The bathroom is as important as any other room in your house and let’s be honest, we can all agree that there is nothing quite like a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long day. However, in order to enjoy it, you need a clean bathtub you actually want to relax in. 

If your tub has seen better days, you might be considering buying a new one. But what if you don’t have the budget to replace it? Whether you’re dealing with minor rust spots or a bath that’s lost its shine, bathtub refinishing is an alternative that can easily fit your budget. It’s also a good way to recycle your old bath and help save the environment . In this article, we break down everything you should know about bathtub refinishing, one of the best alternatives to tub replacement. 


What is bath refinishing?

Bath refinishing, also known as bathtub reglazing, is the process of making an old bathtub look new without actually replacing it. It’s a multi-step process that involves cleaning the tub thoroughly and sanding it to remove soap scum and other particles. It also involves repairing cracks, worn areas or any imperfection that could affect the quality and durability of the final refinished coat.

Bath refinishing is considered the best alternative to tub replacement for people who want to remodel their bathroom without spending a fortune. When properly done with quality materials by a professional refinisher or by you, the result will be a durable tub with a like-new finish. 


How to refinish a bathtub

Although most people think it is best left to a trained contractor, it is also possible to refinish your bathtub yourself. You can find DIY bathtub refinishing kits available at many home improvement stores. However, not all DIY resurfacing kits are created equal. 

There are many products that provide mediocre results and that are less durable, which is a big reason why many homeowners search for tub reglazing professionals. Below is the process many professional refinishers follow using traditional spray methods.


1. Bathtub surface preparation and cleaning

This is probably the most important step in the process. The tub needs to be given a thorough cleaning to remove years of oil, soap scum, silicone and mineral deposits. Pay special attention to the drain. It’s important to clean the surface properly to maximize the durability and bond of your new finish. After rinsing the tub, re-inspect the tub and if you still see oil, soap or silicone then repeat the process.


2. Etch Surface

Etching creates a surface that coatings will adhere to. Etching solutions contain acid so don’t forget to use safety glasses, gloves and a mask. Use a sponge or paint brush to apply the etching solution to the entire surface of the bath. Leave the etch solution on the tub between 15 – 20 minutes. Then rinse the tub with warm water. 


3. Sand Surface

Take an 80 grit waterproof sandpaper and sand the entire tub while it’s still wet. This will help to scuff up the surface and to remove any residue from the etch solution. Thoroughly re-rinse with warm water. Dry the tub and surrounding area with paper towels and a hair dryer. Make sure it is completely dry before moving on to the next step.


4. Fixed any chips or cracks

Your bathtub may be chipped, cracked, pitted, rusted or even burned so it’s important to repair any damage. Use a putty knife or metal spatula and apply a polyester filler over the chips and any other defects in the tub. Let it dry for a few minutes and then gently sand off the excess and clean the area. Repeat if necessary on other areas that need repair. If you skip this step then you’ll see imperfections in the finish where there was damage on the surface.


5. Protect Bathroom 

If you’re spraying the paint on your bath there will be overspray. You don’t want any of this on your walls, floors or fixtures. Start by masking and covering the surrounding walls, floor, sink, toilet and windows. You can put rags and blankets on cabinets and plumbing fixtures. There are other kits where you don’t have to spray the product on so you won’t need to protect the whole bathroom just the surrounding areas of the bath.


6. Primer 

Before painting the tub a primer needs to be applied. This will help the new paint to bond to the surface of the bath. Failure to apply the primer will cause the bath paint to peel or fail prematurely. Most professional reglazers apply a primer and there are some DIY Kits that require this. But there are also some kits where this is not required. 


7. Prepare the paint

Most Professional resurfacing companies spray your bath with a spray gun, a compressor and paint that is specially formulated. It is similar to paint for automobiles. This paint is usually purchased through a specialty paint company. Proper mixture ratios are prepared and then put into a spray gun.

  • Side note: Don’t forget your safety gear (gloves, mask and eye protection)! The smell is very strong.


8. Apply the paint

Begin applying the paint to the sides of the tub. Alternate between vertical and horizontal movements to prevent drips and runs. Then, you can move on to the tub deck and the bottom of the tub.Let it dry for 10 to 15 minutes and then apply a second coat. Make sure to keep the bathroom door closed.

Let the bathtub dry for 48 hours. You can then reinstall the faucet and hardware, caulk the bathtub and let it sit overnight before you start using it again. 


Why refinish a bathtub ?

Refinishing may be the most practical method to re-enamel a tub. Besides, the total cost of a new tub isn’t merely the purchase price. In order to fully grasp the total cost of a tub replacement, you will have to add the cost of a plumber and the replacement of the tile walls and floor, which is necessary and considered the most expensive part. Bathtub refinishing is an excellent alternative because it can help you save up to 80% when considering the cost of a tub replacement.

Another important reason to refinish your bathtub is to extend the lifespan of your tub. A refinished bath can last years, probably beyond your expectations. A properly done tub reglazing can last 10 to 20 years. A professional team can assure you long lasting results and will give you tips on how to maintain it that way.


How long does a bathtub refinishing last?

How long a glaze will last on your bathtub depends on factors such as whether you did the refinishing yourself or with professional help, and how you maintain and clean the tub. Regular care in terms of weekly cleaning and maintenance is required to keep moisture and unwanted agents such as mold from deteriorating your finish and potentially damaging your bathtub. With the proper care, reglazing will last between 10 to 15 years. Otherwise, it won’t last longer than 3 to 4 years. Remember to never use bath mats, abrasive cleaners, or scrubbing pads when cleaning your bathtub. They will aggressively damage your finish. 


How long does it take to refinish a bathtub?

If the refinishing is done in a professional way, a standard size bathtub takes about 3 to 5 hours to refinish. The tub is generally ready for use within 48 hours, or sooner with special curing procedures. If you did the refinishing yourself, it can take you up to 5 hours to finish it. And your tub can be used again after  48 hours.


Can you reglaze a tub twice?

You can, of course, refinish your bathtub again, but there’s a limitation to that. The underlying coat of refinishing material is not the best surface for a new coat of finish. In order to have great results, the bathtub surfaces will need to be even more carefully prepared. For best results the old paint should be completely stripped off before cleaning and etching the bath. You will have to make sure that any chips, dings or nicks need to be fixed before reglazing it again. 

Bathtub refinishing is preferably done once for best results, twice maximum if necessary. Such repeated refinishing applications cannot go on forever because it’s a temporary fix. Plus, you should know that there’s a probability that the second coating will have a shorter lifespan than the first one.


Bathtub liners or refinishing?

A bathtub liner is basically a mold of your bathtub, which is made out of acrylic or plastic PCV that slips inside the old tub to make it seem like new. Bathtub liners are installed on top of the tub, then fixed using a combination of two-sided tape, silicone acrylic and specialty glue. Unlike refinishing, which is generally based on a spray coating of epoxy, a liner is a solid unit that is molded to the precise contours of a tub and installed by a professional team. 

An acrylic bathtub liner installation average can cost over $1500 and that is without adding wall surround sheets or soap dishes. So if you’re remodeling your bathroom, using tub liners will cost you considerably more money than having the tub refinished. 

If a bath liner installation fails then you may have some water infiltration that can accumulate between the tub and the liner. This may cause a great amount of mold. Your only options will be to remove the liner and try to refinish it. You will have to remove any adhesives which could get messy. Or remove the liner and the tub completely.

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The average cost of bathtub refinishing 

Refinishing a bathtub costs around $ 550 on average, with a typical range of $ 330 to $600. It includes $ 30 to $ 150 in materials and $ 200 to $ 500 in labor. The size and material of the tub can affect the total cost.

A cast iron tub costs between $ 350 to $ 600 and a porcelain tub costs $ 470 on average. A clawfoot tub on the other hand can cost more than the other tubs because you will need to refinish the outside as well as the inside of the tub. In this case, you’ll pay closer to $ 1,200. However, if we compare the cost of replacing a tub versus refinishing it, refinishing is far less expensive. The estimated total cost of a tub replacement or removal can go up to $ 3,000 or more.


When is bathtub refinishing worth it?

You decide if a bathtub refinishing is worth it or not based on the state of your tub. If your existing bathtub is already in a pretty good shape but is covered in minor stains, scratches or other surface imperfections, reglazing it is a good option. It is also considered a good choice for certain bathtubs like clawfoot tubs. Homeowners who own antique clawfoot tubs or old sinks made from heavy cast iron, choose refinishing for their bathtubs.

Refinishing is usually well suited to old tubs with more character and higher quality materials. But all metal and cast iron baths are perfect candidates too. Acrylic bathtubs can also be reglazed, as long as they don’t have any significant issues. But if your tub is very old, leaking, or full of mold, reglazing won’t be the ideal solution for you.


Want to refinish your bathtub? 

Durabath specializes in shower pan/bathtub reglazing, fiberglass and acrylic bathtub repairs, shower pan repair and reinforcement, clawfoot bathtub restoration and anti-slip. Our product is a unique epoxy-based paint that is eco-Friendly, simple to apply (no spraying), durable (expected durability of 20 years), odourless and doesn’t peel. Learn more by reading our case studies