Bathtub Refinishing Miracle - A Myth?


Bathtub Refinishing & Avoiding Problems



bathtub caution
Step 1. Protect yourself

I encourage you to become familiar with the sales pitches of various companies to fully benefit from my article.

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bathtub refinishing expert

Refinishing Questions? Ask DC Foster


bathtub refinishing failure

Peeling tub paint


Avoiding costly Bathtub Refinishing Failures

Learn which coating scored the highest in overall performance in the "What's New" section below.

I have been asked many times in my 43 years as a coatings developer about bathtub refinishing, bathtub reglazing, bathtub resurfacing, ceramic tile refinishing and countertop refinishing. Let me start off by saying that there is no difference between bathtub refinishing, bathtub resurfacing, bathtub painting or bathtub reglazing, they are the same. The main question that people ask is "does it work?"

The answer is yes and no. Refinishing is not based on a miracle, bathtub refinishing is based on sound chemistry and a meticulous method of preparation . Failure and success is about people skill and product quality. The people part is whether the technician has any real tried and proven experience. When you are dealing with a refinishing franchise operation you will often find that the technician has probably gone through a crash course in the process. It is very difficult to learn all there is to know and also become proficient in the physical application in a one or two week period.

Some of the aspects of bathtub refinishing can have some pretty serious consequences if not done properly. This is why it is important to be informed before you decide.

Refinishers often use an acid etching agent to make the bathtub porous so that the paint will bond to the bathtub surface. This part of the process should employ a portable ventilating system which will exhaust the fumes outside the home. The etching solution usually contains hydrofluoric, phosphoric or hydrochloric acid. Acids may damage other surfaces if accidentally spilled or dripped onto them. Another key concern is the potential harm to pets and family if any of the spillage contacts the skin.

The bathtub refinisher then has to gear up for the refinishing coating or paint application which is usually sprayed on (I wouldn't trust someone who claims to use a roller or brush to apply the bathtub finish). The coatings are hazardous to breathe and people with asthma or respiratory conditions are quite vulnerable to exposure of these common types of materials. Unfortunately, most of the water borne coatings are not adequate for the moist environment in a bathroom and this leaves the refinisher with few choices when it comes to coatings that will work.

Bathtub Liners should also be considered as a viable alternative to refinishing because they can be replaced if the bathtub liner fails. The draw back to Bathtub liners is they have a plastic appearance.

Ceramic Tile and tub Refinishing DIY Kits

I personally don't recommend DIY bathtub or tile refinishing kits due to the high failure rate and hazards associated with application. Once they begin to peel you have a big problem. The failed bathtub finish has to be stripped before refinishing again and if you have a professional refinisher do it the overall job cost will increase.

Types of coatings: Automotive coatings, paints and primers are usually not the best choice for tub refinishing but are commonly used and are typically re-labeled as " bathtub porcelain coating" and primer. The most effective in the conventional coating lines are high solids aircraft coatings and primers but these are usually the most hazardous to use during application. Epoxy paints and coatings have good adhesion and moisture resistance but can yellow over time. Companies that are not a franchise often purchase their supplies from a bathtub refinishing supply company that specifically caters to tub, tile and countertop refinishers. Some offer good support to their customers but for the most part are re-labelers and do not manufacture their own products, this is true of most franchise companies as well.

The average life span of a refinished bathtub (automotive paint) is 1 to 3 years depending on use. High solids aliphatic polyurethane or aliphatic acrylic urethane coatings are typically used on commercial aircraft and when applied properly onto bathtubs and ceramic tile will last up to 10 years. One should keep in mind that these types of coatings were not designed to be used in conditions where there is a potential for skin contact before they have cured enough to stop emitting chemical residues and gasses which could be harmful to infants, young children and individuals who have sensitive skin or have respiratory difficulties. These types of coatings require a greater level of skill to apply and are not for the novice refinisher, which is why many refinishers prefer the automotive acrylic paint because of its user friendliness. The acrylic paint looks like a million dollars right after the refinisher collects your payment. Unfortunately, you are lucky if it maintains its beauty for more than 1 year.

Another potential problem with these types of coatings is the Volatile Organic Compound content which in most cases exceeds the limits set forth by the EPA which is 400 grams per liter for architectural coatings. If you live in the south coastal region of California, the VOC limits are 100 grams per liter for architectural coatings. There is, however, an exemption: the refinisher can legally spray up to 3 lbs of coating per day (not location) which is roughly 24 ounces, this is enough to do one whole bathtub and half of another. So technically the refinisher would only be able to do one and a half tubs in a 24 hour period under these restrictions, and when you figure that the average cost to do a tub is $300.00, it's a tough scenario.

What's New - "The coating that scored the highest in overall performance" November 2016

I have completed a 6 year evaluation of Zirlon Glaze and I feel that this coating has the potential for changing the tub and tile refinishing industry for several reasons. For those who are concerned about our environment, it has a Volatile Organic Compound content of less than 100 grams per liter and does not contribute to greenhouse gasses. The coating is available in white or clear and can be applied onto bathtub and tile surfaces that have or have not been refinished. At its core this coating is basically a quartz matrix which is the hardest, most durable coating I have tested to date. It is the closest I have found in hardness to that of an original fired enamel and would be suitable for use in kitchen sinks and this attribute also makes it the best choice for performing a chip damage repair for those who do not need an entire bathtub or sink refinished but simply have an unsightly black chip they want to disappear. The other benefit is its exceptional wear resistance and, once applied, it extends the life of refinished tubs and tile surfaces. The coating also comes in an anti-slip version for bathtub bottoms and slippery tile surfaces. Zirlon Glaze had the shortest (30 minutes) residual odor after application compared to 24 hours for conventional coatings. Zirlon Glaze reached the inert state within 4 hours without the toxic out-gassing and lingering chemical residues and emissions of conventional aliphatic and automotive coatings which can typically last up to 7 days, you can definitely smell the difference.

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The failure rate of tile and tub refinishing companies is almost as high as restaurants and for this reason I usually do not recommend using a company that has been in business for less than 5 years.

Choosing a company

There are several things to consider when deciding which company to use:

Always check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has any complaints filed and how they resolved the complaint.

Do the coatings used for refinishing comply with VOC regulations in your local area?

How long has the company been in business.

How does the company deal with toxic fumes.

How many bathtubs has your scheduled refinishing crew completed.

Get references from customers that had their bathtub refinished early in the company's beginning.

Read reviews in local media sources who might review or rate services in your community