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How to Refinish and Paint a Bathtub With Epoxy Paint

Updated on August 22, 2016
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Dan has been a homeowner for some 40 years, and has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks. He is a licensed electrician.

Yes, you can paint a tub.  This one used to be a 1970s avocado green.
Yes, you can paint a tub. This one used to be a 1970s avocado green. | Source

Can you paint a bathtub?

The short answer is "Yes, you can," but there is more to it than that. If you use some types of latex paint, I can guarantee that your satisfaction in a job well done will be very short-lived. The paint won't last past the first few baths. Things to consider before you begin:

  1. The type of paint you use will play a large part in determining the quality of the work, as will preparation. Prepping the surface and using the right materials are key to success here.
  2. The difficulty of the project needs to be considered. Are you prepared to take on a home improvement task?
  3. Your expectations of the finished product need to be evaluated. The finish will not be absolutely perfect, and if you don't like the result, it could well require a complete bathtub change.

Each of these points will be discussed in detail below.

What kind of bathtub paint should I use?

There are several products and manufactures that supply paint intended for bathtubs, tile, and sinks. Both one and two part epoxy paints can be used, and I would recommend the two part brush on epoxy paint even though it requires mixing two paints into one. Any leftover material will not be usable, but it is a small price to pay for a high quality job. The one pictured here, from Rust-Oleum, is the one used in this article, and I was very pleased with the result.

While a spray can of epoxy paint is also available and might give a better, smoother surface, it will also be extremely difficult to clean up places where the spray breached or worked its way behind the masking material. In addition, a spray requires a great deal more care in masking off areas that are not to be sprayed.

Under no circumstances should you use regular paint (not made specifically for bathtubs) as they are simply not designed to stand up under constant water conditions. It is one thing to have paint that is occasionally rained upon, and quite another to have it underwater for long periods of time.

How to Paint a Bathtub

The first step is obviously to read the directions on your chosen paint. A two part paint will require mixing the two parts into one container while a one part will not.

  1. Clean the tub thoroughly with soap and water and make any repairs as necessary before beginning. Easy-to-remove pieces such as faucet handles, trim, and the water spout should be removed. If the shower door is fitted to the bathtub, consider removing it as well; removal and installation will take only a few minutes and is probably quicker and easier than masking and carefully painting around the bottom track of the door. It may be necessary to do some sanding with 200 grit up to 600 grit sandpaper, and a thorough cleaning with TSP is a good idea as well.
  2. Mask off the wall at the tub edge with masking tape, as well as any other parts not to be painted, such as the drain. Don't try to paint right up against these items without masking them, as removal of excess epoxy paint will be difficult, if not impossible. Extra time spent masking is well worth the effort.
  3. Painting can be done with a small paintbrush for the edges that are masked off and either a large brush or a roller for the larger surfaces. Brushes and rollers won't really be cleanable, so don't use your best brush; buy a cheaper brush and discard when finished.
  4. Two coats are almost certainly required and the drying time will vary depending on which paint you use, as will the instructions for what to do with the epoxy while the tub is drying.
  5. Following the instructions for your particular paint, then re-apply after drying the recommended amount of time. Store the paint and brushes during this drying period as instructed on the paint—different paints and manufacturers recommend different storage methods.
  6. After a second drying period, remove masking tape and re-affix any removed items such as faucets. Again, check the paint instructions for the time necessary before using the bathtub and wait at least that long if not a few days longer.

Large chipped area in tub.
Large chipped area in tub.
Small chips in sink.
Small chips in sink.

My Personal Experience in Painting a Bathtub with Epoxy Paint

When my wife and I bought our latest home it came with hideous avocado green fixtures throughout the house. While I changed out the kitchen sink and toilets, I did not want the expense or work of replacing a bathtub and instead decided to try painting it.

I used a two part epoxy paint that required mixing with no trouble. Interestingly, the instructions were to store the paint brush and paint in the freezer overnight while the first coat was drying. I very nearly decided that they really meant the refrigerator, but finally wrapped the brushes in Saran Wrap and stored them, along with the paint, as instructed. The next morning the brush was still soft and pliable and the paint in good condition, ready for the second coat. (Lesson learned: Follow the instructions.)

My own paint job turned out very well, with no runs or streaks. The paint was very smooth and it was hard to tell it had been painted at all. I also painted a small bathroom sink at the same time with the only problem there being that my brush was really too large. Nevertheless, it also turned out well. I did wait a week before using the bathtub or sink even though the instructions did not indicate that it was necessary to wait that long. As I have another bathroom available, it was not a particular hardship and I felt the it wasn't worth any risk at all of peeling the paint up prematurely.

That work was done nearly 10 years ago, and I am just now seeing some chipping and peeling of the paint. One very large spot in the bathtub has chipped off, along with a couple of very small areas as well as a couple of small chips in the sink. It has actually lasted longer than I expected it to, and I plan on re-painting the bathtub. The sink, being more difficult to get a good job in and much cheaper and easier to replace, will probably be replaced in the near future along with the countertop.

Overall, with the understanding that the paint will not last forever and will need to be redone some time in the future, I found that painting was a good alternative to replacing.

© 2010 Dan Harmon

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    • hanwillingham profile image

      hanwillingham 5 years ago

      Interesting and useful hub.Painting bathtub with epoxy sounds new to me. Thanks for the information.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      It was new to me, too, and I think few would ever consider it. In my case I found the avocado green tub ugly as sin and it would be a lot of work and expense to replace it.

      Epoxy tub paint took care of the problem for only a little effort and a few dollars. Definitely worth it to me.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      We were considering hiring this for about $300. There is a complete kit on Amazon - the savings are substantial - $75 for the entire kit! Will have to discuss with my husband. Is the smell really bad?

      The information you shared is invaluable - my husband hates the designer pink - if it were your avocado I would paint it myself - pink is livable until we renovate but until then I think he would enjoy the challenge of painting it white as you did 10 years ago.

      Bathroom fixtures are expensive in time and money to change out - this is a great alternative.

      Thank you so much!

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      We found it worth while, mostly because tubs are especially hard and expensive to change out.

      Our tub needs another coat by now, and I will probably put it on this winter sometime. The chipped area has grown quite large. In spite of that, though, I find it worthwhile to simply paint again. It lasted for a long time.

      I might mention as well that the chipping started at the drain - next time I will take extra care to make absolutely sure that area is well painted. Perhaps even taking the drain out before painting. The outside of the tub is still beautiful after over 10 years now.

      I didn't find the smell too bad at all. An open window will help, of course.

    • Rheafly 4 years ago

      Hi

      We have an ugly flesh colored tub that I hate and have wanted to try to paint, but all the kits get very bad reviews. Could you tell me what type you used? Thanks!

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I'm very sorry, Rheafly, but I cannot. That work was done 10 years ago and I have no idea what brand was used. It was a two part system requiring mixing of the two parts of the epoxy paint, but that is all I can tell you.

      I do recall that we purchased the tub paint at Home Depot, but so long ago there is a very good chance that they no longer have it anyway.

      I'm rather surprised to hear of poor reviews, though - we have been very happy with our results. It needs re-painted now, but it HAS been ten years - that's not bad for a coat of paint on anything, let alone a bathtub.

    • Chris 4 years ago

      I live in Canada and bought a 2 part kit from Home Hardware - no one else sold paint kits. I didn't want to over spend by purchasing off the internet either so I just bought the only kit avail. I needed to use a mask - strong fumes and the prep is harder than one may think. I scrubbed and scraped everywhere because if there is caulk left behind you will get 'fish eyes' and it won't stick and sure enough, I got fish eyes. So the manu. says if that happens to apply 2 dots of anti-fish eye stuff in the paint for the 2nd coat. Hope it works and doesn't mean it will only half ass stick. I was dissapointed that my hard work still left behind some caulk residue..

    • wilderness profile image
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      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I hope it works out you, Chris - fish eyes weren't apparent in the work I did (I've only had that happen when painting a car, not with thick epoxy paint).

      Good luck on the rest of your project!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 4 years ago from USA

      I did this on the bathtub in a house I bought. The tub was in horrible shape, but it was cast iron (way too heavy for me to move it alone, and I didn't know anyone in the area yet.) It had rust stains and scratches that were hideous! After using an epoxy kit, it looked brand new.

      I haven't tried the stuff for appliances or kitchen counters yet, but after that turnout I'm game for 'em if I ever need to.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I'll need to do this soon. Our tub was second hand when we installed it 24 years ago. Thanks for the information and tips.

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 4 years ago from NJ, USA

      You might just have saved me a lot of money - this should keep my bathroom going for a few more years before I re-do the whole thing!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I will have to give this a try. We have a tub in our basement that is hideous. I tried the spray stuff but it did not hold up well and I mostly just use the tub to give my dogs a bath in so it is not used everyday. We have hard water so I am sure over time the paint will wear faster but if it even last for 5 years it is worth it. The tub was put in by the previous owner and the bathroom was built around it and it would be too much of a hassle to replace it!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've been wanting to try this but have never known of anyone to do it. Now that I know it works I'll be putting this on my to do work list.

    • Jennie 4 years ago

      can this paint be used on the old fiberglass shower/tub units? Mine is blue and I am so sick of it. If I can paint this thing I will save a lot and can spend money of some new hardware and shower head for it.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I don't see any reason why not, as long as the shower surround does not have large flexible spots in it. While epoxy paint will have some give and flex, if the shower wall can be moved in and out 2 or 3 inches it might crack.

      Some of the older shower surrounds have had some of the wall covering behind it rot out, leaving just the thin fiberglass, and it can have considerable give.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      How cool. I will have to remember this one. I have friends who love to do this sort of stuff in old homes to restore them. This would be perfect.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Well, it's certainly a viable alternative to replacing a tub. That's a major renovation project, while a couple of coats of paint only takes a few hours.

    • diynovice profile image

      diynovice 3 years ago

      I also painted my tub about 10 years ago with good success and in the past few months it has started chipping. I also don't remember what specific kit I used. I wanted to paint it again, but I wasn't sure how to take off the rest of the finish that hasn't chipped. How are you planning to do that? I really appreciate you sharing what you have learned.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      My intent is to use a blunt scraper and take what I can with that. At that point I will use an orbital sander and sand both the epoxy finish and, in particular, the edge where it has chipped. You won't want a sharp edge there - it needs feathered out.

      While I expect this to leave sanding marks in the fiberglass tub, it won't hurt anything as the epoxy is so thick and could well provide better adhesion the second time around.

    • Joanne 3 years ago

      I am in the process of painting our tub. Actually waiting on the first coat to dry so I can add the 2nd. My question is about cleaning the tub. I've always used Bar Keeper's Friend, but I'm assuming that would be too abrasive on the paint. What do you recommend?

      Thanks!

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I'm not familiar with that product, but epoxy paint is pretty tough. Not as tough as the original surface, but tough. I usually use just soap and water, though.

    • littlejonigreen 3 years ago

      Just bought a house and after a few baths the paint started peeling. It's my assumption that epoxy was not used. Should I remove all paint and or sand it before applying epoxy?

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Littlejonigreen, that would be my approach. Someone has painted the tub quick and cheap to sell the house, and you are stuck with the result. Clean all the paint off, through sanding or chemical stripper, and re-paint it properly.

    • Joyce 2 years ago

      Oh, thank you for this idea. I have always dreamt about changing the color of our bathtub to brighter one. I have been searching for it for very long time and finally found the best way to do it! We recently purchased our house, by the way my husband found it at http://localmart.com/ really useful page. With this useful plan and my imagination I can make my bathtub fantastic. Actually, I thought that it is costly, but now I don’t think so. Without a special person I will do it by myself cheaper. To my mind it will also be a great opportunity to unite our family doing such interesting thing)) I hope that with our joint efforts we will change the bathroom for better!

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 2 years ago from Warwick, NY

      Oh my Gosh! My husband and I were just wondering last night if it is possible to paint your bathtub! Will have to refer him to this useful hub!

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Well good! Perhaps I've done some good then by writing the hub. Good luck with whatever you choose.

    • ClaytonDaily profile image

      ClaytonDaily 2 years ago

      Great hub. I was looking for this info, my tub has nicks and scratches and I knew that latex paint wouldn't work. Saved me hiring someone and paying extra for the labor.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Good luck with your project. It isn't a difficult one and can yield great results.

    • JK 21 months ago

      Can I ask how often the tub was being used over those ten years? Considering doing this for a child's tub, it would be soaked for roughly an hour every single day. Thus I'm curious how long it might be expected to last under such conditions.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 21 months ago from Boise, Idaho

      Probably an hour per day or there abouts.2 adults and 2 kids, each with a shower each day.

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