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Refinishing Your Bathtub

Not a Liner, Not a Replacement


Refinished Bathtub from Permaglaze

Refinished Bathtub

© Permaglaze; Courtesy Permaglaze
Got a yucky bathtub? Visit a home improvement store and you note that a new bathtub is inexpensive--less than $200. How hard can this be to replace? But add in the cost of a contractor, demolition, removal, landfill fees, tilers, and a plumber, and the total cost of the job has ballooned.

You can install an acrylic liner, but it is still costly and it only covers up your bathroom problems. Compared to all that, refinishing your tub looks pretty good.

Your Options

  1. Replacement: Tear out your existing tub/shower and replace. What's the worst part of this? The demolition. Cost: $1,000 or more.
  2. Refinishing: Refinishing is a hire-the-pro project. DIY is great for many things, but it is virtually impossible to do a decent bathtub refinishing job by yourself. Porcelain, fiberglass, and cast-iron tubs can all be refinished.
  3. Tub Liners: At prices equal to or greater than refinishing, bathtub liners are not the bargain option. But they are always cheaper than full replacement, and unlike refinishing, you never worry about the finish wearing away.
  4. DIY Refinishing: Worth mentioning as something you probably do not want to take on. Nearly impossible to achieve a smooth finish, and DIY finishes will begin to peel and chip soon after.

Overview of Tub Refinishing Process

One common misconception of bathtub refinishing--and mine, too, until I researched the topic--is that the bathtub needs to be removed and taken to a shop. Yes, some refinishing does take place off-site, but most refinishing is done on-site. Refinishing technicians are highly aware of the fact that they are in a private residence, so they take precautions to minimize overspray and other mess.

After masking and dropcloths are set up, the tub is repaired (nicks and holes filled), primed, sealed, and painted with a highly durable, glossy top-coat of any color you choose.

Surprised that it is paint? The two biggest bathtub refinishing companies I spoke to like to call the substance a "coating," rather than paint. Look at it however you want, but rid your mind of the idea that bathtub refinishing is a duplication of the tub's original dip-coat. In some cases, you can send a valuable cast iron tub off-site for a new dip-coat--but this is not what we refer to as bathtub refinishing.

Also rid your mind of the notion that this is DIY-level spray-painting. The coatings are formulated for this purpose, and the methods and tools used by the technicians are difficult, if not impossible, for the average homeowner to duplicate.

The Heavyweights: Miracle Method and Permaglaze

What brings down refinishing--sometimes called reglazing--costs is the fact that competition for refinishing business is fierce. Searching for refinishing companies, you will find:

  • Miracle Method, with about 120 U.S. locations.
  • Permaglaze, with 50-60 U.S. locations.
  • Countless independent, local companies whose quality may be higher or lower than the national franchises.

What Do Pro Bathtub Refinishers Do When They Reglaze Your Bathtub or Shower...?
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