How to Refinish a Bathtub

How to Refinish a Bathtub
Try refinishing instead of replacing your outdated tub.

If you want to avoid the hassle of replacing your tub, learning how to refinish a bathtub may be the answer to eliminating your tub's out-of-date colors, stains, scratches and chips.

Adding Life to Your Tub

Today's high-tech refinishing products make it possible to restore or change the color of:

  • Porcelain bathtubs
  • Fiberglass bathtubs
  • Ceramic bathtubs
  • Acrylic bathtubs

Learning how to refinish a bathtub not only makes your tub look new, but it can add 15 or 20 years to the usefulness of your tub. This same process can be used to refinish your old sink as well and is less expensive than replacing bathroom fixtures while giving your bathroom an updated, fresh look. However, it is not recommended to refinish heavily rusted or pitted tubs.

Refinishing a Bathtub

Before you start your refinishing project remove the caulk from around the tub and be sure to thoroughly clean, rinse and dry the surface to be refinished. It's a good idea to remove the drain outlet and take extra measures to clean edges where the tub meets the wall and the areas around faucets, outlets and overflow areas. The bonding agent adheres better to a clean surface.

Preparing the Surface

Before you apply the bonding agent, it's important to create a rough texture to help the refinishing product bond with the tub's surface. Sanding the tub's surface takes a lot of elbow grease, so many people use a palm sander for the project. Choose a 120 grit waterproof abrasive paper for the job. Again, be sure to give attention to the edges and areas around the faucets, too. When you remove the drain outlet, clean and sand the area well.

If your tub shows signs of rust, you'll want to not only sand this area, but treat it with a rust neutralizer. Fill in chips, scratches and similar damage with an epoxy or polyester filler product. Read the instructions on the product you choose to use to see how long it takes to cure. When the filler is dried, rinse the tub thoroughly once again to remove dusty residue and dry.

Preparing the Area

Before you start spraying, you'll want to be sure to cover the surrounding areas to protect from overspray. This can be as simple as taping plastic tarps or paper over surfaces you don't want to paint. Use masking tape to mask the edges against walls and around the overflow and faucets.

Bonding Agents

When refinishing porcelain tubs, many times it is necessary to apply a bonding agent before you paint the tub's surface. Apply this agent with a spray bottle, cheesecloth or a paper towel and let it dry for about 5 minutes. Some do-it-yourself kits will require mixing the bonding agent with the paint. Be sure to read instructions carefully before you begin and check for warnings that work be performed in a well-ventilated area.

Bathtub Paint

When refinishing your tub, use a high-performance, acrylic-polymer coating known as EP-Acrylic. This product features the advantages of urethanes, but because it doesn't contain isocyanates, it is safer for applicators and customers and it produces a strong, durable finish. Other advantages to this type of product include:

  • No fresh air system needed
  • Dries fast
  • Adhesion and durability equal to or better than urethane
  • High UV resistance
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Retains gloss
  • Available in a wide range of colors

Again, depending on the exact product you purchase, be sure to read the instructions before pouring the paint into your spray gun pot. When you're ready to begin, test the spray on a sheet of paper or plastic to ensure everything is working as it should be because you'll want to spray the paint in a nice even coat. Use a back and forth motion to apply an even coat, and avoid over-spray.

Painting the tub will require coats of primer and probably three coats of the acrylic topcoat. Follow the directions on the products you are using to guarantee the best results. You'll probably have to wait at least 30 minutes between applications, so give yourself enough time to complete the project. Once you've applied the last coat of paint it will take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to cure.

Bathtub Liners

Installing a bathtub liner is another option to consider when a porcelain tub becomes worn and hard to clean. Liners are made from acrylic or a resin product that is approximately a quarter of an inch thick and is available in several colors. These liners have an easy-to-clean, polished finished that is non-porous and can be installed over the tub surface.

Resources

If you're in the market to refinish your tub, the following links can direct you to products that make the job easier:

How to Refinish a Bathtub