With no drying time required, the bathtub can be used almost immediately after installation. Of all the options, relining a bathtub is the least disruptive and does not affect overnight room availability.
Wall surrounds are another remodeling option. Manufactured from non-porous and stain resistant DuraBath® SSP, cultured marble and even granite, wall surrounds are available in many color and pattern options. Installed over existing walls, including tile, this is an excellent option for swift installation with little down time or guest interruption.
Long-time owner of the Days Inn in Niles, OH, Dick Patel decided wall surrounds were the ideal solution for a major bathroom remodel he embarked on shortly after acquiring the property.
According to Patel, the entire process was quiet and did not disturb any guests. “There was no noise or breakage during the installation,” says Patel. “Any minor trimming required was done outside, and they were able to put the liners right on top of the existing tiles.”
Dave Sanders, President & CEO of American Bath Remodeling, has over 35 years of expertise in commercial remodeling. American Bath Remodeling is a one-stop commercial bathroom remodeler which includes all manufacturing, installation, and service of bathtub liners, wall surrounds and vanities. The company, founded in 1979, invented the first acrylic bathtub liner—which creates a brand new bathtub right on top an existing one