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Refinish Shower or Bathtub Yourself
If you hate your tub, you're not alone.
Entire industries have cropped up that capitalize on homeowners' disgust with their ugly, yellowed, scratched, utterly un-redeemable bathtubs:
- Bathroom Remodelers: they remove and replace your bathtub. This is the most invasive, expensive option, but also the most rewarding and complete.
- Tub and Shower Liner Companies: these companies install a "second skin" over the top of your tub or shower.
- Tub and Shower Refinishing Companies: refinishing companies seal off your bathroom, sand down and patch bad areas, etch the surface, mask, prime the surface, and paint with a sprayer. Cost is about $250-$300 (often up to $550), more than some homeowners would like to spend.
In this tutorial, I use a kit called Bathworks Refinishing Kit from Munro Products. It costs $79 and is a mostly complete kit: paint roller, sponge brush, tray, coating plus hardener, non-skid additive, primer, latex gloves, stirrer.
Disclosures1.) Even though this article shows only refinishing of a tub, not shower, the methods are the same.
2.? In time-honored infomercial tradition, the Before-and-After photo of a refinished bathtub shows the "old tub" in black and white and new tub in something resembling color. Yes, it is the same tub, just Photoshopped.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Remove Fixtures and All Non-Paintables
Remove anything in or abutting your tub that you do not want to be recoated.
This means things like:
Continue to 3 of 11 below.
- Removing the tub drain.
- Optional: cutting away caulk with a razor blade. This is optional, because an alternative is to retain the caulk by covering it with masking tape. If your caulk is still good, I recommend doing this.
- Removing the overflow drain cover.
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Clean Tub Surface Until It is Like NewCleaning is, by far, the most intense, gritty, grating, dispiriting part of the process of refinishing your own tub.
Think back to the cleanest you've ever cleaned your tub. Perhaps that time when Queen Elizabeth II stayed in your guest bedroom? Well, even that isn't clean enough.
You will clean your bathtub until you are panting and sweating. Every single square inch of soap scum must be removed, because it will compromise your refinishing job. I found the application of abrasive cleansers, followed by a razor blade, to be the only way to clean the tub until it is "like new."
Do not wash the shavings down the drain. Using a paper towel, slide them up the side of the tub and onto the deck. From there, it is easy to scoop the shavings off the deck and into a waste can.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Dull Bathtub Surface With Etching PowderYour kit may include a granular etching powder. With water, rub down the surface of the tub with this powder to take off the gloss. You want to have a dull surface for the coating to stick better.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Sand Down Entire Bathtub SurfaceWash down your tub. While the tub is still wet, lightly sand down the surface of the tub. Your aim is not to take off any previous coatings but to further bring down the gloss. The fine scratches from the sandpaper provide an excellent base for the coating.
Lift your sandpaper and look at it. See the residue? Some of it may be paint (if you have a tub that has been previously refinished). Some of it may be soap scum that did not come off in your earlier cleaning.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Clean Dry Tub with a Tack Cloth
Wash down tub once again. Make sure faucets are tightly closed.
Cover tub and shower faucets with plastic bags, securing them with rubber bands. You are now in "dry mode." From this point forward, you don't want even a drop of water to touch the tub surface.
Let dry thoroughly. If you want to move the process along, you can use a heat gun.
Even if you think the surface is dry, still wipe it down with paper towels. You want it to be perfectly dry.
Finally, wipe down with tack cloth.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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Apply Masking Tape Over Caulking and Other Non-Paintable AreasNow that the tub and surrounding areas are dry, you can apply masking tape.
Use low-stick painter's tape for easier removal.
If you chose to retain your caulking, be sure to cover the caulking with the tape.Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Apply Primer to BathtubI'll admit that this step, as recommended by the Bathworks kit, is a total mystery to me. It's called a primer, but it's not like the familiar white paint primers you may have used before. Judging by the pungent smell, I suspect that it's acetone or some other petroleum-based liquid.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Use Roller to Apply Coating to Tub SurfaceTurn on the bathroom fan, open the window, and place a box fan in the window to pull air toward the outside. The fumes will be highly noxious, so you need to take all measures to move the fumes out of the bathroom.
Mix the bathtub coating. In the Bathworks kit, one container is labelled Part A (Coating) and a smaller container is Part B (Hardener). The coating container is large enough that you can pour the hardener straight in and shake it up.
After shaking, close the lid and let rest for 10 minutes for the bubbles to work out of the mixture.
Put on latex gloves. Pour coating mixture in paint tray. Immerse roller in coating and run across the flat end of the tray a couple of times to equalize the mixture around the roller.
Roll the sides of the tub. You'll find that you get the smoothest results by rolling vertically. However, when you reach the corners, you'll need to switch to horizontal movements. Don't be shy about switching back and forth between vertical and horizontal in order to flatten out drips and roller ridges.
Roll up the lips as far as you can, without creating puddles on the lip.
Last, roll coating on the floor of the bathtub.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Use Sponge Brush to Apply Coating to Corners and DeckSwitch to the sponge brush to apply coating on the lip of the tub and up to the masking tape.
After the first coat, you can immediately begin the second coat over the entire tub.
After the second coat, use your roller (first) and sponge brush (second) to apply coating to the deck side of the tub.
The reason you wait until the end to do the deck is because you needed it to be dry in order to lean across it to get to the other areas.Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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Let Tub Coating Dry 24 Hours. Remove Masking Tape.Keep the fan running for 24 hours. Carefully remove the masking tape by pulling away at a 45 degree angle to the tub, as shown.
Wait 48 hours before using.