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The focal point of a full bath is often its tub, which ought to be pristine and gleaming. If yours is pitted, chipped, or scratched—or sporting an old-fashioned color that no longer suits your style—you can spare yourself the bother and expense of ripping it out and replacing it. Options include putting in an acrylic liner for upwards of $300, or re-glazing the original yourself with special epoxy paint, using a kit available at any home center for about $25. Painting the bathtub can be a bit tricky, but with the following steps, patience, and care, you’ll get a porcelain-like finish that will last three to five years.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Caulk removal tool
- Abrasive cleanser
- Acetone or paint thinner
- Epoxy putty or tub repair product
- 400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper
- Clean towels
- Masking or painters’ tape
- Tub refinishing kit (which includes epoxy paint)
- Medium-sized paint buckets with covers (2)
- Paint stirrers
- Brushes and/or paint rollers
- Caulk and caulking gun
Ready the tub: Start by removing the old caulk. (Note: If you don’t have a specific caulk removal tool, a spackling knife or 5-in-1 painter’s tool can sub in here.) Then carefully remove the drain hardware and any fixtures in the bathtub itself, using the correct tools and procedures for your situation.
Ventilate the space by opening windows and running fans. Then wash the bathtub with 10 percent bleach in water solution. Rinse well, and follow with an abrasive cleanser like Comet or Soft Scrub. After thoroughly rinsing, wipe a solvent such as acetone or paint thinner over the entire surface to remove any remaining grease or cleanser residue.
Fill any scratches, chips, or gouges with epoxy putty or tub repair product for a like-new surface. Let dry completely and then sand these areas smooth. Next, sand the entire bathtub with wet/dry sandpaper, first with 400 grit and then going over it again with finer 600 grit. This will rough up the gloss so that paint easily adheres.
Rinse the bathtub thoroughly with water and wipe it dry with clean towels or rags. Allow the tub to air dry fully—it must be free of moisture prior to painting.
When prepping for paint, use masking or painters’ tape to protect the tile and fixtures around the bathtub. Then make sure your room is well ventilated and don your respirator or mask (epoxy paint is really stinky stuff).
Now, mix the paint in the tub refinishing kit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many kits use a two-part epoxy paint that you’ll need to combine prior to application. If that’s the case, pour each part into one bucket to mix, then transfer half of that mixture into the second container to save for the second coat; cover tightly to prevent it from drying out. The mixing phase is crucial so don’t play fast and loose with the directions!
Paint the bathtub, starting at the top in one corner and working your way across and down to the other side. Apply in a thin, even coat, being careful to smooth out any drips as you go with your roller or brush. Epoxy paint has a self-leveling property, so don’t be concerned if you see some bubbles or brush marks—these should disappear as it sets.
Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply the second coat in the same way you did the first.
Epoxy takes time to fully cure, so heed the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time. Don’t use the tub until the paint has fully cured—even if it feels dry to the touch. Once cured, remove the tape, re-caulk the tub and re-install the fixtures and drain hardware.
Going forward, maintain the bathtub as you would any porcelain surface, with your choice of cleanser. But right now, run yourself a nice, warm bath—you deserve it!