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bathtub refinishing

Bathtub Refinishing Can Add New Life to an Old Tub


May 23, 2020 by Erik Martin

Along with the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the most important rooms valued by home buyers or renters. But a stained, worn, or ugly tub can significantly decrease a bath's aesthetic appeal. That's why it pays to refinish a tub -- a job that a handy DIYer can tackle, although it’s probably best handled by an experienced pro.

To determine if a bathtub refinishing is right for your property, consider several factors, including:

  • Signs that your tub needs refinishing
  • Benefits of bathtub refinishing
  • Drawbacks and risks of reglazing
  • Steps involved in refinishing your tub
  • Alternatives to consider

Planned and executed properly, a tub refinishing can catch the eye and make a bathroom pop. Just be sure your tub is a good candidate for reglazing and you follow the instructions carefully if you choose to do it yourself.

Signs that your tub needs refinishing

It's best to refinish your tub when, after sliding your hand over the finish, it no longer feels smooth, according to Joshua Rodenborn, real estate investor and principal of Jax Nurses Buy Houses in Jacksonville, FL.

"It's also time to reglaze when the finish is dull or sports wear marks," he says.

Robin Adair, a real estate agent and owner of Sell Raleigh Home Fast, a real estate flipping firm based in Raleigh, NC, also recommends refinishing when certain red flags are apparent. These include when the color is outdated and cleaning products will not restore the tub's luster.

Benefits of bathtub refinishing

When renting or flipping a home, it's smart to reduce renovation costs any way you can. While remodeling or updating a bathroom is important, this could be one of the most expensive areas of the home to improve. An unattractive or damaged bathtub can reduce the home's appeal, which is why it's crucial to address this problem.

"Refinishing a tub can save thousands of dollars otherwise spent on demolition, tub removal, and hiring a plumber to set a new tub," says Rodenborn.

Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta-based Realtor, attorney, and landlord, agrees.

"It pays to refinish a dinging, faded, or ugly tub. Kitchens and baths are high points of buyer interest, and an old bath and tub can kill an otherwise great sale," says Ailion. "I typically see a 200% return on investment with reglazing."

Every expert interviewed agreed that white is the best makeup reglazing color to pick. That's because it's neutral and blends well with most home décor.

"White never goes out of style and, when dry, it has that nice and clean appearance," Adair says.

Drawbacks and risks of reglazing

The good news is that refinishing a tub costs a lot less than replacing one. Per HomeAdvisor, the average tab for installing a replacement bathtub is $3,465, but the price range can exceed $5,800 -- including labor.

The bad news is that reglazing a tub isn't cheap, either. HomeAdvisor reports that the average price tag when you hire a pro is $464, although it can surpass $600 (including labor and materials).

You can save a lot of money by doing the job yourself, as reglazing materials -- often sold in a kit -- can cost $30 to $150. But many don't advise going this route.

"Like everything, there's a learning curve involved. I don't think a do-it-yourselfer can get it right the first time," cautions Ailion. "Likely, they would mess it up and it will cost more to fix after they attempt a repair on their own."

Adair says he tried refinishing a bathtub once on his own.

"It was a mess. There's a lot that goes into reglazing a tub, and it's not for a beginner by any stretch of the imagination," notes Adair.

Rodenborn seconds that sentiment.

"We have attempted to complete this job ourselves but didn't achieve the look we desired. I recommend hiring a professional," Rodenborn says.

Steps involved in refinishing your tub

If you're determined to complete this job on your own, follow these steps outlined by Rodenborn:

  1. Research refinishing kit products carefully and purchase one online or from a local home improvement store.
  2. Thoroughly remove caulk around the tile surrounding the tub and fixtures, and remove or mask the tub drain and faucet.
  3. Clean the tub with a degreaser/cleaner.*
  4. Fill in any small chips or holes with an epoxy filler* and let it dry.
  5. Etch the tub using etching powder* and water to promote better bonding with the new glaze.
  6. Sand down the surface to further promote bonding, rinse down the tub, and allow it to dry. Remove all moisture with a clean towel or rag.
  7. Mask the floor, tile, and other surrounding surfaces with tape, and lay down drop cloths.
  8. Provide good ventilation and don a respirator mask. Put on safety gloves and goggles.
  9. Use a roller to apply the primer and allow it to dry.
  10. Mix the epoxy glaze and apply it with a roller to the tub. "Typically, two to three coats are sufficient. Wait 15 minutes between each coat," suggests Rodenborn.
  11. Permit the tub to cure for 48 hours.*

*Often included in the reglazing kit; follow the directions carefully.

Basically, most if not all of the same steps will be followed by a professional if you hire one to refinish your tub. However, a pro is likely to use a sprayer, different materials, and additional techniques. This often results in a more attractive, smoother, and longer-lasting finish.

Alternatives to consider

Refinishing isn't always the best option. For example, it may be time to replace the tub when large chips or dents are present.

"Large chips are difficult to repair, and dents are almost impossible to remove," cautions Rodenborn.

Crunch the numbers: When the cost to reglaze outweighs the cost to replace, then it's time to swap in a new tub, Adair recommends.

Lastly, instead of reglazing or replacing the bathtub, consider installing an acrylic bathtub liner. This is a solid shell, made from a mold, that mimics the size and contours of your existing tub. A professional can permanently attach the liner atop your tub in quick fashion -- within a day or two.

HomeAdvisor reports that the cost to install bathtub liners, labor and materials included, spans $800 to $1,000, on average.

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