I recently had an old, existing tub resurfaced in a rental property and I wanted to share the experience in case any of you have a nasty, older tub that needs work.
Old tubs were made from cast iron, which is really heavy and hard to get out. The cast iron is coated with porcelain which can become damaged over time. The porcelain can be damaged by abrasive cleaners, standing water and a host of other things.
Once the porcelain is damaged it becomes porous and soaks up all kinds of nasty stains. You might be able to clean it, but it doesn’t last. Soap scum discolors the bottom of the tub almost immediately. So rather than a total bathtub replacement, a better solution may be bathtub reglazing.
Is Reglazing A Tub Worth It?
The short answer is that bathtub refinishing or reglazing an old cast iron tub IS worth it unless you are planning a complete remodel soon.
Cast iron tubs are really expensive to take out (thousands). If you’ve ever replaced a tub you know that it’s not only expensive but messy. For the cost of refinishing an older bathtub, $300, I could resurface the tub every 5 years for a lot less than the cost of complete tub replacement.
After seeing the process of resurfacing a tub properly, trying a DIY bathtub the project is not the best choice. There are a few reasons for this. First, the reglazing process is toxic and you need to take safety precautions and have proper ventilation equipment for your home and your body.
Second, there’s a lot of equipment that makes the job faster and safer. You might not end up saving very much money by doing it yourself once you get all the proper equipment.
How Much Does it Cost to Reglaze a Tub?
The average cost to resurface or reglaze a cast iron tub in 2022 is $300. I am in Dallas and there are many professional reglazing services. It might be slightly more if you live somewhere where there are fewer people that specialize in this.
A word of caution. DO NOT use a painter that convinces you they can resurface your tub. Ask how many tubs they have refinished to make sure that it isn’t just a side gig for them. Otherwise, you might get a solution that doesn’t last. My sister had her first tub resurfaced and it didn’t last a year. Do your research.
How Long Does Resurfacing A Tub Last?
The answer to this one is that it depends on you more than the tub. My tub resurfacing came with a 5-year warranty. The warranty is only as good as the products you use on the tub.
If you don’t use proper care there are things that void the warranty, like using abrasive cleaners or bleach. You can see below how to care for your new tub, but following these suggestions will ensure that the new finish lasts for 5+ years.
My sister used the same person that I used to refinish her SECOND tub and it still looks like new 2 years later.
Before and After Photos
As you can see from the photos of the tub, the new glaze makes this old bathtub look new again. I was thrilled with the finished product. The existing, unsightly bathtub had seen better days and was not in good condition before the service. For this bathroom, a reglazed bathtub was the best option.
How To Find A Professional Bathtub Refinisher?
I have talked before about how Angie’s List USED to be good, but it’s terrible in 2022. I much prefer Thumbtack. In addition to that, if you can find someone who has had a tub refinished before, that’s the best solution.
Here are a few helpful questions to find out if the professional contractor you are hiring is focused specifically on this small niche service, or a painter (which is not the same).
- Ask about the warranty – Professional glazers will give a warranty. Mine is 5 years.
- Ask what material they are using. There are painters that don’t use the right product (or it will look good for a short time, but the product isn’t meant for showers and tubs). Alaphatic Urethane is meant for wet spaces. There are water based polyurethane products, but they aren’t good for bathtub resurfacing.
- Ask if they use a filtration system during the process to help get rid of the fumes. These chemicals are toxic. Professional refinishers will wear a mask, too. If you have bathroom window they can use this, if not they should have long tubing they can use to vent outside a nearby window or door.
- Ask if they remove the existing caulk before the application. A good installer will add a new caulk seal.
Only hire someone who does tub refinishing, not a general handyman. There’s a lot of project-specific equipment. It’s not a good idea for this process to be done in cold weather. It should be at least 70 degrees in the bathroom.
The same treatment can also be used for wall tile if you have old discolored tile.
How Long Does The Resurfacing Process Take?
Most of the time is spent prepping and cleaning the tub. The whole process will take around 3 hours from start to finish. They should tape and cover everything around the tub including the tile walls, faucets, floor and anything close to the tub. In a small bathroom, that’s almost everything.
A good professional will also put a drip cup over your faucet and shower head to ensure that water doesn’t drip onto the surface until it’s cured. The tub should remain completely dry and unused for 24 hours. The cure time is 24 hours, before that be sure to keep hair and pets out of the tub. Hair can stick to the new surface.
How to Care for Refinished Tub
To make the refinished surface last, be sure to follow the cleaning instructions. Don’t use any cleaners with any kind of acid including these: hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, phosphoric acid or sodium hydroxide. Don’t use abrasive cleaners that contain pumice. Don’t use an abrasive sponge or steel wool.
You can use dish soap, Windex, 409, Lysol disinfecting foam cleaner, scrubbing bubbles and a sponge.
It’s best not to use a shower caddy that uses suction cups that attach to the tub. Make sure to take care of any water leaks as soon as you discover them, which has nothing to do with a refinished vs an original tub. It’s just bad for the finish of any tub.