Shower Stall Repair Made Easy

Elegant Bathroom Vanity and Clawfoot Bathtub 164845703
Elegant Bathroom Vanity and Clawfoot Bathtub. Getty / Perry Mastrovito

Cracks, holes, chips, and stains in fiberglass or acrylic showers or tubs do not necessarily mean it is time to replace them. Four categories of shower or bathtub surface problems can easily be fixed--by you alone, and quite cheaply.  

There are do-it-yourself products that can patch holes, fill cracks, repair rust spots and cover up blemishes, saving you hundreds of dollars.  While not the ultimate solution (sometimes the fix will be visible), they will extend the life of your shower or tub until you decide to go for an all-out replacement.

Cracks or Small Holes (Fiberglass or Acrylic)

Whether it is a tub, surround or shower stall, and whether fiberglass or acrylic, the process is the same.

The rule of thumb:  if the hole is smaller than a quarter, you should be able to make the repairs yourself.

If you are dealing with a hole larger than a quarter, you are better off buying a replacement.

You Need This:

Do This:

  1. Clean the damaged area completely with the nonabrasive powdered cleanser.
  2. Rinse thoroughly, ensuring that no residue from the cleaner remains on the surface.
  3. If your kit directs it, apply the reinforcement tape to the crack or small hole.
  4. Combine the resin with the hardener and coloring.
  5. Spread the mixture over the tape or the damaged spot (depending on your kit), feathering out the edges and creating as smooth a surface as you can.
  1. Let the repair dry according to package directions.
  2. Sand with paper no coarser than 600-grit wet dry sandpaper, using water.

There are kits available that do not include fiberglass tape; those are no less effective. Some include epoxy mixes and hardeners that serve the same purpose.

Stains (All Surfaces)

The theme behind cleaning unruly stains is to start with simple methods such as lemon and progress to stronger, more caustic methods such as mild acids.

In a large majority of the cases, the simple, organic, and less hazardous methods will be sufficient to eliminate the stain.

You Need This:

  • Lemon, cut into quarters
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge
  • Bleach
  • Rubber gloves
  • Oxalic acid (5% solution) or hydrochloric acid (10% solution)

Do This:

  • Cut a lemon in quarters, and rub the surface with the fruit. If you only have bottled lemon juice on hand, that will work as well. Next, rinse with water.
  • Scrub the area with baking soda and a sponge, then rinse with water.
  • If you still have a stain, try a solution of one part bleach to one part water, being sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • As a last resort, try a 5% solution of oxalic acid or a 10% solution of hydrochloric acid. Ask for either one at your hardware store or home center. Dab the solution on with a rag for just a couple of seconds, then rinse thoroughly. Wear rubber gloves, a mask, and safety glasses when working with those solutions.

Chips (Cast-Iron Tubs)

Most bathtubs today are made of fiberglass or acrylic, but if you have an older home, your tub may be made of cast iron.

To repair chipped paint on a cast-iron tub, you will need:

You Need This:

  • Lint-free rag
  • Non-abrasive powdered cleanser, like Bon Ami
  • Porcelain paint, suitable for cast iron

Do This:

  1. Remove any flaking or damaged paint from the chipped area.
  2. Clean the chipped area with the rag and cleanser, then rinse thoroughly.
  3. Apply a small amount of touch-up paint and allow to dry and cure completely, per the package directions.
  4. If a great deal of paint needs to be removed, use a new straight razor blade with the blade held at nearly flat against the surface. Using at least 600-grit wet-dry sandpaper, wet the sandpaper and gently buff to smooth out any imperfections.