DIY Refinishing a Bathtub 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 repair where the tub or shower is 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.

Steps to Refinishing a Tub or Shower

DIY Refinishing

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 a large part 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 Refinishing

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

  1. Clean the bathtub and remove the 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 three coats of a primer, then let dry
  10. Apply three to four layers of topcoat mixture
  11. Possible final buffing


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.


  • DIY Refinishing: 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 Refinishing: The range of do-it-yourself colors is very limited. White and almond tend to comprise the entire range of available colors.
  • Professional Refinishing: Most refinishing companies can match any existing color or create a new color. So, the choice of colors stretches into the thousands.


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.

How Long the Process Takes

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

DIY Refinishing Pros and Cons

  • Cost savings

  • More control over process

  • Refinish on a frequent basis

  • Less durable

  • Fewer color choices

  • Significant amount of work

Cost savings is the chief reason for reglazing your own bathtub instead of hiring a professional. By saving money on the initial reglazing, you'll be able to reglaze two or three more times over time. Doing your own tub or shower reglazing gives you more control over the project and helps you avoid having work crews in your home if that's a concern.

But DIY refinishing a bathtub is hard work. If you don't prepare the surface adequately, the longevity of your finished job will be highly compromised. You'll also be working in close contact with toxic materials in an enclosed space.

The cost savings will allow you to refinish your tub several times over the years and still pay as much or less than professional refinishing. The flip side of this is that you may need to refinish your DIY work several more times since it's hard for a DIYer to match professional results.

Professional Refinishing Pros and Cons

  • Faster

  • Avoid fumes and mess

  • More design possibilities

  • Higher cost

The higher cost of hiring pros to refinish a tub or shower is the only disadvantage over DIY refinishing.

By hiring pros, you avoid the work, along with the fumes and mess. The surface is likely prepared well before painting.

The range of colors is vast, compared to the small handful of colors available with DIY refinishing. The results will likely last longer, look better, and be smoother since the pros tend to spray the surface rather than using rollers or brushes.

Durability and Longevity

  • DIY Refinishing: Do-it-yourself refinishing jobs last about two years.
  • Professional Refinishing: 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 Much a Refinished Tub Costs

  • DIY Refinishing: Do-it-yourself refinishing jobs cost as much as the price of the refinishing kit or from $80 to $120. The kits are complete.
  • Professional Refinishing: Most professional refinishing jobs cost between $300 and $700, with an average cost of refinishing a tub or shower of around $500.

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 painstaking than one might imagine, with surface preparation comprising a major portion 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.

Article Sources
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