There’s no denying it: your bathtub has seen better days. Now you’re left with an important choice. Do you choose to buy a new tub to return your bathroom to its former glory? Or would it be cheaper and easier to reglaze your tub so that it can continue meeting your needs?
If you’re coping with a stressful day, then unwinding with a warm bath (and perhaps a glass of wine) can help you find a place of relaxation. When your bathtub looks dingy, dirty, or cracked, then spending some time in the tub might not seem like a great idea.
Replacing an older bathtub with a newer model is not always the easiest thing to do. Most tubs must be cut before they can fit through the door to your bathroom. Repairs of your trim, surrounds, flooring, or plumbing could be necessary before you fit the new bathtub in place. Even though the cost a new tub is below $300 today with several models, including labor and disposal costs pushes that cost well over $1,000.
That means you’re right in the price range of a bathtub reglazing project. Here are the pros and cons of choosing to reglaze your current tub over the installation of a new one.
List of the Pros of Reglazing a Bathtub
1. It looks like a brand-new bathtub when the work is finished.
A high-quality reglazing project looks just as good as a brand-new bathtub when the work is completed. No one can tell that your tub might be several decades old because the work involves a scrub of the entire surface of the unit. Any worn areas or cracks are filled in during the preparation process. Then several coats of primer are applied to the tub, paint as well, before being sealed and buff.
2. Almost every bathtub can be reglazed if in good repair.
Certain types of bathtubs benefit from the reglazing process more than others. Claw-foot tubs are the best, especially when they are antique models made from heavy-duty cast iron. Even acrylic bathtubs can be reglazed, however, if they aren’t suffering from any significant repair issues. Some of that work can even be done at home if you have the tools and the know-how to get the work done.
3. You’re not stuck with a full bathroom remodel.
If you reglaze the current bathtub, then the current structure of your bathroom remains the same. You’re not stuck working on tile projects along the backsplash or fitting issues with your plumbing like when you install a new tub. That’s why some homeowners opt for products like Bath Fitter when they aren’t well-suited for a reglazing project. It’s easier to work over the current setup when compared to installing something new.
4. It doesn’t take much time to complete the work.
Most bathtub reglazing projects require about one full day of work to complete. That includes the drying time of any surface repairs made and the different coats of primer and paint. You’re not stuck without a bathroom for an extended time while the different components of a new bathtub get installed. When you add the time savings to the cost savings which this option offers most homeowners, those with older bathtubs often choose to reglaze over replacement because of the advantages offered.
5. You can repurpose an older bathtub.
There are some surprisingly good bathtubs out there on the secondary market which only need some reglazing work to make them unique. If you want a tub which adds character and charm to your home (not to mention some potential added value), then you can repurpose an old tub through this work. There are some caveats here which must be addressed first, like knowing if the tub has been reglazed already.
Try to get a history of the bathtub if you can before purchasing one on the secondary market. A professional glazer should tell upon inspection if you can repair it in this way. Even with the cost of the repair, this option can be cheaper than purchasing a new tub if your old one must be removed.
6. The work can be done on your own.
Bathtub refinishing is a project you can do on your own. There are several instructional how-to guides available online that will take you through the necessary steps to complete the work correctly. If you have access to the materials and tools, then you can save even more money by doing the work on your own. Just make sure that you do the work in a well-ventilated area, wear a respirator rated for the fumes produced, and take your time when filling in the different chips, dings, and cracks that a tub collects over time.
7. Reglazing allows you to change the color of your bathtub.
This unique benefit allows you to update the look of your tub without replacing it outright. Once you’ve filled in the cosmetic damage and etched the tub to allow the new primer and paint to take hold, you can paint in whatever color you want. That’s a definite advantage if you’ve purchased a home which has a unique color of tub. There was a time when modern design called for tubs that were colored yellow, avocado green, and even pink. This small investment can help you update the look to something that is more of your taste while potentially improving the value of the home.
8. It is an eco-friendly option, even with the chemicals involved.
Replacing a bathtub creates a lot of waste when you dispose of the old one. There are the packaging and support materials you must either recycle or get rid of too. That means a choice for reglazing is one that keeps up to 2,000 pounds of trash out of local landfills. Since there’s no need to replace a tub that is structurally sound, this one small investment and give you years of dividends to enjoy every time you want to take a relaxing bath.
9. Reglazing a bathtub will give the other features in the room new life.
When your bathtub looks dull, stained, or remains in disrepair, then that look translates to every other element in the room. The reglazing process gives the tub a shiny finish in the color you prefer, breathing new life into everything else you see in the room. That allows you to achieve a simple remodeling project in the room for a small cost if you wish, creating the updated look you want. Even the repair work on the tub, if that’s the only work you do, will offer a fresh perspective to the environment.
10. It provides you with an extra layer of protection for an older tub.
Did you know that the bathtubs manufactured before 1984 could contain unsafe levels of lead in them? Although lead-based paint is the primary exposure point for young children and high toxicity levels, the next common culprit is the bathtub. When the glaze on the tub wears down from use and age, the lead in it leaches into the bath water. Since kids like to drink that water, or put their wet hands into their mouth, the risk of exposure is high.
There is no safe level of lead exposure for a child. Small levels can cause a lifetime of health damage. When you choose to reglaze an older cast iron or steel tub, you’re giving your family a fresh layer of protection against this health issue. If you have young children and an old tub, then test it before bathing them.
11. You can still refinish a bathtub which has been reglazed already.
The etching process for a tub helps the new primer and paint settle nicely on the surface of your cast iron, steel, or acrylic tub. Although you can’t really etch a tub a second time without risking the integrity of the product, you do have the option to refinish it once the lifespan of the reglazing work reaches its end. The underlying coat is not the best surface to adhere another coat to the tub, which is why each additional refinishing effort has a shorter lifespan than the previous one.
12. There are DIY kits available at some retailers.
You can find DIY reglazing kits available from some retailers for as little as $30. You may require up to four of them to complete the work needed on your tub, depending on the amount of work that is required. This product makes it easier for the average person to try a repair on their own if their budget is tight.
If you do attempt a DIY repair of your tub that needs reglazing, do not forget about the ventilation requirements. You must bring fresh air into the bathroom environment and wear the correct personal protective equipment to do the job safely.
13. It offers you a cleaner living space in and around the bathtub.
You can scrub all you want on a bathtub’s surface to get it clean. Eventually the mold, mildew, and water stains will get down into the finish of your tub. Those issues can cause sensitivities or allergies to some people over time because of their constant exposure. If you reglaze your tub, you’ll get a clean look which removes those issues for everyone in your family. The surface restoration process can even promote better indoor air quality throughout the entire home, including the elimination of fungi attempting to grow in your grout.
List of the Cons of Reglazing a Bathtub
1. It won’t work if you already own a cheaper tub.
Bathtub reglazing works best when you own a high-quality tub which offers plenty of character for your bathroom. It doesn’t offer a benefit if your tub is already one of the newer $300 models that were installed less than a decade ago. If you’re thinking about a tub upgrade from an entry-level acrylic product, then something like a Bath Fitter project or an upgrade to a higher-quality tub is a better solution.
2. The bathtub must still be in good repair.
When your bathtub reaches a state of severe disrepair, then it may not be a good candidate for the reglazing process. Reglazing offers cosmetic repairs only, sort of like how nail polish covers up imperfections you can see on your fingernails. Once the tub receives a touch-up, it doesn’t take long for it to require additional work to maintain the look you want. It will cover minor stains, surface imperfections, and light scratches.
This issue applies to tubs which have been reglazed once already too. If the secondary finish is still in good condition, you might be able to update the look of the tub for up to 10 years. If it were damaged in some way, the only way to repair the issue without a complete replacement would be to install a liner.
3. It requires someone with glazing skills to complete the work.
There are several quality issues which come up when trying to reglaze a bathtub. Without knowledge of this process, you may find the quality of your tub declines when incorrect work is done on it. Cratering, cracking, bubbling, and crazing are all common problems which occur during the glazing process. Delamination and flattening happen frequently too. If you try to do this work on your own, you may find that the failed coating costs more to repair than the cost of hiring someone to do it for you in the first place.
The added benefit of hiring a professional contractor is that if they are licensed, insured, and bonded, then you receive a guaranteed result.
4. You need to leave your home for 24-48 hours for the project.
The chemicals and substances used to reglaze a bathtub are a little dangerous. The tub is etched and glazed, forcing everyone in the home to leave for a couple of days so it can ventilate adequately. Even with a robust bathroom exhaust fan available, you cannot stay in a home if you opt for bathtub reglazing. The costs of staying away from home for that time sometimes offset the cost benefits of a replacement. That’s why all costs must come under evaluation before making a final decision on this work option.
5. Reglazing a bathtub can only happen once.
There are some issues which can be repaired after a poor reglazing job occurs. If you get stuck with work that begins to peel immediately, then you must proceed to other options. That’s why hiring a professional reglazer is to your advantage. If they make a mistake with your tub, then they’re on the hook to provide you with something new.
Before hiring anyone to work on your tub, look for customer reviews of their finished work first. Talk to family and friends about their recommendations. See if there are examples of their work to view before hiring them. This due diligence will protect you against incomplete or inadequate work when trying to fix your tub.
6. The weather can play a significant role in the finished product.
Although most tub reglazing projects are finished in a day (with another day or two for home ventilation), some homeowners may discover that it takes more than a week to finish the job. Humidity plays a significant role in how well each coat of primer and paint dries. It will impact how well it bonds to the surface of the bathtub too. That’s why most reglazing projects don’t occur during the summer months. When the weather is cooler, and there is less humidity in the air, the chances for success go way up.
7. Reglazing won’t last as long as a brand-new tub does.
If you decide to reglaze your tub instead of purchasing a new one, then you’re only prolonging the inevitable. A good glazing job can last up to 15 years, and sometimes longer, depending on how often you use your bathroom. New bathtubs last for much longer than this, often with warranties or guarantees of service, installation, and product quality. If you’re not staying in the home for long, then an investment into reglazing makes sense. For those who are going to be there for a while, a new bathtub might be the better way to go.
Wear and tear on a reglazed tub are similar to what you’ll see with a bathtub nearing its end-of-life stage. Chipping, cracking, and color wear are the most common issues seen.
8. DIY reglazing is incredibly dangerous.
According to information published by the CDC, at least 14 people have been killed because of their exposure to stripping agents commonly used with bathtub refinishing work. These products contain methylene chloride in high percentages, which presents itself as a sweet-smelling odor during exposure. You can breathe it in or be exposed through skin absorption. You cannot smell it in the air until you reach a level that is higher than the permissible exposure level.
Even with minor overexposure incidents, these chemicals cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and throat irritation. Some people say it makes them feel like they’re intoxicated. Bathroom fans and windows do not provide enough ventilation. That’s why a professional contractor is often recommended for this work.
These pros and cons of reglazing a bathtub offer a different option for a bathroom remodeling project. Your antique tub might look old and worn out now, but with this service option, it can look like a brand-new item again for a fair price and a minimal time investment. Take the time to manage the disadvantages associated with this service to produce the best possible results if your bathtub qualifies for this work.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.