Can You Paint a Bathtub?

Gray Bathtub

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Bathtubs are high-impact areas that take their share of daily abuse. Even the hardiest bathtub will eventually begin to show its age with scratches, pits, and chips.

If your home's walls, ceiling, siding, or stairs are looking tired and faded, you already know that you can paint them for a quick refresh. So why not your bathtub, too? Can you paint your bathtub, much like you do other surfaces in your house?

Can You Actually Paint a Bathtub?

Yes, you can paint a bathtub and dramatically improve its appearance. But it's a different kind of painting with an all-new set of rules, from preparation and cleaning to materials, safety, and the painting process.

Sometimes called bathtub reglazing, when it's done professionally the process is closer to automotive painting than it is to painting your walls or ceiling. Do-it-yourself bathtub painting is an abridged form of the professional process.

Professional Tub Painting

  1. Completely mask off all areas in the bathroom that will not be painted.
  2. Strip off caulk.
  3. Scour tub clean and scrape with a razor blade.
  4. Repair cracks and chips with a filler.
  5. Sand tub with an electric orbital sander fitted with #120-grit sandpaper.
  6. Thoroughly clean tub.
  7. Use an airless paint gun to spray two to three coats of refinishing paint on the bathtub.
  8. Re-caulk the tub.
  9. Remove tape and plastic sheeting.

Painting the Tub by Yourself

When you paint your own bathtub, you'll want to duplicate the professional paint job as much as possible for best results. Cleaning and scraping are vital to help the paint stick.

One major difference is in the paint delivery method. Bathtub refinishing kits rely on thin foam paint rollers and foam brushes to apply the paint. While roller-applied paint will self-level to a degree, it's still not as smooth as paint applied with an airless paint gun.

How Long a Painted Bathtub Lasts

If you paint your bathtub by yourself, expect the paint job to last around three to four years. Professionally painted bathtubs can last up to 10 years. Some companies that refinish bathtubs estimate lifespans as long as 15 to 20 years, with proper maintenance.

Painting a Bathtub vs. Full Tub Replacement

Should you paint your bathtub or just go ahead with a full replacement? It's already a given that painting the bathtub is easier, faster, and less expensive than a full tub replacement—but by how much? And could the money, time, and effort devoted to painting the bathtub be diverted to a full bathtub replacement instead?

  • DIY: If you paint the bathtub by yourself, you'll pay between $75 and $125 for the kit. Kits are intended to be complete, but you may need to add a second kit for more than two coats, especially if you want to paint the bathtub surround. Kits tend to be short on some items, so adding these items will bring the total up to about $150 to $200.
  • Professional: Professionals charge from $500 to $750 to refinish a bathtub.
  • Replacement: Alcove-style 60-inch acrylic bathtubs cost from $275 to $1,000, with most around the $500 range. If you're adept at home remodeling, you can replace your own tub for $500 to $800, as long as all of the plumbing is in place. Professional bathtub replacement costs an average of $3,600.
Painting the Tub
  • DIY cost: $150 to $200

  • Professional cost: $500 to $750

  • Current tub remains in place

  • 1 to 2 days

  • Moderately easy to DIY

Replacement
  • DIY cost: $500 to $800

  • Professional cost: averages $3,600

  • Current tub goes to landfill

  • 2 to 4 days

  • Difficult to DIY

Tips for Extending the Life of Your Painted Bathtub

During Painting

If you're painting your own bathtub, follow these tips for longer-lasting results:

  • Every square inch of the tub must be thoroughly cleaned. Any remaining soap scum or debris will prevent the paint coating from bonding.
  • Scouring powders used to clean the bathtub must be cleaned and washed away. If you run your finger across the surface and feel the dust from the scouring powder, the surface is not clean enough for painting.
  • Rusted areas in metal bathtubs must be cleaned and filled prior to painting. The paint coat is not a substitute for filler.

After Painting

Following a maintenance plan will extend the life of your resurfaced bathtub for years.

  • Clean your refinished tub on a regular basis to prevent soap scum build-up. Soap scum necessitates stronger cleaning methods, which can damage the tub.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners or those containing bleach or ammonia.
  • If using a liquid drain opener, use a funnel to avoid spilling the caustic product on the finished tub.
  • Immediately fix chips in the tub.
  • To prevent surface rust, do not leave metal on the tub.
  • Be careful when handling items in the shower. Even dropping a soft plastic shampoo bottle can chip the surface if it hits at the wrong angle.