Over time, bathtubs can become worn, chipped, cracked, or stained. While a bathtub in poor condition may seem like it needs to be fully replaced, reglazing a bathtub can often restore it to like-new condition at a fraction of the cost. Bathtub reglazing involves applying a new surface coating over the existing tub which hides any imperfections and gives a fresh, glossy appearance.
However, bathtub reglazing projects don’t always go as planned. Bubbles, cracks, peeling, and other issues can arise if the reglazing is not done properly. Fortunately, there are solutions to many common bathtub reglazing problems. Here we will overview four key solutions to problems that may occur when refinishing a bathtub.
Using Proper Surface Preparation Techniques
Thorough surface preparation is crucial for a successful bathtub reglazing project. The tub surface must be completely clean and lightly etched for the new coating to properly bond. Failing to properly prep the tub is one of the most common reasons reglazing jobs fail.
To ensure proper surface prep:
- Clean the tub thoroughly with a degreaser to remove all dirt, oil, soap scum, and other residues
- Sand the tub lightly with 120-180 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface
- Clean again with denatured alcohol to remove any leftover debris
- Apply a bonding agent or etching cream and let sit for the recommended time
- Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully dry before applying reglazing coatings
Proper etching opens up microscopic pores in the existing tub surface for the new coatings to mechanical bond into. Rushing through or skipping surface prep steps can lead to the new reglazing layer peeling or chipping off quickly. Take the time to do it right, and it will pay off in a smooth, long-lasting finish.
Applying Coatings in Proper Order andThickness
Bathtub refinishing coatings are multi-layer systems, each with a specific purpose. The full coating system must be applied correctly to achieve optimal results.
A typical tub reglazing system consists of:
- Bonding primer: Promotes adhesion to the tub surface
- Color coat: Provides color and repairs minor damage
- Clear topcoat: Seals and protects the finish
It is crucial to apply these coatings in the proper order and thickness. The bonding primer must contact the tub surface first to anchor the system. The color coat should then be applied smoothly at the recommended coverage rate. Finally, the clear top coat seals the finish and makes it shiny and impervious to water.
Applying the coats too thin leads to inadequate coverage and performance. Conversely, too thick of an application can cause dripping, puddling, and other aesthetic flaws. Carefully follow the product manufacturer’s instructions for proper application order and thickness. This helps the coating layers work synergistically to deliver lasting results.
Choosing Products Compatible With Original Tub Materials
Bathtubs can be made from a variety of materials such as fiberglass, acrylic, porcelain, enameled steel and more. The original tub material must be taken into account when selecting reglazing products. Using coatings that are incompatible with the tub substrate is a common cause of bonding issues.
To avoid adhesion problems, choose reglazing products designed for use on:
- Fiberglass or acrylic: Use 100% solids epoxy coatings
- Porcelain/enamel: Opt for durable urethane or polyester systems
- Cast iron: Use acid-etching primers specifically made for iron
Contact the reglazing coating manufacturer to verify compatibility if you are unsure of your tub’s original material. Never try to simply use whatever products you have on hand without regard for tub composition. Take the time to select coatings formulated to work with the specific tub type for optimal adhesion.
Maintaining Proper Environment and Cure Times
Reglazing coatings require very specific conditions as they dry and cure. The environment must be controlled, and required cure times respected, to achieve proper hardness and performance.
Here are key tips for managing conditions and cure times:
- Maintain 65-90°F temperature – Use space heaters or cooling as needed during application and cure
- Keep humidity below 60% – Excess moisture can inhibit curing
- Ensure strong ventilation – Helps moisture and solvents dissipate
- Allow coatings to fully cure – Wait the full cure time before use
- Keep tub empty – Do not fill tub until cure time is complete
The products simply will not harden and cure properly in the wrong environment. Patience is required to allow the full cure time before putting the tub into service. However, the wait is well worth it for a durable finish that will last for many years with proper prep and application.
Troubleshooting Common Bathtub Reglazing Problems
While the above tips help avoid many issues, problems can still arise with do-it-yourself bathtub refinishing jobs. Here are some common problems and potential solutions:
Peeling or Flaking
- Improper surface preparation – tub surface must be sanded and etched
- Incompatible coatings – use products formulated for your tub material
- Too thick of application – follow product thickness guidelines
- Substrate not fully primed/sealed – ensure proper primer application
- Contamination from cleaning chemicals – only use recommended cleaners
- Prolonged exposure to moisture – improve bathroom ventilation
Cracking or Crazing
- Cure environment too cold – maintain 65-90°F during cure period
- Coatings applied too thick – apply thin coats as directed
- Tub filled too soon – wait the full cure time before use
Bubbles in Finish
- Surface not fully clean and dry – degrease and allow to dry completely
- Too much humidity during application – keep area well-ventilated
- Coating too thick – use proper roller covers and techniques
- Low-quality coating products used – use professional-grade products
- Topcoat too thin – ensure adequate coverage per guidelines
- Tub exposed to excessive UV light – add tub curtains or window tinting
With some patience and troubleshooting, most common bathtub reglazing issues can be corrected or improved for acceptable results. However, if problems persist, it may be best to have a professional refinishing company handle the project to avoid frustrations and ensure a quality finish.
DIY Bathtub Reglazing Project Overview
Before diving into solutions for specific problems, it helps to understand the overall process of DIY bathtub reglazing. Refinishing a worn, damaged tub involves multiple steps from start to finish. Here is an overview of a typical bathtub reglazing project:
Step 1 – Bathtub Evaluation
The first step is to thoroughly examine the tub’s current condition. Check for:
- Chips, cracks, or deep scratches – Minor flaws can be concealed, but severe damage requires professional repairs prior to refinishing
- Surface contamination – Wax, oil, mold release agents and other residues must be fully removed for proper adhesion
- Signs of leakage – Any leaks must be fixed before application of coatings
- Rust on iron tubs – Rusting must be eliminated and an acid-etching bonding primer used
Carefully inspecting and addressing tub conditions minimizes chances of problems with the refinishing job.
Step 2 – Tub Surface Cleaning
The bathtub surface must be cleaned thoroughly prior to sanding and refinishing. It is critical to remove all dirt, residues, soap scum, mold, mildew and other contaminants that can interfere with coating adhesion.
Use a combination of these cleaning methods:
- Scrubbing with an abrasive cleaner – Removes stubborn residues and buildup
- Degreasing cleaners or solvents – Eliminate oils, waxes and other grime
- Liquid deglossers – Special cleaners to remove gloss for optimal coating bite
- Bleach solutions – Helps sanitize and brighten porcelain tubs
Thorough cleaning is tedious but essential for successful results.
Step 3 – Surface Sanding and Prep
With the tub completely clean, the next step is to lightly sand and etch the surface. This abrades the glossy tub finish and creates microscopic texture and pores for the reglazing coatings to adhere into.
Use these surface prep steps:
- Lightly sand with 120-150 grit sandpaper – Scuff entire surface to scarify gloss
- Clean again with denatured alcohol – Pick up any sanded residue
- Apply etching cream – Helps further etch and clean surface
- Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully dry – Moisture will hinder coating bond
Proper sanding and etching primes the tub for optimal adhesion. Rushing this step often leads to peeling or chipping of the refinished surface.
Step 4 – Repairing Any Damage
Before applying finish coatings, take time to repair any chips, gouges, cracks or other damage revealed during surface preparation.
Use a quality tub and tile repair epoxy to patch any flaws for a smooth, uniform surface. Allow repairs to fully cure per manufacturer instructions before sanding flush and applying coatings.
Addressing damage helps prevent premature failure or flaws in the reglazing finish.
Step 5 – Applying Reglazing Coatings
With the tub prepped properly, it is finally time to apply the refinishing system coatings. Follow all label instructions for mixing, thinning, and application.
Typical coating steps are:
- Bonding primer – First layer improves adhesion
- Color/basecoat – Provides color and repairs minor flaws
- Clear topcoat – Final layer for gloss and protection
Applying coatings uniformly at the proper thickness is key for smooth, professional looking results. Allow proper cure time between coats.
Step 6 – Post-Cure Care
Once the coating system is applied, the tub should not be used for the full curing period, typically 12-48 hours. Handle the freshly refinished tub with care:
- Allow coatings to fully cure before use
- Do not fill tub during cure time
- Keep room at 65-90°F to facilitate curing
- Ventilate space well to dissipate solvent
- Avoid cleaning tub until cured
Patience in allowing for a full cure without use or cleaning is crucial for hardness and longevity of the finish.
Solutions for Specific Bathtub Reglazing Problems
While the basic overview provides a general refinishing workflow, problems can arise at various steps along the way. Here are some common issues DIYers may encounter, along with tips for solutions:
Problem – Existing Coating Not Removed Properly
Previous reglazing or paint coatings must be thoroughly removed for proper adhesion. Sanding is often inadequate to remove prior finishes completely.
- Use chemical paint strippers formulated for bath surfaces to remove old coatings
- Roughen stripped surface with 80-150 grit sandpaper before reglazing
- Alternatively, hire a professional to soda blast tub before refinishing
Chemical or mechanical removal of all prior finishes prevents the new coatings from prematurely peeling or lifting off the tub.
Problem – Bathtub Surface Not Etched Enough
For optimal bonding, the tub surface must be properly abraded and etched using a combination of thorough sanding and chemical etching.
- Lightly sand entire tub surface with 120-180 grit sandpaper
- Use etching gels designed for porcelain, acrylic, or fiberglass tubs
- Apply etching gel liberally and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes
- Scrub with abrasive pad and rinse thoroughly after etching
- Wipe with denatured alcohol just prior to coating to remove any residues
Following all etching steps creates the proper microscopic texture for mechanical bonding of the new finish.
Problem – Poor Coating Adhesion to Tub
Lack of proper adhesionshows up as peeling, flaking, or chipped coating that easily scrapes off the tub surface with minimal pressure.
- Confirm coatings are compatible with tub material (iron, acrylic, porcelain, etc)
- Allow sufficient cure time before testing adhesion or filling tub
- Abrade peeled areas, re-etch, and reapply coatings
- Ensure bonding primers specifically designed for tubs are used
- Carefully follow all surface cleaning, etching, and preparation steps beforehand
Properly cleaning and etching prior to refinishing is key for creating a surface profile that coatings can grip tenaciously.
Problem – Visible Brush Strokes in Finish
Brush marks become evident in the finish, leaving an uneven, streaky appearance.
- Use high-density mini foam rollers instead of brushes
- Thin coatings properly – thicker products resist leveling out smoothly
- Apply light even coats and avoid going over areas that have started drying
- For iron tubs, increase surface etching to smooth roughness than can make brush marks show through
Mini foam rollers, proper thinning, and an even application technique prevents unsightly brush strokes in the cured finish.
Problem – New Finish Is Discolored
A freshly reglazed tub has an uneven, splotchy, or discolored appearance immediately after completion.
- Ensure prior coats are thoroughly cured before applying next one
- Mix coatings thoroughly to disperse any pigments evenly
- Maintain consistent thickness by using proper roller nap size
- Apply in ambient temperatures within product recommendations
Applying too thick, too cold, or over uncured coats often leads to splotchiness and uneven coloring or gloss.
Problem – Refinished Tub Surface Peels Off
The reglazing layers begin peeling away from the tub surface days or weeks after application.
- Improve surface etching – use both sandpaper and chemical etching
- Eliminate any surface residues using deglossers and solvent cleaning
- Ensure coatings are designed for fiberglass, acrylic, porcelain etc.
- Allow each coating layer to fully cure before applying next one
Proper etching, cleaning, coating selection, and cure times are critical for long-term adhesion.
Problem – New Tub Finish Turns Yellow
The reglazing finish takes on a yellowish cast shortly after completion.
- Ensure a non-yellowing clear topcoat is used as the final step
- Apply adequate thickness (2-3 mils) of topcoat for complete protection
- For fiberglass and acrylic tubs, apply UV-blocking primer before refinishing
- Reduce exposure to sunlight on tubs near windows
Using quality, non-yellowing topcoat products and blocking UV rays prevents yellowing over time.
Problem – Bubbles Appear in Finish
Small bubbles become visible under the final coating layer of the reglazed tub.
- Allow each prior coating layer to fully cure before applying the next
- Ensure surface is completely clean and dry before priming
- Apply thin coats and avoid excessive thickness
- Use proper roller nap size for the coating being applied
Bubbles arise from trapped solvents or moisture. Proper application and cure times prevents this eyesore.
Problem – Finish Has Fine Cracks Shortly After Application
A spiderweb-like crack pattern appears in the tub refinishing layers within a few days of completion.
- Maintain ambient room temperatures above 65°F during curing
- Do not fill tub or use shower until full cure time is reached
- Mix coating parts properly to avoid excess catalyst causing cracks
- Avoid very thick coats which can crack from rapid solvent loss
Cracking stems from improper curing conditions, early tub use, or errors in mixing. Patience and care prevents this frustrating occurrence.
Tips for Successful DIY Bathtub Refinishing
While the solutions above address many common issues, preventing problems in the first place is the best policy whenever attempting a DIY bathtub reglazing project. Keep these tips in mind:
Choose the Right Tub – Heavily damaged, antique or molded tubs are better left to professionals. Select a tub with minor wear that’s in otherwise sound shape.
Read All Label Directions – Follow product instructions precisely, including mixing ratios, dry times, etc. Do not take shortcuts.
Maintain Proper Conditions – Ventilate properly, control temperatures and humidity to facilitate curing.
Use Compatible Materials – Ensure coatings are formulated for your specific tub material.
Allow Full Cure Time – Do not use tub for a minimum of 24 hours after refinishing to prevent surface damage.
Hire a Pro for Tricky Jobs – For antiques, molded shapes or major repairs, professional reglazing may yield superior results.
While DIY refinishing can save money on a standard tub with minor issues, some bathtubs are better left to expert reglazers. Avoid frustration by selecting suitable projects and following all preparation and application instructions closely. With care and patience, even first-time refinishers can achieve beautiful, long-lasting results.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bathtub Reglazing
Many homeowners considering bathtub reglazing have questions about the process and what to expect. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
How long does bathtub reglazing last?
With proper surface preparation and application, a quality reglazing job can last 5-10 years or longer. High-use commercial applications may need to be redone more frequently.
How should I prepare the surface before reglazing?
Thoroughly clean, lightly sand, and chemically etch the tub surface before applying coatings. This roughens the finish for optimal adhesion.