Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

Clawfoot tub refinishing

How-To, Master Bathroom

As you may recall, we were thrilled to pick up a salvaged clawfoot tub a few weeks ago. We still haven’t gotten to the cleaning stage yet, but I’ve already lept ahead to the refinishing process because I love me some research.

There are basically three parts of the tub that need restoring, and each needs something different. The claw feet are painted, with a bit of rust, so they need to be sandblasted. There is chatter among Teague and one of his construction buddies about getting this done through a friend, which would be great. Otherwise it’ll probably be me, a wire brush, and 3 weeks of hell ;)

Clawfoot tub, yet again

The exterior was painted with dark green latex. It’s not in very bad shape so we could just repaint it. Or, if we’re feeling extra plucky, we could strip the paint and sand it down nice and smooth. I’ve even read about people who use bondo to smooth it out completely – they do that because the original cast iron finish was never (and will never be) smooth. Honestly, I think I like a little bump, for character’s sake. The one hesitation I have with the exterior is that there is a spot where it has rusted through to the inside. Will this be a problem down the road, if we leave it there and paint over it? I have no clue. More research is needed, obviously.

The third part is the most complex – the porcelain interior. The other parts I’m confident we can DIY. This, I am not so sure of. You can buy spray-on enamel restoration kits. They seem pretty straightforward, albeit time-consuming and tedious. Two talented housebloggers over at Domiciliate managed to tackle their tub on their own, and the results look fantastic. But will that finish hold up? Or should we save up some money and find a professional refinisher like Jeannie and Aaron of House in Progress did? Decisions, decisions.
This will be in our master bathroom, so it’s going to get daily use. If the DIY chemicals aren’t going to hold up for a few years (at least) then I think it would be worth it to pay a professional. Assuming we can find someone in this area to do it, that is.

Any thoughts, warnings, or experiences you care to share, dear readers?

Here are some useful links on the topic:

Don’t Throw Away that Blemished but Beautiful Bathtub – This Old House

Refinishing Clawfoot Tubs – VanDykes Restorers

Reglazing a tub – DIY Network

Integrity Coatings – A source for reglazing chemicals and kits

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Greg had this to say on 11.16.06:

Here is another product I used on a big 1920s cast iron sink with drain board and backsplash. I refinished the sink, and used it for about a year before I disconnected it. it was going to the kitchen sink and then I changed my mind. For what it’s worth, the sink still looks great, but I wouldn’t say it went through any kind of torture test. I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

Nick had this to say on 11.16.06:

My vote is for a wire cup brush on an angle grinder, both for cleaning up the feet and for the outside of the tub. This worked great for ours – very good results.

Mindy had this to say on 11.17.06:

Thanks for the info, guys!

Greg, I will definitely look into the product you’ve used. We need a sink for the master bath too, so if we can find a cute salvage one it might be a good place to test our skills at this whole coating business.

Nick, I forgot that you and Trissa had done that tub. I’ll have to go back into your archives to check it out again :)

Beth had this to say on 11.17.06:

We attempted to refinish our tub’s ceramic finish, with terrible results, and it ended up costing us extra money to have the real refinisher clean up our attempts.

I’m confident that you guys are better at this stuff than we are, but just a fair warning….

Ricci had this to say on 05.15.07:

I just refinished a clawfoot bath tub with one problem the feet won’t stay in the grooves I was wondering if you had any suggestions…
Please help???

Kevin Spencer had this to say on 06.06.07:

An epoxy kit shown above is the worst possible thing you can do to any porcelain or ceramic surface. Visit Refinishers Online and read the article
” what to do with an old washed up bathtub” It amazes me that people who are already saving 80 % using a professional would risk the dangers and for sure a terrible refinishing process just to save a few bucks. Why go cheap on yourself now? Refinishing is predicatd on huge savings already in place. Yes, I am biased. I have been on both sides. I can buy car paint anywhere. Just as you can. But do you think you can really spray a car the way it should be done? I doubt it unless you do it for a living. Be smart use a professional.

Andrew had this to say on 10.10.10:

In case anybody finds this post as part of research, we also refinished our clawfoot tub (just the outside). You can see a summary of that project here:

Love the blog!

Steve Redgrave had this to say on 11.24.11:

There are basically three parts of the tub that need restoring, and each needs something different.your blog post is so nice

addie had this to say on 01.10.12:

Hi There, I just noticed the link from our site (domiciliate) and popped over. I can tell you that the enamel finish we put on the tub is still holding up great 5 years later! No chips, dings, flakes or discoloration at all. We did end up doing three coats of the enamel, and it certainly was A PROJECT, but I’m very happy with the results we got. We give our three year old son his bath every night in that tub. :)

We love to hear from you, dear readers.

Please note: Comments are moderated to keep out the spam. It may take a while for them to show on the page.