Bathtub Reglazing: How You Can Refinish Your Tub

Clawfoot bathtub in custom designed bathroom.
David Papazian/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When your tub or shower are shot, consider an alternative to replacement: refinishing.

What's the best solution in terms of your eventual product?  Replacement, of course. But when other factors are added, your thoughts about replacement might change.  Here's why:

Because replacement affects not just the tub but everything else around it.

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.  But add in the cost of a contractor, demolition, removal, landfill fees, tilers, and a plumber, and the total cost of the job has ballooned.

Tub relining is a neat idea, but it is pricey, and it covers up problems.

At prices equal to or greater than refinishing, bathtub liners are not the bargain option. But 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 all that, refinishing your tub looks pretty good.

Bathtub and shower refinishing:  a paint job (a really nice paint job).

Surprised that it is painted? The two biggest bathtub refinishing companies I 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, and that is its strongest point.

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.

With bathtub refinishing all work is done on-site. Surrounding materials--that tile, that flooring, and all of those other things mentioned--are masked off and left in place.

Professional bathtub refinishing in 10 steps:

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. However, there is some common ground:

  1. Cleaning:  Clean bathtub and remove caulking.
  2. Masking:  Mask around the bath tub 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 ventilation fan to vent overspray and odor outside.
  1. Sanding:  Lightly sand entire bathtub.  Depending on the service you choose, the tub may also be etched with acid to help the coatings adhere.
  2. Vacuum:  Vacuum bathtub to remove debris from the sanding stage.
  3. 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.
  4. Priming:  Spray-paint up to 3 coats of a primer; let dry.
  5. Painting:  Between 3-4 layers of top coat mixture are spray-painted.
  6. 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.

Did you know that you can refinish your bathtub by yourself?  

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.

You have three professional options:  Miracle Method, Permaglaze, and many independents.

What brings down refinishing--sometimes called 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 "Avis" of tub refinishing, with 50-60 U.S. locations, but also with a good reputation.
  • Independents:  Countless independent, local companies whose quality is often, but not always, lower than the national franchises.