Not sure whether to refinish tub and tile or replace? What you need to know before deciding; plus steps for DIY vs. Hiring a Pro. Bathtub Refinishing Consumer Awareness Guide to smart bathtub refinishing.
Refinishing is a process that’s also commonly known as reglazing or resurfacing. The process involves repairing any scratches or dents, removing the old finish and applying a fresh new finish with a glossy top-coat that makes the tub, sink, or tiles look brand new again.
By refinishing your old tub instead of replacing it you can enjoy a like-new look for only a fraction of the cost and hassle of a large renovation. In most cases, replacing a bathtub requires an extensive amount of work and a considerable investment of both time and money. The overall cost of this project and whether or not it makes sense for your situation depends on a variety of factors.
In this handy guide you’ll learn more about the pros and cons associated with refinishing or replacing your bathtub. We’ve also compiled information to help you decide whether to hire a professional or try doing the refinishing job yourself. Although this guide is focusing on bathtubs, most of the information herein also applies to any tile surface such as sinks, countertops and wall tiles.
In This Guide:
- Refinishing vs. Replacing a Bathtub
- When to Not Refinish
- DIY or Hire?
- Steps in DIY Refinishing
- Common DIY Mistakes
- Hiring a Pro
- Cost to Refinish a Tub
- Getting Best Value
Section 1: Refinishing vs. Replacing a Bathtub
There are many reasons for remodeling your bathroom. Whether your current room is out of style or your fixtures are suffering unsightly wear and damage, then you’re ready for change. So rehabbing the tub, for example, can make a significant difference in the look of the entire room. When it comes down to getting the job done, the question remains: should you replace or refinish?
Most basic tubs retail for as little as $300, which may be equal to or even less expensive than refinishing. Before you start shopping, you need to consider the hidden extra costs in replacing a bathtub, which include:
- Demolition and removal of the old tub typically adds $500-$1,000 to the final price
- Hiring a plumber to re-attach pipes costs $299 according to the national average
- Installation of the new tub costs $2,896 according to the national average
- If you’re thinking of replacing your tub with a shower pan, first consider the effect this could have on the home’s resale appeal. Most prospective buyers shy away from homes without a bathtub, particularly if they have children
Once you add everything up, that $300 tub turns into a project that costs more than $3,000. There’s also always the chance that you’ll encounter structural or plumbing problems along the way, which extends the time and cost of the project.
For example, to refinish a tub, most homeowners spend between $200 and $900, with the average cost coming in at around $460. However our prices begin at $295 and are more normally around $395 for most bathtubs. Prices are similar for sink refinishing too.
So if you consider all of the costs associated with replacing then refinishing seems like a real bargain. Additionally, if you have an irreplaceable antique or rare bathtub you likely want to keep it to preserve the charm of your decor or the historical accuracy it provides in an older house.
Section 2: When Not to Refinish
It’s important to note that to refinish a bathtub isn’t always the best idea. Here are 3 primary reasons for not refinishing.
a) Damaged Beyond Repair
If the tub is damaged beyond repair then replacement is the best option. However we rarely encounter a tub that is “beyond repair”. Over the last 15+ years in business we’ve seen and repaired just about everything you can imagine.
Here’s an example of a fiberglass tub repair we can do that others would think replacement is the only option:
Examples of a tub “beyond repair” are destroyed by fire or cut into piece with a saw. Other than those extreme cases, we can repair just about any damage back to like new condition.
b) Timeliness to Use
If you’re having a party or company is coming to stay within the next day or two, and they will need to use the fixtures, then it’s best to put off refinishing until after the event.
Refinishing takes about a day to cure. So that means the fixtures being resurfaced aren’t usable for about 24 hours. Wait until a time when it’s okay for the bathroom to not be in use for a few days. Then go ahead and refinish.
c) You Want a Different Style
If, for example, you have a standard built-in bathtub but really want a free standing ornate clawfoot tub then no amount of refinishing will make your regular style tub look like a clawfoot tub.
Or, for another example, you might have a regular tub but really want a Jacuzzi/spa tub with water jets. Again, refinishing your old standard tub won’t turn it into a Jacuzzi tub. In these cases you’ll have to make the decision to refurbish your old tub or replace it with a more desirable style.
d) Bonus Reason
This one is so rare we didn’t make it a Top 3 but it does bear mentioning. Think Antique Road Show; old, vintage, unique, or antique, with historical or personal family history value.
If, for example, you have a tub from the 1700’s once owned by Thomas Jefferson then please do not refurbish it! Because the natural patina is part of its historic value and appeal. But seriously, how often does this come up? A tub like this should be in a museum anyway; or perhaps sealed in a historian’s private collection.
Section 3: DIY or Hire a Pro?
Whether you decide to hire a professional or do the project on your own, it’s important to research the materials necessary to refinish the tub. Also learn how to refinish a bathtub and discover how long over-the-counter DIY chemicals typically lasts. You’ll also need to fix any plumbing issues before starting the project.
To help you decide whether to hire a professional or trying to do this yourself, read through some tips below for both choices. One of the main benefits of refinishing on your own is saving money. But you do have to factor in the value of your time in the following ways:
- Learning how to master this trade
- Acquiring all the proper tools and chemicals required, and
- The time to complete the project.
Section 4: Steps to Do it Yourself (DIY)
Here are the DIY steps to follow:
- Learn How. Research the internet for DIY self help on bathtub painting. Watch a lot of videos. Then practice on an old fixture or some scrap tiles to hone your skills before having a go at the main item.
- Buy the Tools and Materials. Research the best tools and material you’ll need for the project. Spend time shopping online or go to a big box home store. Look for a complete kit that includes everything you need for the project, including cleaner, sandpaper, primer, refinishing paint, a roller, a brush and a tray, all for $60 to $100. The best kits use a durable resin coating instead of epoxy, which is quick to discolor and chip. Most of the cheaper kits only come with the epoxy coating, which means you still need to buy all the extras and you might end up wanting to refinish the tub again in a year or two.
- Take Safety Precautions. Most professionals wear coveralls and HEPA air filters to protect themselves from the fumes and from coming into contact with the refinishing paint. At the very least, you should wear a mask, goggles and gloves because the refinishing chemicals when in liquid or vapor form are harsh on the skin and toxic if inhaled. They are however safe when fully dry and cured.
- Do the work. Start by protecting the areas you aren’t refinishing with a tarp or plastic sheeting. Prepare the tub surface by sanding it down and repairing cracks before applying the primer, refinishing paint and topcoat. Clean up the mess afterward.
- Precaution. You can attempt refinishing tubs yourself as there are DIY kits at big box stores. If your back gets sore easily keep in mind there’s a lot of bending over and extended periods of time spent on your knees. The chemical fumes are awful while in close proximity to the work surface. So if you’re extra sensitive to fumes refinishing tubs and tiles might not be something you want to do yourself.
Your Results May Vary
If you approach this as a DIY project, then know that you’ll have fewer color choices available. And you might end up with a questionable finish because DIY chemicals aren’t pro quality and they are applied by roller and/or brush. Since that is so, then the finish may not last as long either. Pros apply the chemicals via spray gun. The difference is like painting your car with a brush vs. spraying painting.
Tub Refinishing Tips
If you opt to go at it alone, here are a few tips to get you started.
Prepare the Area
Pros will protect the rest of your bathroom and home by covering the floor and other fixtures with heavy-duty plastic to prevent over-spray and dust from carrying over to areas that aren’t being refinished. Using an exhaust fan to ventilate the bathroom for several days helps vent the odor of the refinishing products while they are curing.
Remove the Old Finish
Before you can add a new finish to your bathtub, you need to strip the old one off by sanding the surface thoroughly. The new finish adheres best to a perfectly smooth surface.
Once you have the old finish sanded off, evaluate the surface of the tub. Any areas with rust, cracks or chips must be repaired with a waterproof crack-repair product or something similar.
Apply the New Finish
The exact instructions may vary from product to product, but most tub-refinishing products include a primer that’s applied to the prepared surface. Allow the primer to dry before applying several coats of the refinishing material. Let the material dry between each layer and before applying a sealing coat. Once the top coat goes on, the tub’s new finish typically needs to set for 24 hours before you can run water over it.
Section 5: Common DIY Mistakes
Although it may seem tempting to save money on a pro and try your hand at refinishing the tub on your own, approaching this as a DIY project can have its pitfalls.
Without thorough surface preparation, complete removal of the old finish, and allowing each layer to completely dry before adding the next one, your newly refinished tub will have a rough texture. Couple that with painting on the new surface instead of spraying and you could end up with a total disaster on your hands.
Other potential problems include bubbles popping up in the layers of epoxy because of improper application techniques. Brush or roll marks when using paint-on epoxy. And failing to let the tub dry long enough between coats which can mar the final coat and leave the finish looking smudged.
If the tub feels tacky, even after you wait the required amount of curing time, the coating might not have set correctly and you may need to strip it all off and start over.
Section 6: Hiring a Pro
Hiring a professional to refinish your tub is relatively inexpensive when you factor in all the time and potential pitfalls involved it a DIY project. In return for paying to have someone do the work, you save time, eliminate the worry of making mistakes and receive numerous benefits, such as:
- Avoiding the mess of the refinishing product
- Distance from health hazards of exposure to toxic chemicals
- Having superior surface preparation
- Enjoying high-quality refinishing that makes the tub look like new
- Getting an increased number of color choices. We can match your existing color or create custom shades
- Obtaining a finish that can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years compared to the 2-year longevity of DIY products
If you rely on a refinishing company to do the work for you, the only thing you need to worry about is making sure the plumbing fixtures are in good shape. For example, if you want to replace the faucet or if you have a leak, that should be done before the refinisher arrives.
When you hire a professional, you can allow the pro to guide your choices in the color and finish of the reglazing tub product. Many pros can create custom colors to match what you already have or provide a completely different, fresher look. For example, here’s a bathroom makeover review from a client about how she feels her tub and bathroom sink vanity refinishing went.
Ask potential contractors:
- Their background: How long have you been refinishing bathtubs? How many similar projects do you typically complete every month?
- About the products: What kind of refinishing bathtub paint do you use? What are your color choices? Are there any warranties?
- What to expect: How many workers will be present during the job, and how long will it take? If you use subcontractors, do you perform background checks?
Additionally, verify that the contractor is licensed and insured. Ask for pictures of the contractor’s previous work, and check the professional’s references to gauge other customers’ level of satisfaction.
Surface Renew’s Background:
Since you are already considering Surface Renew for your tub and tile refinishing, here’s our answers to the questions above.
We began serving Arkansas in April, 2004. We have multiple vans in the field 22 or more days per month. Each van crew does 1-2 jobs a day. You can view lots of before/after photos of our work in our gallery.
About the Products:
Simply put, we use only the best because we are building a business based on excellence. We want happy customers who use our service again and refer us to their friends and family. All our tools are top quality too.
What to Expect:
- We send 1 or 2 workers depending on the size of the job.
- All our workers are employees driving company vans and using company equipment.
- No subcontractors, only our employees.
- We perform background checks on all new hires.
- And include rigorous training with ongoing training and support.
The time to complete a job depends on the scope of work. For example you can expect our workers to complete a regular tub refinishing project in about 3-4 hours. If we are refinishing all the surfaces in your entire bathroom (such as sinks, wall tile, tub, etc.) then we might be there all day.
Section 7: Cost to Refinish a Bathtub
Typical Average Price Range for Refinishers: $329 – $595
Arkansas Average: $490
National Average: $460
Typical Range: $329 – $595
Low End – High End: $200 – $900
* Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 5,362 HomeAdvisor.com members.
Surface Renew Average: $395
Some tubs start as low as $295. Want an accurate quote for your specific project? Contact us!
Section 8: Getting Best Value
So hopefully you’ve found this handy Bathtub Refinishing Consumer Awareness Guide helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments please reach out and let us know. If you have an old tub and decide to have professional refinishing, then the end result might be a higher quality finish than what you can do yourself. Might also look better than any replacement you buy new.
Our techs can change the color of your tile, tubs, sinks, and countertops to any color you want within the color spectrum. Also we can also change the texture to a variety of faux stone finishes. And that’s something you probably won’t be able to yourself.
- Refinishing is far more affordable than installing a new tub.
- Be sure to weigh all the costs before deciding to do it yourself vs. hiring a professional.
- You might surprise yourself when you discover that hiring a pro is actually the better value!
We work hard to get your dingy old tub looking good as new again. Whether it’s made of fiberglass, acrylic, porcelain, or cast iron, we can refinish them all. The whole process is fast and easy, taking between 2 and 5 hours. And then you’ll be able to use the bathtub the very next day. How convenient is that?
Contact Surface Renew today to set time for an onsite price quote. Or ask us a question. And then we’ll reply ASAP with your answer and/or your custom price quote. We’re all about great customer service!
Company: Surface Renew, Inc.
Arkansas Little Rock Central Office: 501-920-9326
Arkansas Fayetteville Northwest Office: 479-226-0703
See our photo gallery for examples of our work. You can expect the same high quality results for your project!
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