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Ed the plumber

Q: I want to change the look of my bathroom by putting in a new “tub surround.” I want to avoid ripping out the ceramic tile if possible. Are there special panels that I can glue or attach to my present tile wall?
— Ken, Illinois

A: When it comes to upgrading and/or replacing tub/shower-area components, I recommend working with a licensed and insured contractor who can help suggest the best option.

To help give you a little guidance, here are some things to consider:

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• If your tile surround walls are in very good shape, I’ve seen refinishing contractors who can prep and re-coat the tile walls with epoxy-type paints to change the color and finish.

• You can also have the present tile surround walls professionally lined and sealed with custom-cut waterproof panels, as long as the wall construction is sound.

• This may be the most expensive option, but it does give you a lot of choices. Completely gut the tub/shower area and start fresh. Now you can upgrade the plumbing and install a new multipiece tub-shower unit for a totally fresh look. You can even use a walk-in shower base instead of a tub to create a large comfortable shower stall complete with a seat.

Master plumber Ed Del Grande is known internationally as the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call,” the host of TV and Internet shows, and a LEED green associate. Visit or email Always consult local contractors and codes. Sorry no personal replies.

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