How You Can Refinish or Reglaze Your Tub

Claw foot bathtub in window nook.

David Papazian / Digital Vision / Getty Images

What's the best solution in terms of your eventual product? Most think replacement, but when other factors are added, your thoughts about replacement might change:

  • The cost of the new bathtub is only the beginning. Visit a home improvement store, and you will find cheap tubs. Currently, you can get a standard 5 ft. Porcelain enamel metal tub for $134. Add in the cost of a contractor, demolition, removal, landfill fees, tilers, and a plumber, and the total cost of the job has ballooned.
  • Relining a tub is pricey, and it merely covers up the problem. At prices equal to or greater than refinishing, bathtub liners are not the bargain option. They are always cheaper than a full replacement, and unlike refinishing, you never worry about the finish wearing away.
    You can install an acrylic liner, but it is still costly, and it only covers up your bathroom problems. Compared to that, refinishing your tub looks pretty good.

Consider Painting Your Tub Instead

The two biggest bathtub refinishing companies we spoke to like to call the substance a "coating," rather than paint.

Whatever your terminology, rid your mind of the idea that bathtub refinishing is a duplication of the tub's original dip-coat. In some cases, you can send a valuable cast iron tub off-site for a new dip-coat–but this is not the mass-market bathtub refinishing that we are discussing here.

  • Your tub stays in place. With home remodeling, when you change one thing, something adjacent is affected. It's the domino effect, so it stands to reason that if you can keep your bathtub in place to refinish it, you will not experience this awful, chaotic, cascading effect of tile surround, flooring, cement board, plumbing fixtures, and possibly even more, being messed up and in need of repair.
  • All work is done on-site. Surrounding materials–tile, flooring, and all of those other things mentioned–are masked off and left in place.

10 Steps to a Professional Bathtub Refinishing

The tub reglazing process is different between the two national tub refinishing franchises, Miracle Method or Permaglaze, as well as the local, non-franchised companies. There is, however, some common ground:

  1. Cleaning: Clean bathtub and remove caulking.
  2. Masking: Mask around the bathtub and cover areas not to be refinished. Refinishing Technicians are highly aware of the fact that they are in a private residence, so they take precautions to minimize overspray and other mess. Technicians put down drop-cloths and covers over cabinets, sinks, fixtures, toilet, etc.
  3. Remove Fixtures: Remove fixtures and overflow cover.
  4. Ventilation: Set up a ventilation fan to vent overspray and odor outside.
  5. Sanding: Lightly sand entire bathtub. Depending on the service you choose, the tub may also be etched with acid to help the coatings adhere.
  6. Vacuum: Vacuum bathtub to remove debris from the sanding stage.
  7. Fill and Repair: Fill chipped, scratched, or worn areas, then sand smooth. If there is extensive damage, the restorer may charge nominal extra fees for this.
  8. Priming: Spray-paint up to 3 coats of a primer; let dry.
  9. Painting: Between 3 to 4 layers of top coat mixture are spray-painted.
  10. Buffing: Miracle Method comes back a few days later for a final buffing. Permaglaze does not do this because they say that their process does not lead to imperfections that would necessitate buffing.

    Do-It-Yourself Bathtub Refinishing

    Do it yourself bathtub refinishing is even more inexpensive than hiring the pros, but you will end up with an inferior finish that will peel off sooner.

    • Brush and Roller vs. Spraying: Instead of a spray gun, you use a brush or small roller. ​Bathworks is one prominent company selling do-it-yourself brush-on kits. They offer a quart of epoxy with hardener, latex gloves, steel wool, brush, cleaning solution, cleaner/thinner, and safety goggles. It comes in white but can be tinted (tint not included).
    • Smooth Difficult To Achieve: It is impossible to achieve a smooth finish with a brush and roller.
    • Likely Will Peel Sooner: DIY bathtub finishes tend not to be as robust as professionally-sprayed finishes. Your new coat is durable but not as durable as the original coating. As a result, do not clean with any abrasive cleaners such as Comet.
    • Cheap: You can self-refinish your tub for less than $100.

    Professional Refinishing Companies to Know

    What brings down refinishing (aka reglazing) costs is the fact that competition for refinishing business is fierce. Searching for refinishing companies, you will find:

    • Miracle Method: A highly regarded company with about 120 U.S. locations.
    • Permaglaze: The second largest tub refinishing company, with 50 to 60 U.S. locations.
    • Independents: Countless independent, local companies whose quality is often, but not always, lower than the national franchises.