Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Refinishing the Bath Tub

As I mentioned in the bathroom remodeling post, our choices with the worn-nearly-down-to-metal porcelain enamelled cast iron tub were to (a) bring in a cutting torch and cut it in half to enable two power-lifters to carry it out through the door or (b) tear out the entire exterior wall of the room including removing the weight-bearing framing in order to hoist it out that way.

We chose (c): give the ugly tub a make-over and restore its erstwhile beauty.

I had planned to have a professional come refinish the tub, but no one local does this. So, I bought a two-part spray epoxy kit called "Magic ReNew Tub and Tile Refinishing", and did it myself.

Some years ago, I used spray Appliance Epoxy to paint a built-in oven exterior with good and lasting results. So I figured, as bad as this tub was, I certainly couldn't make it worse by trying.

If we only had one bathroom, we'd have had to arrange to shower at a friend's and brush our teeth in the kitchen for the couple of weeks this project required. As it was, we have two so just kept the door shut on this one.

The hardest part was cleaning and prep. This took a long time (several repetitive hours over the course of a week), but the final result will not work if the preparation is not scrupulous. Any residue of soap or oil hidden in a scratch will prevent the epoxy from adhering and cause it to peel.  I was careful not to stay on my knees too much and did as much work as possible from a crouch or sitting position.

I removed the drain cover and overflow cover before starting. The I put on my goggles, my rubber gloves, and set to work. I scrubbed, cleaned with TSP (per directions on refinishing kit & using all precautions listed on the TSP package itself), sanded, steel wooled.. then scrubbed, cleaned with TSP, sanded, steel wooled... some more for at least three times. I'd work on it after work each evening until I gave out, then start over the next day.

After the final final rinse, I let it dry for several days. That's another essential - absolute dryness.  Then I  masked EVERYTHING.

Seriously, this job can't be done without covering everything from the floor to walls with sheets and paper, as the spray paint will drift and settle and is impossible to remove. I left it all masked until the whole job was finished.

I followed all instructions carefully, especially the safety instructions, and including the interesting chill one/heat one method for mixing the contents of the two cans.

This task requires an experienced hand with canned spray paint. It would be wise to practice by repainting a set of wicker lawn furniture or something until one gets comfortable with the on/off, back/forth motion that covers without drips. I applied the several coats of epoxy over a course of days in the evenings, and closed that bathroom off completely to allow the full length of time to cure undisturbed.

While I will not be volunteering to do this for anyone else, and I still would recommend a professional if you can possibly get one, I am VERY happy with the results for a "homemade" job of it.


  1. I am thinking of painting our cast iron tub -- mainly because it is pink. I found your post and noticed it was from a year about -- are you still happy with your paint job? Do you still recommend painting a cast iron tub rather than replacing? Thanks!

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    The paint on our cast iron tub is still holding up well, and I plan to use Magic Renew to refinish the fiberglass tub & shower walls in our other bathroom later this summer.

    Most of the year, it was only used occasionally, but since March, that bathroom has been used daily for long showers and no sign of issues at all.

    The paint did make the tub very slick - so much so that we had to put down a tub mat.

    For the expense save by not having to remove and replace our cast iron tub in our guest bath, I am still very pleased with the paint. It is my understanding that eventually (years from now), the paint will probably begin to loosen, especially around the drain fitting. At that time, we will need to sand down and go through the process again. So it is a fix that will last for a decade, not a lifetime. But we will probably be ready for another remodel in 10 years anyway.

    I hope this helped! Do come back and share your blog or pinterest pics of whatever you do with your bath - I'd love to see the outcome! :-)

    God bless you and have a great weekend!


  3. I just wanted to stop in and update this post. More than two years later, our bathtub is still beautiful. The "Magic Renew Tub and Tile Refinishing" product is still slick and stable. I am certain part of the success was the painstakingly cleaned and prepped cast iron, so do be sure not to cut corners or time on the scrubbing you do in advance. This kind of a job is all about process.

    Thank you to all who are still stopping by to read this post. I hope the info has been useful for you!


  4. Tina,
    I appreciate your information here as I am in a similar situation. We have a jetted corner tub that is fiberglass. Like you, we have no local tub refinishers in my small town. Lucky for me, the university in town was having work done by one of the companies I called. they came over and told me I had a defective tub - not made properly from the factory. It was not a candidate for refinishing they said even though they assured me it was structurally sound - no leaking. I cannot afford to have the tub replaced and really want this tub to look nice. It looks dirty! I use mine nightly and wonder if you think I could paint mine like you did?
    Thank you for your help. Sheila

  5. Hi Sheila! So nice to "meet" you. Thank you for stopping by. I have not yet gotten around to refinishing the fiberglass tub in our other bath but I am going to use this same process and do it when I get a chance. I am very happy with how well it has held up on our cast iron tub so it is worth a try. I figure since it already looks bad because it is so old, what could it hurt for me to refinish it? LOL!

    The cleaning process before starting is the most important part of the job. Pay special attention to the area around the drain so that the product will adhere completely. Allow plenty of drying time, and allow full curing time at each step. That is essential.

    We closed that bathroom off completely while I was working on it, and this took at least two weeks: several days to clean, at least two days to dry completely after cleaning, then several days to cure between coats and after the second coat. If it isn't allowed to cure completely it will still be soft underneath so be patient and err on the side of a longer time to cure. It will last better if you do.

    If someone doesn't have a second bath, perhaps a friend or local gym will let them use their shower until the project is complete.

    Get good chemical-resistant gloves to wear during cleaning with TSP and when applying the product, and a mask to prevent breathing any of the fumes. Follow all safety precautions on the label.

    Best wishes for a good result if you do decide to try it, and I hope you will stop by and let me know how it goes. God bless you! :-)


  6. I have been frustrated with a few areas that have bubbled up after a thorough prep. I will sand and and clean it again but it definitely is not an easy process.

    1. No, it is not easy at all. Congratulations to you for being willing to tackle such a hard job!!! Bummer that it did not turn out perfect for you :-(

      My original cast iron tub is still holding up, even with daily use for the past 4 years. HOWEVER, I refinished our other bath - a fiberglass tub and shower - three years ago, and it is not holding up as well. Has bubbling and peeling in a few spots such as what you experienced.

      I suspect the fiberglass is much harder to prep because once it is worn it is slightly porous, and probably requires a longer or augmented drying time (a fan blowing on it for a full day) between prep and application to be sure all the moisture is gone from any areas where the original fiberglass finish is worn.

      I have not yet gone back to repair those areas, though, so it is just a guess.

      All best wishes,




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