DIY Tub and Shower Finishing vs. Professional Finishing

Bathroom with gorgeous bathtub

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When your bathtub or shower surfaces are scratched, gouged, or discolored, most homeowners begin to think about all-out replacement. While replacement is a good cure for all that ails your shower/tub surface, it's also the most drastic and the most expensive. But a faster, cheaper way to fix this problem is with refinishing.

Bathtub and shower refinishing is a cosmetic fix-it job where the tub or shower is essentially painted while in place. Many homeowners who automatically assume that they will be spending thousands on a complete replacement job end up with this far less expensive alternative. In some cases, the homeowner can refinish their own tub or shower.

Tub or Shower Refinishing: Basic Process

DIY

Using a kit, the homeowner paints his or her own bathtub or shower with rollers and brushes. As with most painting jobs, preparation work is 75-percent of the job. If you can get past the part where you razor off soap scum from the surface, the remainder of the work is far easier. Fumes are noxious, and you must take precautions to have a steady outflow of air from the site.

  1. Remove or tape drain and fixtures
  2. Scrape the tub with a razor
  3. Dull the surface with etching powder
  4. Sand the surface
  5. Clean with a tack cloth
  6. Tape the caulking
  7. Apply the primer
  8. Apply the coating with a roller, then with a brush
  9. Remove the tape

Professional

With professional tub refinishing, one or two refinishers come to your home. They paint your bath/shower using spray guns. The results are typically flawless, with a look approaching that of a new tub or shower.

  1. Clean the bathtub and remove caulking
  2. Mask around the tub
  3. Remove the fixtures and the overflow cover
  4. Ventilate to the outside
  5. Lightly sand and vacuum the bathtub
  6. Possible acid etching
  7. Fill and sand chips and scratches
  8. Drop-cloth all areas around the tub
  9. Spray-paint up to 3 coats of a primer, then let dry
  10. Apply three to four layers of topcoat mixture
  11. Possible final buffing

Note

Reglazing of fine, antique porcelains requires removal from the bathroom, transportation to a shop, and dip-glazing. Most refinishing is site-based—the shop comes to your home—and it is done for significantly less money than shop-based refinishing.

How Does It Look?

DIY

Using roller and brushes results in an adequate finish. Roller or brush marks may show, and drips may occur, as well.

Professional

The quality of a well-refinished tub rivals that of a new tub's surface. The surface will be smooth and glass-like.

Range of Colors

DIY

The range of do-it-yourself colors is very limited. White and almond tend to comprise the entire range of available colors.

Professional

Most refinishing companies can match any existing color or create a new color. So, the choice of colors stretches into the thousands.

How Long Does It Take?

DIY

Do-it-yourself refinishing usually takes a full day, with the unit ready for reuse in 24 hours.

Professional

Professional refinishing can take three to five hours for the process, with the tub/shower ready for use within 24 hours.

Where to Find It

DIY

Using a kit, the homeowner paints their own bathtub or shower with rollers and brushes. Buy a kit online. Bathworks sells a good, all-inclusive kit for under $100. Rustoleum's Tub and Tile Refinishing Kit is about a quarter of the cost of Bathworks and contains only the essential ingredient—the acrylic-epoxy coating.

Professional

Miracle Method is the most widely recognized national brand. Permaglaze is another big brand, with about half the franchisees as Miracle Method. As this is a highly competitive market, you can also find many competing independent refinishers.

Pros

DIY

  • Cost savings
  • Avoidance of work crews coming in your home

Professional

  • Avoidance of fumes and mess
  • Faster
  • Better surface preparation
  • Higher-quality results

Cons

DIY

  • Difficult job to do with uncertain results
  • If you don't prep the surface adequately, the longevity of your finished job will be highly compromised

Professional

  • Cost
  • Work crews in home

Durability and Longevity

DIY

Do-it-yourself refinishing jobs last about two years.

Professional

Most professional refinishing jobs are predicted to last five years or more. Miracle Method claims that most of its jobs last from 10 to 15 years.

How to Clean Your Refinished Tub

Never use abrasive cleaners on a refinished tub. Dishwasher detergent is soft on the surface and does an excellent job of cleaning, though make sure not to let the soap scum build up too much, or the detergent will not work.

Should You DIY or Hire a Pro?

If cost were not an issue, professional refinishing is usually the best way to go. Professional refinishing will produce superior results. The work is far more pain-staking than one might imagine, with surface preparation comprising about 75-percent of the project.

In a pinch, a do-it-yourself job will work. Just know that the results may not reach a professional level and that the job may not last for more than a couple of years.