8 Steps for the Perfect DIY Bathtub Refinish

DIY Bathtub Refinish | A1 Reglazing

There are many reasons homeowners decide to keep their old porcelain tubs, even when they are hard to clean and have stains. One reason is that the tubs are often deeper and more solid than a new tub made of cheap steel. Another reason is that they may not want to damage the tile around their tub when they remove, making it necessary to replace that, too, and adding more cost.

Instead of replacing the tub, some homeowners decide to refinish their tub on their own, especially if they are DIY types who are looking to save some money rather than hiring a professional reglazing company.

Refinishing a tub revitalizes your bathroom and gives it a fresh look. There are different options for the DIY bathtub refinish in this project, including buying a bathtub refinishing kit from your local hardware store or opting for a better product by purchasing one online, but the basic procedure is the same.

This 8-step process will give you a beautiful new bathtub that you will be proud of.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Supplies

Before you dive into your bathtub refinishing project, you will need a few tools on hand. Here is a list of the basic tools you’ll need to buy, beg, borrow, or steal for your project:

  • Putty Knife
  • Razor Scraper
  • Screw Drivers
  • Utility Knife
  • Orbital Sander (can be skipped in lieu of hand sanding)
  • Respirator
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Scouring powder
  • Scouring Pad
  • Ventilation fan
  • Bondo or polyester filler for repairs
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Tough chemically resistant gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Silicone Digester
  • Mildew resistant bathroom caulk
  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Paper towels
  • Painters tack cloth
  • Drop cloth
  • Plastic to protect surfaces if spraying

Step 2: Take Safety Precautions

The fumes from refinishing your bathtub can be very dangerous, so you want to take precautions to make sure that you and any other person (or pet) in your home does not breathe them. To keep the area well-ventilated, turn on the bathroom ventilation fan during your project and open the bathroom window, placing a fan blowing outwards. Seal around the fan with masking so that air is not drawn back into the bathroom.

Another option, if a fan will not fit in the window, is to put a fan in the bathroom door facing into the bathroom and use plastic to seal off around it. Open the window so that the fan in the bathroom door forces air out the window.

If there is no bathroom window, place a fan blowing out of the bathroom door into your home, but be certain that no one is in the home while the fumes are present.

Another safety precaution when you are refinishing a bathtub is to wear hand and eye protection.

Step 3: Remove All Caulk Around the Tub

To begin removing the caulk from your tub, remove the overflow plate above the drain. Use a utility knife to start cutting the caulk around the tub where it meets the surround. Make vertical cuts from above on the tile side and horizontal cuts along the bathtub.

When the caulk starts to loosen, use a putty knife to work the caulk off. Any black marks from your tools can be removed later. If the caulk that was used to caulk your tub was silicone, you will need to purchase a silicone digester to remove the residue or it will ruin your finishing job.  You can use the silicone digester for any leftover residue after you remove all the caulk from the tub and tile.

Step 4: Thoroughly Clean the Tub

To begin cleaning, use a razor scraper to remove soap scum. Make sure to scrape under the soap dish and around the drain to remove debris or plumber’s putty. Use a scouring powder, such as Bar Keeper’s Friend, and a scouring pad to scrub the entire tub. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT STEP. The tub must be free of all oils and soap scum in order for the refinishing to work. The most likely place for your DIY bathtub refinish to fail is in the drain, so be sure to scrub thoroughly in this area.

After scrubbing, rinse the tub thoroughly, looking carefully to make sure there is no missed caulk, silicone, or soap film. Dry the tub with paper towels.

Step 5: Make Any Necessary Bathtub Repairs

After mixing up some polyester filler and putting a few sheets of masking paper in the bottom of the tub, use a putty knife to apply the filler over any chips or defects. You will need to let this dry and then sand it off.  Keep in mind that it may be necessary to repeat this procedure until all the defects are repaired and the surface is smooth.

Step 6: Sand the Tub

After you have dried the tub well with paper towels (especially around the drain), you will need to use an orbital sander or hand sand the surface of the tub. Use 120 grit sandpaper or discs, and make certain to have your respirator on first for this process.

When you have completed sanding the entire tub, wipe the dust with a paper towel, making sure to wipe towards the back of the tub and away from the drain. Remove the dust from the tub.

Next, wearing gloves, a respirator, and eye protection, soak a paper towel in lacquer thinner and wipe down the tub and tile directly above the tub.

Step 7: Apply Masking Tape Around the Tub and Floor

Use ¾” or 1” masking tape on the tile around the tub and the floor in front of the tub. Also, mask the drain by applying tape across the drain and cutting around it to remove the excess from the tub.  To protect from drips during the refinishing process, place a latex glove or some other cover over the faucet and shower head. Now take masking paper and tape and cover around the tub and floor again.

Step 8: Apply your DIY Bathtub Refinish Product

Now you are ready to follow the directions in the bathtub refinishing kit that you have purchased. These kits have different directions, so make sure that you read them thoroughly, as well as take the safety precautions, like wearing a respirator, gloves, and eye protection.

Within a few hours of completing the application, you can remove the masking from the tub. You want to wait to do this so no dust falls into the tub and sticks. In a day, you can re-caulk the bathtub in a non-silicone caulk and in two days you can replace the overflow cover.

Reglazing your bathtub is not difficult to do on your own, but it is very important to make sure the surface is properly cleaned and prepared to ensure a successful application. If you are not the DIY type or are sensitive to harsh fumes from chemicals, you may want to call a professional reglazing company to refinish your tub for you. Good luck with your bathroom remodel!