If your tub has surface cracks or places where the enamel finish has eroded, or if it is stained or just plain dingy, a brand-new tub may seem the only solution. However, if your plumbing is otherwise sound, consider refinishing the tub yourself. This method will not make the tub as good as new but will make it look a whole lot better at a much lower cost than purchasing a new tub and hiring a plumber to install it. Keep in mind that in many homes the tub was installed before the bathroom walls. Therefore, you may have to cut through a wall to replace it. Refinishing a tub yourself doesn’t take particular skills, just patience and careful work. Count on spending most of a day preparing and painting the tub. In addition, the refinished tub requires several days to dry and cure before you can use it.
There are plenty of professional tub refinishers. If you hire someone who uses a urethane rather than an epoxy finish, you will end up with better results than you can achieve yourself. Urethane maintains its color better than epoxy and is almost certain not to crack. A good company will apply three coats; you will have to wait three days before using the tub. Make sure the company has been in business for a while and can back up its guarantee.
But a good refinishing job costs plenty of money. Although the result will be better than a do-it-yourself effort, you still will have a refinished tub. You must be careful not to scratch it, and the surface will not look quite as good as that of a brand-new tub. Before hiring a professional refinisher, check with a plumber for the price of a new tub. It may not cost much more than refinishing. Keep in mind that you may have to repair your walls, too. A new tub may be the best solution if you were thinking of changing your tiles anyway.
Clean and Prepare the Tub
It is important to do this carefully, or the epoxy may bubble or flake in time. Thoroughly clean the tub with a strong cleaner. Use sandpaper to smooth any high spots and rough up the entire inner surface of the tub. First, go over it with medium-grit paper, then use fine paper.
If the tub has any chipped-out areas or indentations. Mix a small amount of auto body filler, apply it with a putty knife, allow it to dry, and sand perfectly smooth.
Carefully cover the walls next to the tub with masking tape. If there is a spout or handle in danger of getting spattered with enamel, remove or cover it completely with masking tape.
Wipe away all dust with a clean, dry rag and take steps to ensure that no dust enters the bathroom. Wait at least overnight for the tub to become absolutely dry.
Mix and Paint
Open the cans of the two-part epoxy, and thoroughly mix as much as you will need. Brush on the epoxy, using a high-quality bristle brush that is not likely to lose bristles as you work.
Painting epoxy is a bit tricky. Move the brush in one direction only instead of back and forth. Cover each area completely before moving on and go over the surface only once; if you go back over a spot a minute or so later, the paint may peel away or you may end up with an unsightly ripple.
Allow the paint to dry for a day, then repaint. Once you have finished, peel the masking tape away. Keep the area dust-free for several days before using the tub.
Order a Tub Insert
Here’s another solution: you can find a company that specializes in making fiberglass or high-gloss acrylic inserts that fit into your tub. Hundreds of sizes and styles are available. The company will measure your tub, then return several weeks later with an insert. The insert is permanently glued to the old tub, then return several weeks later with an insert. The insert is permanently glued to the old tub, giving you a surface that is superior to a refinished tub. This process, however, costs more than refinishing.