Just because a bathtub begins looking worse for the wear, doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced.Skilled handymen, bathtub refinishing professionals and other experienced workers can refinish the glaze to give it a new lease on life. Refinishing—also known as "reglazing"—is a process that removes the worn top layer on a tub and adds a new, waterproof coat. When done properly and cared for with the appropriate cleaning products, the new glaze can last up to 20 years. Warning signs that it’s time to refinish a tub include rust stains, severe water marks, chips in the porcelain, nicks and green discolorations.
A major perk of refinishing a bathtub is that no demolition or installation work is required. Removing and replacing a tub means disrupting the plumbing, breaking out tiles and flooring, and creating a construction-zone mess in the home. Refinishing can be done on-site in the bathroom in one day. Refinishing does not decrease the interior size of a tub as re-lining sometimes can. Antique cast iron tubs or tubs with unique styles are worth refinishing rather than letting them go. Refinishing saves time and money and reduces waste in landfills. Several factors affect the cost of refinishing a porcelain tub.
The bathtub refinishing process has multiple steps and involves several key materials. Typically, professionals use an acrylic urethane spray as the final coat. This product is waterproof and replicates the look of an original porcelain tub. This product is available in different colors and is nearly impossible to differentiate from porcelain when properly applied. Other materials can include primer, sandpaper, putty for repairing nicks, and the appropriate tools. Jim Bierce of First Place Finishes in Aurora, Colorado, charges $125–$175 for the materials to do a standard tub refinishing job.
Bathtub refinishing can be a one- or two-day process. Labor costs depend on how large the bathtub is, how much work is required to prep the surrounding area for the tub cleaning and spraying process, and how much repair work is required on the tub—such as filling in nicks and scratches. Average labor costs for a tub refinishing job from First Place Finishes are $200–$400.
Determining total cost
Some bathtub refinishing companies charge set prices for different tub sizes, and others charge by the project based on the scope of work. Bierce of First Place Finishes bases his estimates on measurements, materials and the amount of time and effort required to complete the refinishing job. Here is one example of total costs for a tub refinishing project done by First Place Finishes:
Standard, 5-foot, cast iron bathtub: $425
- The labor took 1.5 days, with another day of dry time.
Before starting a job, tub refinishing professionals will first protect the bathroom area, then remove fixtures and existing caulk from around the tub. Typically, the tub is thoroughly cleaned—all scum, paint and other surface debris are scraped off. Nicks and imperfections are filled in with a special putty to create a smooth surface. The pro then etches the tub—a process that prepares the surface to fully bond with the primer—and applies the primer. After the primer dries, the contractor sprays on the acrylic urethane, which provides the smooth, glassy finish of porcelain with a waterproof, long-lasting wear. The product usually needs 24 hours to cure before it’s safe to take a bath.