How to Refinish Your Bathtub

The cost of a new bathtub is not too bad, but when you add in the necessary costs of demolition, new tiles, flooring, plumbers, contractors, etc. the costs can add up significantly.

Even if you’re an avid DIYer and plan to do much of the work yourself, the cost of materials alone can really blow your budget.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve your bathtub’s appearance without requiring its removal and that can achieve a satisfactory result.

Bathtub liners

If your acrylic bathtub is severely cracked and chipped a bathtub liner can be a satisfactory option to improve its appearance.

A tub liner is made of plastic that’s been molded in the shape of a bathtub and is placed over your existing bathtub.

If the installer does it correctly they will chemically strip the finish on your existing bathtub before using heavy-duty glue and butyl tape to seal and secure the liner over your tub.

Things to consider

Installation costs for liners can be expensive ranging from about $1,000 to $4,000 or more, depending on your location.

It could create issues with the plumbing as the additional thickness of the liner could require a plumber to extend the drain and overflow.

The liner can leak allowing mold and mildew to grow between the liner and the existing tub, presenting a significant health hazard.

Refinishing your bathtub

Another, less expensive option, is to have your bathtub’s finish redone.

Also known as reglazing, the process involves resurfacing the enamel on your bathtub to create a “like-new” finish. As with a lining installation, refinishing is done in your bathroom, right where your tub sits so there are no worries about the need for replacement tiles, plumbing fixes, flooring or cement board.

While the costs of having a professional refinish your bathtub aren’t prohibitive, this is a job that an experienced DIY homeowner can do themselves.

If you opt for the DIY route here’s how to refinish your bathtub, extending its life while saving you money too.:

Prepare the bathtub

Remove the caulking and thoroughly clean the bathtub with bleach, water and then a cleaner such as LimeAway. 

Next, remove the bath fixtures, drain fittings and any other hardware.

Put a ventilation fan in the bathroom window to blow odors outside of the home.

Rub 400 to 600 grit sandpaper over the entire surface of your bathtub to roughen it up. It’s also smart to use acid to etch the enamel to help the new coating to adhere better.

Next, use a vacuum to thoroughly remove all debris, then rinse well and allow to dry. Use a tack cloth to ensure every trace of moisture is removed.

Before applying your new finish fill in any chips or cracks in your enamel tub with an epoxy (there are many kits on the market). Let it dry, and then sand it until smooth.

Then, clean and dry well.

Protect surrounding areas

Clean the surface again, allow to dry and then use painters’ tape or masking tape to protect the tiles surrounding your tub and your bathroom floor.

While a spray gun is what professionals use if you’re not confident in using one you can use a small roller or brush instead. 

Most DIY bathtub refinishing kits will come with most everything you need such as the following:

  • ⬥ a quart of epoxy with hardener
  • ⬥ steel wool
  • ⬥ latex gloves
  • ⬥ a brush
  • ⬥ safety goggles
  • ⬥ thinner/cleaner

Note that the epoxy can be tinted, but you’ll need to buy tint separately if you want something besides white.

Apply up to three coats of primer and let dry, then apply three to four layers of top-coat and let cure, typically anywhere from two to four days.

Depending on the kit you use you may or may not need to buff the coating once it’s cured.

Note: Don’t use abrasive cleaners on your new bathtub; the coating is tougher than paint, but not as strong as your tub was from the factory.