How to Refinish Your Shower or Bathtub

Person cleaning tub

 Image Source / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

If you are ready for a change with your bathtub or shower, you are not alone. Tubs and showers bear the brunt of activity in the bathroom, and they cannot be expected to remain beautiful forever.

You have several repair and replacement options, but all come with their own set of pros and cons. The nuclear option is to entirely remove and replace your bathtub. While invasive and expensive, it is also the most rewarding and complete route. Another option is to install a liner, a type of second skin that fits over the top of your tub or shower. While this is a quick solution, liners reduce the inner size of your tub and can trap water between the tub and liner. Refinishing is a popular do-it-yourself choice that keeps the tub or shower just as it is and refurbishes only the surface.

With refinishing, the surface is sanded, patched, and etched. A primer is applied, followed by one or two top finish coats. Refinishing is far less expensive than the cost of a total replacement. Often refinishing companies perform this work, but a homeowner can do a similar job with the help of a refinishing kit. Refinishing kits are quite inexpensive relative to the cost of having a company do the job, and it takes a handy homeowner only a day or two.

Safety Considerations

The fumes of refinishing will be highly noxious, so take measures to move the fumes out of the bathroom. Turn on the bathroom fan, open the window, and place a box fan in the window to pull air toward the outside.

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Click Play to Learn How to Refinish a Bathtub

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paint roller
  • Sponge brush
  • Tray
  • Latex gloves
  • Stirrer
  • Sponge
  • Respirator
  • Tack cloth
  • Fan (for ventilation)
  • Caulk removing tool (optional)
  • Caulking gun (optional)

Materials

Note that the first three items on this list are likely included in the refinishing kit.

  • Coating plus hardener
  • Non-skid additive
  • Primer
  • Abrasive cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Razor blade
  • Plastic bags
  • Rubber bands
  • Painter's tape
  • Caulk

Instructions

  1. Remove the Tub or Shower Fixtures

    Remove anything in or abutting your tub that you do not want to be recoated. Remove items like the tub drain, caulk, the overflow drain cover, all fixtures, soap dishes, and the faucet and handles, as needed.

  2. Thoroughly Clean the Tub Surface

    Clean your tub or shower. Unlike normal cleaning, where it is acceptable to miss a spot or two along the way, this type of cleaning must be entirely thorough. Every single square inch of soap scum must be removed because it will weaken your refinishing coat. Use abrasive cleansers, followed by a razor blade.

    Do not wash the shavings down the drain. Using a damp paper towel, slide the shavings 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.

  3. Etch and Sand the Surface

    Rub down the surface of the tub with the kit's included etching powder to remove the gloss from the surface. A dull surface will help the refinishing coat stick better. Follow the package instructions to do this properly.

    Wash down your tub. While it is still wet, lightly sand down the surface of the tub. The 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.

  4. Clean the Dry Tub With a Tack Cloth

    Wash down the tub one more time. Make sure that the faucets are tightly closed. Cover the tub and shower faucets with plastic bags, securing with rubber bands. From this point forward, no water should touch the surface.

    Let the surface dry thoroughly. To accelerate drying, wave a heat gun over the tub. Even if the tub might appear to be dry, follow up by wiping it down with paper towels. Finally, lightly wipe down with a tack cloth.

  5. Cover or Replace the Caulk

    Now that the tub and surrounding areas are dry, apply low-stick painter's tape over the caulk and other areas that will not be refinished.

    If the caulk is in poor shape to begin with, refinishing is a good opportunity to remove the caulk and replace it after the refinishing is complete. Unless the caulk is in absolutely perfect condition, you may want to consider replacing it. With the right tools, caulk removal is a fairly simple project that produces better overall results.

  6. Apply the Primer and Coating With the Roller

    Put on latex gloves and the respirator.

    Apply the primer. Unlike familiar white paint primers, the primer solution in the kit will likely be acetone or some other petroleum-based surface preparation solution. Apply this primer as directed and let it dry.

    Mix the refinishing coatings. The kit will likely include a separate container of coating and hardener. Pour the hardener directly into the coating container and shake it up. After shaking, close the lid and let it rest so that the bubbles can work out of the mixture.

    Pour some coating mixture into the paint tray. Immerse the roller in the coating and run it across the flat end of the tray several times to equalize the mixture around the roller.

    Roll the sides of the tub. Roll vertically to obtain the smoothest coat. When reaching corners, switch to horizontal movements. Liberally switch back and forth between vertical and horizontal strokes to flatten out drips and roller ridges.

    Prioritize the back walls and deck over the front deck. Coat the front deck last, since you need to be able to lean over it to access the other areas of the tub.

    Finally, roll the coating over the floor of the bathtub or shower pan.

  7. Apply the Coating With the Sponge Brush

    Switch to the sponge brush to apply coating on the lip of the tub and up to the masking tape. Lightly dab the sponge brush in the coating in the paint tray or container. Run the sponge parallel to the masking tape.

    After the first coat, immediately begin the second roller coat over the entire tub. First use the roller, followed by the sponge brush.

  8. Allow Proper Drying Time

    Keep the fan running for a full day. Carefully remove the masking tape by pulling it away at a 90-degree angle. Wait two full days before using the tub or shower.