Bathtub Refinishing Failure, Be Informed

I have been asked many times in my 34 years as a coatings developer about bathtub refinishing, bathtub reglazing and tile refinishing. Let me start off by saying that their is no difference between bathtub refinishing and bathtub reglazing they are the same. The main question that people ask is “does it work”.

The answer is yes and no. Bathub refinishing failure and success are both about people skill and product quality. The people part is about whether the technician has any real tried and proven experience. When you are dealing with a franchise operation you will often find that the technician has probably gone through a crash course in the process and it is very difficult to learn all there is to know and also become proficient in the physical application.

I like to compare the process to someone taking a crash course in “learning to drive a car”. The individual can probably learn how to drive a car in a short time but would you trust the newby to drive your family cross country?

This seems a bit dramatic for an example but considering what the bathtub refinisher is responsible for while refinishing the bathtub in your home I think it works. Some of the aspects of refinishing can have some pretty serious consequences if not done properly this is why it is important to be informed about bathtub refinishing before you decide. The technician has to use an acid etching agent to make the bathtub porous so that the coating 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. Most of us know that 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 application which is usually sprayed on (I wouldn’t trust someone who claims to use a roller or brush to apply the finish). The coatings are hazardous to breath and people with asthma or respiratory conditions are quite vulnerable to exposure of these types of materials. Unfortunately most of the water borne coatings are not adequate for the moist environment in a bathtub and this leaves the refinisher with few choices when it comes to coatings that will work.

Types of coatings:

Automotive coatings and primers are usually not the best choice for bathtub refinishing but are commonly used and are typically re-labeled as “porcelain coating” and primer. The most effective for bonding and wear are high solids aircraft coatings and primers but these are usually the most hazardous to use during application. Epoxies have good adhesion and moisture resistance but can yellow over time.


I personally don’t recommend bathtub refinishing kits because of the high failure rate and once they begin to peel you have a big problem. The failed finish has to be stripped before refinishing again and if you have a professional bathtub refinisher do it the overall job cost will increase.

The average life span of a refinished bathtub is (automotive)1 to 3 years (aircraft coatings) 3 to 5 years depending on use.

Choosing a Bathtub Refinishing Company: There are several things to consider when deciding which company to use.

How long has the company been in business.

How does the company deal with toxic fumes.

How many bathtubs has the technician refinished that will refinish your tub.

Get references from customers that had their bathtub refinished early in the companies beginning.