Can You Re-Enamel a Bathtub?

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A damaged stand-alone tub may require either re-enameling or replacement.
A damaged stand-alone tub may require either re-enameling or replacement. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Bathtub re-enameling or refinishing is a viable alternative to purchasing and installing a new tub or having an insert placed over an existing tub. A new tub may be cost prohibitive, and a liner may not be possible if you have a stand-alone clawfoot-type bathtub. Consider re-enameling your bathtub using the services of a professional bathroom renovation company or, if you're a dedicated do-it-yourselfer, look for a bathtub refinishing kit at your local home improvement store.

Professional Re-Enameling

A professional bathtub re-enameling company will typically require two to three hours to complete the restoration process and ask you to allow 24 hours drying time before using the tub. The process involves stripping the enamel from the tub using heavy-duty, corrosive chemicals. After grinding the bathtub to provide an etched, paint-ready surface, a water-resistant enamel primer coating is applied. The final step involves a sprayed-on coating of an aliphatic acrylic polyurethane enamel paint.

Enameling the Tub Yourself

You can re-enamel the tub yourself for approximately half the cost of what the pros may charge. Purchase a bathtub refinishing kit featuring a two-part enamel paint at your local hardware or home improvement store. Surface preparation is essential, as is close attention to safety issues. Maintain proper air circulation and wear safety gloves, glasses and a face mask or ventilator to protect yourself from potentially harmful chemical exposure.

Doing It Yourself

To avoid water dripping into the tub during the re-enameling process, turn off the water leading to the bathtub tap and shower head and attach plastic bags to both to catch any moisture that may remain in the water lines. Surface grease is best removed using a clean, white cloth infused with mineral spirits. Once the surface is completely dry, apply a coating of primer paint, let it dry, then follow with a brushed-on coat of the finished enamel.

DIY Tips

Applying your enamel paint in a circular direction, beginning at the bottom drain and moving up to the top edge, will avoid accidentally marring the wet painted surfaces. Since enamel paint is self-leveling, overbrushing is not required. A light, even brushstroke works best. The paint should be applied quickly so your paint edges blend together seamlessly and areas of running paint are avoided. Allow at least 24 hours of drying time before using your resurfaced tub for the first time.

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