Over time, bathtubs become stained, scratched, rusted or chipped. Porcelain surfaces become thin and start absorbing soaps and oils. Acrylic surfaces can also wear out. Replacing a bathtub is expensive, and reglazing is an affordable option. When bathtubs are reglazed, or refinished, the old glaze is removed and a new one is applied. Reglazing your bathtub can make it look brand new, but only if it’s done properly.
A number of materials are used to reglaze a bathtub, with varying degrees of success. Some are paints or epoxies that are applied directly to the surface of the bathtub. These materials aren’t very durable, don’t tend to bond well and may peel off after a short time. Industrial reglazing products are chemically hardened acrylic, urethane or polyurethane materials designed to keep their gloss and resist impact. Many of the materials used are so toxic that the refinisher has to wear a respirator and use special equipment to vent the air out of your house.
There’s more to reglazing a bathtub than using professional strength materials. If you want your bathtub to look attractive after it’s been reglazed, you also need to make sure the surface is properly prepared to accept the new finish. A professional refinisher uses solvents to clean the bathtub and strong acids such as hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the existing glaze prior to adding a new finish.
Do-it-yourself kits are available in local hardware stores that allow you to reglaze your bathtub. However, kits sold to homeowners don’t contain professional-strength bonding agents or delaminating solutions. The bonding agents they do include are acetone or alcohol, unlike the silane-based adhesion promoter professional refinishers use. According to refinisher Mike D. Maddocks, most reglazing from DIY kits fails during the first year, and sometimes as soon as one week after application. Often the new finish starts peeling off.
Professionally reglazed bathtubs can last between 5 and 10 years. You can extend the lifespan of your bathtub with proper care. Don’t use abrasive cleaners, bleach or cleaners that contain acids, and don’t use steel wool, abrasive pads or hard brushes. Don’t use bathtub mats with suction cups because they will pull up the coating. Wipe your bathtub down with a towel each time you use it.
- Bathtub Refinishing Association of America: Bathtub Refinishing
- The Tub Doctor: Refinishing vs Replacing Tile - Bathtub Refinishing
- This Old House: 2 Solutions for Worn-out Bathtubs
- Original Porcelain Refinishing: Materials & FAQs
- Ask the Builder: Bathtubs
- This Old House: Refinish Your Cast-Iron Tub
- Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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