Bathtub refinishing is not the kind of do-it-yourself job for the everyday handyman. It requires professional training, years of practice and quite a great deal of skill. Bathtub repair kits sold in the back of a diy magazine do not cut it. It is an advanced project that even the most experienced homeowner would wisely leave up to the pros. This is a matter of satisfactory results as well as personal safety.
The use of harsh chemicals, fast-drying fiber-glass filler, solvents, industrial-strength cleaning agents, polyurethane topcoat and primer might even make you question your willingness to even attempt such a dangerous job.
So if you are taking the time and money to improve your bathroom, you will most likely save money in the long run by hiring a professional to tackle the refinishing of the bathtub surfaces. The cost of having an ill-finished repair job fixed by a pro is more than if you had paid a pro from the beginning. The flawed work that will be evident in the tub finish will devalue all the other quality work you will have put into the bathroom.
If You Attempt It Anyway
If you decide to throw caution to the wind and do-it-yourself with a bathtub repair kit anyway be prepared for some extremely unsatisfying results and remember “we warned you.”
The first thing to do is to completely clean the bathtub surface of all soap scum, dirt, grime, calcium deposits, caulk and anything else that may be present. This is best achieved through the use of Ajax, Comet or some other abrasive cleaner.
You will have to use a razor blade for the removal of stubborn soap scum. This intensive cleaning alone can sometimes create the appearance of a new finish for your tub. There is still time to turn back! If you decide to proceed then it is time to remove all caulking from the tub.
The next step is to protect the other surfaces in the bathroom from the toxic and hazardous chemicals that you will use in the refinish process. Plastic sheeting should be taped on all areas of the floor surrounding the tub. It should be sealed with duct tape. If there is any glossy tile or mirror above the tub it should be covered with masking paper.
The room must be ventilated with a window fan if there is a window. If not, then the use of an exhaust blower is necessary. This is a specific tool that must be procured, they are not readily available in tool supply stores, but it’s presence is a must or your health will be in danger.
Breathing apparatus is another must have. Preferably a full-face respirator. In addition you will need goggles and rubber gloves.
With the ventilation system running and the total cleaning completed, make sure to thoroughly dry the surface to be treated. It is important to have every drop of water removed. Apply acid etching solution with a soft bristled brush with even strokes. Do not splash or spill any liquid on surfaces because it will permanently damage just about any surface it comes into contact with. Do not let the acid solution run down the drain.
The acid solution should remain on the surface for at least 15 minutes to achieve it’s goal of preparing it to accept a new coating. It should be cauterized with baking soda to neutralize the acid and protect the plumbing.
Rinse the surface of the tub several times with water. Make sure to dry it carefully. You must cover all faucets and shower head with plastic bags to catch and trap any loose drips. Now is the time to repair any cracks or chips. Mix the fiberglass body filler. Careful, because it dries fast. Using a spatula spread it into the crack or chip. When it dries, sand and then vacuum out all debris from sanding.
Further Protect Surfaces
The walls, floors and any area that will not be receiving a coating of spray need to be protected. Tape plastic film over the entire surface area of anything you are not intending to spray with the polyurethane top coat.
A HVLP (high volume low pressure) sprayer and a full face respirator are necessary at this step. These must both be professional grade. Use the solvent to wash the tub. Air dry the tub surface.
Mix and spay the urethane primer. Allow it to dry the time recommended by the manufacturer.
Mix and spray the polyurethane topcoat. Again allow it to dry according to manufacturer’s standards. The surface will need to be protected from dirt, dust and anything that may settle on it during the period of time in which it dries.
When spraying these coatings the odors and fumes are very overpowering and again, use extreme caution or better yet hire a professional! Before beginning double check to see that the ventilation system is working properly. Even though the above guidelines do apply to doing-it-yourself, they are by no means a recommendation to try it. It can be very harmful, even fatal, to play around with this type of handiwork.
See Also: Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs