Tips: Refinishing a Bathtub

Jennifer —  September 23, 2011

To refinish or not refinish….that is the question.  At least, that was the question for me when we were rehabbing the house we flipped.  The one thing we were sure of was that we HAD to do something.  We couldn't ignore it.  Why?  This is why:

Guest Bathroom Tub

Master Bathroom Tub

GROSS!!!!!  Disgusting!!!  At first I was sure that it could not be DIYed.  The hubs thought differently.  I think I mostly was opposed because I didn't want to get down and dirty with these tubs….EEWWW!!!   It was in the budget to not have to DIY them….then the “renovation reality happened”  We knew we had to install central heat and air-conditioning and had budgeted for that.  We didn't know that to do so we had to “up” the amp capacity of the electricity of the house  That was $1000 we were not expecting.  We budgeted for “oops” but this took up over half of our “oops” budget!  We realized the $800 we budgeted for tubs could be lessened if we refinished them ourselves.  (I called for pricing on tub refinishers and it was between $600-$800 bucks.)  I figured it was a win win situation.  I would try refinishing them myself (estimated cost about $140) and if I succeeded…we are back on budget (with  just a little out of our “oops” budget) and if I failed…I paid for my education and we would have to do what we thought we were going to do to begin with, buy new tubs.

I went to Lowes and bought this:

via ace hardware

There are two kinds of tub refinishing paint…the brush on pain and the spray.  It costs $40.00 for the entire kit that comes with paint, rubber gloves,cleaning kit, and good brush.  I bought an intense mask for $10.00 and some Bar Keepers Friend and a scrub brush.  The total cost was $70.00 for one tub.   This tub was my first endeavor and I chose the brush on.  It worked great BUT it was SUPER tedious and hard to work with.  I used the spray kind on the kitchen sink and It was 10 times easier.  Needless to say this:

Guest Bathroom Tub

Turned into this:

Are you amazed?  I was, but I put in some serious man hours to make this work.  A week later it was time to conquer the second bathroom.  I hated the tub because it was this dark almond color.  The hubs looked at the tub and stated that it was in excellent condition but it just needed some serious cleaning.  I reminded him how good it would look white and he reminded me that this house would sell for $90,000 and for all that we had done to the house (

windows, floor, heat and

air, new roof, new kitchen, new exterior……)  the new owners could change out a good tub for a white tub. We were in this to do it well, but not do it over our budget.   He was right.  I returned the other kit I had bought, put on my gloves, grabbed my Bar Keeper's Friend, my mask, and my scrub brush.  And tackled this tub for 4 hours.  It went from this:

Master Bathroom Tub

I didn't take a picture until all of the renovation was done so sorry the curtain is in the way but the half not shown looks the same as the half you see.  That day learned I never had an excuse to say that my tub was hard to clean.  There is no soap stain that I can't handle.  Did I mention that we didn't have water in the house when I cleaned it?  I had to fill a weed sprayer (the kind you pump and it sprays) with water and used it to wash it down….BRUTAL.  The good news…we were back on budget and I learned that if I put my mind to something and research how to do it well…I can try things with confidence.

Do you want to try this at home?  I am not an expert and I definitely had a few mess ups but none that I couldn't correct.  If I ever do this again I will do it even better and will take what I learned my first time around.  Here are some tips that I would give you.

  2. Create a dust free environment.  You don't mess around with epoxy paint.
  3. Use the spray kind if you can.  It was so much easier when I refinished the kitchen sink here.
  4. Fix any drips immediately.
  5. If using the brush on kind, stroke up and down.  The professionals might not agree but drips naturally go down so it creates less opportunity for drips.
  6. Apply with moderate thickness.  This is an art that I had to learn as I went.  You don't want to go too thin because its hard to brush and you don't want forceful strokes.  forceful stokes leave brush lines.  Too thick makes it messy.  Moderate is perfect.
  7. If you can practice on something to get #6 correct.  (again, the spray kind eliminates this)
  8. If you use the spray make sure you have a wet rag to clean the spray can nozzle.  The paint can dry on the nozzle rendering your $40 can useless.
  9. One kit covered one tub.  (The spray comes with two bottles)  It took me three coats because of the chips.
  10. You cannot make chips perfect again (like the big ones you see)  but the self leveling paint helps even them out.  The picture is not hiding them you have to get super close to see that there once was a chip.
  11. BE PATIENT!  Wait the allotted amount of time between coats (4 hours after the first and 72 hours between the second and third)  Don't use the tub for a week after you are done so you can be sure the paint hardens.
Will it last?  Yes, if you do it well.  Of course buying a new tub will last longer but this will last for a long time.  You cannot use Comet like cleaners on the surface but you can use all other cleaners.  The plumber had his dirty work shoes in the refinshed tub adn I was able to clean it right up and  then took the picture you see.
Have you ever tried to do a project like this?  I hope this helps you get the confidence you need.  The real questions is…can you just clean it instead :)
Thanks for reading,


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2 responses to Tips: Refinishing a Bathtub

  1. jess (price) apostle September 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

    jennifer, you’ve really done such an amazing job in your home! i’m always so excited to see a new DIY post, very inspiring:)

  2. Incredible!!! I thought the tub in our villa was going to be tough, but I intend to grab a can of bar keepers friend and work until it is shiny and new looking! If not, then it’s to Lowe’s for the refinishing kit :)