We get it: You can’t stand the sight of your gross old bathtub, but the idea of replacing it feels so overwhelming. Bathroom remodels are expensive, and replacing the tub alone costs an average of $5,500.
If that’s more than you can spend, reglazing your tub may be the better solution. I asked two industry pros, Nathan Oettinger from The Painted Otter Refinishers and Nick Coletti from Superior Bathtub Refinishing, to explain what tub reglazing entails, how much it should cost, and whether it’s the right option for you and your budget.
About the Experts
Nathan Oettinger owns The Painted Otter Refinishers, with locations in New York and Texas. He has more than fifteen years of experience in the tub and tile refinishing business.Nick Coletti owns Superior Bathtub Refinishing in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. He has more than twenty years of experience in the industry.
What’s the Difference Between Reglazing and Resurfacing a Tub?
Resurfacing is a broad term covering the various methods for improving a tub’s surface. It can include installing a bonded tub liner, painting the tub with a DIY kit or having the tub professionally reglazed.
“It’s all resurfacing or refinishing,” Oettinger says. “[But] reglazing is exclusive to the professional industry.”
Reglazing involves applying a glaze or polyurethane coating over the existing tub finish. It can restore structurally sound tubs with a stained, worn or chipped finish to look like new.
Can I Reglaze My Bathtub Myself?
No. Glaze is a professional-grade product with high adhesion, strength and flexibility. You can’t just grab it off the shelf at your local home center.
“Homeowners will not be able to get high-quality glazing products unless they have an active contractor account with a manufacturer,” Oettinger says.
But even if you could get ahold of these products, they’re not easy to apply. “It is not a complicated process, but it is a nuanced and skill-based one,” Oettinger says. It takes time to develop basic proficiency with the sprayer and an eye for detail things that ensure great-looking results.
For homeowners looking to resurface their tub themselves, DIY kit options are available for purchase. These kits follow a similar process and concept as reglazing, but cannot duplicate its strength and durability.
How Much Does It Cost to Reglaze a Tub?
The national average is around $480. Oettinger estimates between $350 to $600, depending on where you live. He owns companies in New York and Texas. “I charge $450 for a tub in San Antonio and $550 for a tub in New York,” he says. “So the price will vary a bit.”
Coletti’s range in Massachusetts is a little higher, from $300 on the low end to $900 in and around Boston.
How To Reglaze a Tub
“The process is pretty much the same across the board for all the quality refinishing companies,” Oettinger says. It includes the following steps:
Mask:Pros apply plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to mask off areas near the tub. “We basically make a spray booth inside someone’s house,” Coletti says.Clean:Removing soap scum and residue with an abrasive cleaner like Ajax or Comet is the next step.Repair:Applying an industrial resin fills in chips or deep scratches in the original finish. Then those spots are sanded smooth.Etch:Applying a chemical etcher abrades and dulls the glossy tub surface. This step is crucial to the superior bond pros can achieve. “Prepping the surface is 80 percent of the job,” Oettinger says.Prime: A specially formulated primer is applied with an air sprayer. “We use a two-part epoxy primer base,” Coletti says. This primer contains a hardening agent, key to the superior strength of a reglazing coat. Tubs generally take two coats of primer.Top coat:This is applied in several thin coats and allowed to dry.
How Long Does Bathtub Reglazing Last?
“If done by a high quality, skilled tub refinishing company, reglazing should last 10 to 20 years,” Oettinger says. The glaze on a tub used every day by a family with kids won’t last as long as one used by only one or two people, he says. And it’s all contingent on proper application skill.
“It has to be done by someone who knows what they’re doing and does the proper prep work,” he says.
Tubs also will last longer if properly cared for. Using abrasive cleaners on reglazed tubs will shorten the lifespan of the coating.
Is Reglazing a Bathtub Worth It?
Coletti cites the cost of replacement as the main reason reglazing is often a great option. “Reglazing a tub will save you thousands,” he says. Not to mention, you’ll avoid the stress of living through days of demolition and dust to remove a tub.
However, Oettinger says, sometimes replacement makes more sense. If your existing tub is not the depth or style you want, better to put your money towards replacement.
“When it warrants replacing over refinishing, I will recommend that every time because it’s better for the customer,” he says.
Also, if you’re planning a full bathroom remodel in a year, hold off on reglazing as well. “[But] if you’re gutting your bathroom in ten years, absolutely, get the tub looking beautiful in the meantime while you wait,” Oettinger says.
Both experts agree you should always try to reglaze a cast iron tub rather than replace it. “Older tubs are worth keeping,” Oettinger says. “They are very expensive to replace and have an extra strong and durable finish.”