I love a good weathered finish or rustic design. What I do not love, is any of these things on my bathtub. Though our house had been mostly renovated when we moved in, the previous owners had neglected to bring the 70+ year old cast iron tub in the upstairs bathroom into the twenty-first century. It had a yellow-ish finish with multiple scratches and one large chip near the drain cover. The large chip was blue (because the original tub was blue) and no matter how hard I scrubbed, I could never get the tub to look clean and enticing enough for me to want to use it.
Since this is our primary bathroom, we consulted several contractors on replacing the tub, but the quotes were out of our budget (in the neighborhood of $3,000-$5,000) and it would have been a huge, messy, almost weeklong project.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remembered seeing someone refinish their bathtub (probably on HGTV) and dug around for more information. It turns out that bathtub refinishing is God’s gift to home improvement because we ended up finding a contractor who brought new life to our bathtub for just under $550.
If you’re going to go this route (which I highly recommend in most situations!), here are a few tips to help you determine whether it’s the right decision for you and choosing a contractor:
- Our tub is cast iron and the large chip was cosmetic only since cast iron doesn’t (really) leak. I suppose at some point everything can leak if stressed enough, but in our case, the tub had been refinished (badly) before and the chip was surface-level. If you have one of the more modern options of porcelain, acrylic, or fiberglass, I suggest consulting a few contractors first to see if the tub is leaking. If it is, you’re better off replacing it.
- If your tub has been refinished before, it’s important to find a contractor who is willing to sand down the existing finish first before slapping a new layer.
- Call around! I called about 5 different contractors and their estimates varied widely amongst the well-reviewed ones in the area. Since this is a standard procedure, most people should be willing to give you an estimate over the phone.
- The work took about 5 hours and you won’t be able to use your tub for a minimum of 24 hours after it’s finished to allow for drying time. Since we have a shower in the downstairs bathroom, we stayed off of the upstairs tub for 2 weeks after the work was completed to give it time to fully cure. If you only have one bathtub/shower area, 24 hours is fine as long as you don’t leave anything on the tub for 2 weeks (ie. Take your shampoo bottles off the tub after you use them).
- Make sure you find a contractor that offers a warranty with their work. Ours comes with a 3-year-warranty and ensures that if the finish starts peeling not due to our own negligence, they will come out and fix the issue.
- That being said, you cannot use any abrasive cleaners on a refinished bathtub or it will start peeling (and render your warranty useless). I use dish soap and a scrubber pad and that works perfectly well.
Thanks to the pandemic, my spa days are limited, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fake it with a wood tray and every candle I own. I’m in love with this handmade bathtub tray from Chapter 35 Designs on Etsy, and while her page advertises a white-washed finish, I had her do an espresso color because damn, it feels good to be a gangster.
And so, I’m raising my glass of pinot grigio as a toast to you, to Friday, and to all the ways in which you are making your home your sanctuary for this upcoming (socially-distant) winter.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”