The national average cost for refinishing a bathtub is around $475. You'll know it's time to refinish your tub if you see rust stains, water marks, chipped or nick porcelain or green discoloration on the surface.
Refinishing can be a great way to improve the tub's appearance without undergoing a full bathroom remodel. Maybe it doesn't look as nice as it used to, or the chipped porcelain glaze scratches your back during your nightly relaxation sessions.
Damaged bathtubs can be more than just a visual annoyance, though: rust can damage the tub's structure, potentially leading to more costly repairs if you wait too long. If water leaks through rusted-through cast iron or porcelain, you may end up with damaged floorboards or walls. A new coating can give your bathtub a smoother, more polished look, but it also patches up leaky areas and prevents rust damage. When done properly, refinishing your bathtub can extend its life for up to another 20 years.
While dealing with a down-on-its-luck bathtub is often a mere annoyance, it's usually less of a headache and cost to refinish it now. It will be more trouble if you need to repair your tub, replace it, fix your floorboards or take care of any other damages from tub leaks further down the line. You don't have to live with a damaged tub surface, and this guide will cover how much you should expect to pay to refinish it.
What's in this cost guide?
Refinishing a bathtub is also known as reglazing. It can give your tub a new look and repair surface damage, but does not require you to remove or replace any bath or shower features, rip up tiles or cause a huge mess in your bathroom.
To repair your tub, your bathtub refinisher will first remove the existing, damaged old finish, usually with sandblasting. Once this top layer is gone, they'll then repair any chips or cracks with putty or epoxy to prevent leaks.
If you have a non-porous tub, like one made from porcelain, enamel or fiberglass, scratch or etch the old finish to make it easier for primer to adhere to the surface. Finally, the primer and top coat are applied, giving your bathtub look its final, shiny new waterproof coat.
Keep in mind that refinishing is not the same as re-lining a tub. Installing a new bathtub liner is a more complex procedure that involves measurements, fabrication and removing any existing bath and shower features before you begin. Relining can also change the size of your tub — refinishing will not. While some bathroom remodeling pros will recommend bathtub relining because it lasts longer, bathtub refinishing is usually a more cost effective option.
The total cost of a bathtub refinishing will include the cost of materials and labor. Below is a breakdown on what influences each of those:
Materials generally make up around $150 of the total cost to refinish a bathtub. Your tub refinisher will need several important materials. The first is typically acrylic urethane spray. This is the most common refinishing medium for a few reasons: First, it's waterproof. (What good would a non-waterproof bathtub be?) Second, it perfectly imitates porcelain when properly applied to reglaze your tub.
In addition to their tools, your refinisher will need primer and sandpaper or a sandblaster, to create a good base for the reglaze. They'll likely also need putty, to patch up any chips or cracks.
Compared to other home remodeling projects, bathtub refinishing is a quick process -- which helps keep the labor costs of hiring a contractor down. But a few aspects can make this speedy job a little slower, and thus drive up the labor costs.
Is your bathroom cramped? Does it lack a large window, making it difficult to set up a good airflow system? This project can release fumes, and it's important to take the time to set this up and protect the health of whomever is doing this job.
Is your bathtub really, really damaged? If so, you might need to spend more time sandblasting down the surface, or using putty or epoxy to fill cracks and leaks.
As an example, First Place Finishes charges between $200 and $400 for the labor costs for a tub refinishing job, depending on how time-consuming the project will be.
Although the cost of a bathtub refinishing doesn't vary too much, there are a couple of factors that can bring your total cost up or down. In addition to your location, the material of your bathtub (fiberglass, acrylic, cast iron, porcelain), extent of your damage, and size of your tub and impact costs:
- Bathtub material: A cast iron tub will cost more than one made from porcelain or fiberglass, for example.
- Extent of damage: If your tub surface has a lot of damage -- chips, cracks, leaks or imperfections -- you may need to spend more time fixing them before laying down a new coat.
- Bathtub size: Your refinishing company may set specific prices for different tubs. For instance, First Place Finishes estimates that a standard, five-foot cast-iron bathtub will cost about $425 in total to refinish.
If your house only has one tub, don't panic. This quick-fix job is often completed in less than a day. There won't be any demolition, plumbing or installation work. This means no one will be opening your floors or walls, removing or damaging tile or messing with your plumbing.
However, you will still need to wait up to 24 hours for the reglaze to set and dry before you use it. Plan to not use your bathtub for up to 24 hours after you have reglazed it.
Your bathtub is in pretty dire shape — so why not simply buy a new tub? While it may be tempting and seem easier to replace your old bathtub with a new one instead of repairing it, there are a couple of benefits to refinishing your tub instead of replacing it:
- Less expensive than replacing your tub. Replacing your bathtub can cost well over $2,000 (that's some serious cash!), since it involves plumbing work, potentially tearing up tile and floorboards and, of course, more time. While a bathtub replacement may make sense if you're completely renovating or feeling cramped by the size of your current tub, refinishing will be a fraction of the cost -- and quicker.
- Prevents damage to other parts of your bathroom. A bathtub in need of a new glaze or finish isn't always an aesthetic issue. It can be a functional one too. By refinishing your tub, you can prevent water leaks that could damage your floorboards, tile or cause rust -- thus saving you from having to do and spend money on those bathroom repairs later.
- Can save a tub with a unique style. If you're lucky enough to own a vintage cast iron tub or freestanding clawfoot bathtub, don't just throw your beautiful piece away! Instead, restore it to its former glory to showcase the tub's beauty.
- Reduces landfill waste. Don't clutter landfills with old tubs when you have a perfectly good tub already in your bathroom.
- Gives your bathroom a new look, without a full remodel. Your bathtub is the centerpiece of your bathroom. Changing its look, coating or color can be a quick and cost-effective way to give your entire bathroom a fresher look.
If your bathroom is looking dingy, refinishing your tub is an easy and inexpensive way to freshen up the space. With only a day or two of work, you'll have a shiny, chip-free new tub.
While it might be tempting for homeowners to conquer this as a do-it-yourself project, it's worth hiring a professional to make sure you prime and refinish your tub properly -- without damaging it or doing a so-so job you'll have to retouch later.