Bathtub Refinishing 101: Tackle This DIY Project in 7 Steps

Open a window in the room closest to your bathroom and place a piece of cardboard inside that has a hole cut out to fit the hose. Run the hose under the plastic sheeting, into the next room and through the hole in the cardboard. (Sherkat needed a 25-foot hose to reach the window in the bedroom next to her bathroom.) Use painter’s tape to secure the cardboard to the window frame and the hose to the cardboard.

Step 2: Repair any chips or dings with epoxy putty

Follow the directions on the epoxy product. Once the putty dries, you’ll likely need to sand these spots down with fine sandpaper to ensure they’re fully blended.

Step 3: Clean and dry your tub thoroughly

It’s important to get the tub as sparkling as possible to ensure the paint will go on smoothly. Your weekly wipe down won’t do, you’ll want to deep clean before you embark on the refinishing process.

Step 4: Sand, clean, repeat

Since sanding can emit fine particles into the air, you’ll want to put on a respirator (or at least a high-quality mask such as a KN95) before starting this step. Use a sander, sanding block, or steel wool to buff the entire surface of the tub, which will help with adhesion. “You should buff and clean the surface two or three times for the best result,” Carpenter says. Each time you sand, remove residue with warm water, then use a tack cloth to wipe away any remaining residue as you dry the surface. When sanding is finished, some people opt to give their tub a second cleaning.

Step 5: Protect fixtures

Use painter’s tape to cover areas such as the faucet and drain. If your faucet or shower head tends to drip, tape a plastic cup to catch the water.

Step 6: Apply bathtub refinishing product

Put on your respirator and protective eyewear and turn on the fan. Spray or paint on your product of choice, following directions carefully. Note that you may need multiple coats, especially if your tub is heavily stained or a dark color. If you’re using a roller with a short nap, remove fuzz so it doesn’t mix in with your product. “Use a piece of painter’s tape to pull off any loose bits of fibers from the roller,” Wilson says. You can also use small foam paint brushes for curves or hard-to-reach areas.

Once you’re finished, you’ll need to let it dry fully between coats and should wait a few days before bathing in the tub. “Let the new glaze dry for at least 72 hours, and don’t touch the tub until it fully dries,” Carpenter warns. Wait to do any caulking until after the tub-refinishing products have dried.

Step 7: Maintain your tub

Consult instructions for recommendations on caring for your tub, but keep in mind that you’ll likely want to avoid vigorous scrubbing or abrasive cleaners after a bathtub resurfacing. “I use Lysol multi surface cleaner, but there are probably some harsher cleaners that you won’t be able to use,” Wilson says.

Other things to know about bathtub resurfacing

Before you start dreaming of leisurely soaks, here are a few other things to keep in mind about the refinishing process.

  • When it comes to supplies, round up. Remember that you’ll probably need more materials than you’d expect. “To avoid running out of paint or other stuff mid-project, it’s a good idea to buy more than you think, and you can always return unused and unopened products later,” Sherkat says.
  • Don’t underestimate the fumes. It’s best to do this project during the warmer months so you can keep windows open and have a relocation plan for your crew. “There will be an intense smell for six-plus hours after the tub is painted, so wear a quality mask and have family members leave the house while the project is being done and for several hours afterward,” Wilson says.
  • Watch out for humidity. Although warm temperatures are ideal, you also want to steer clear of humid periods, when the paint or glaze will take longer to cure.