Updating the look of your bathroom doesn’t have to involve a full gut renovation. If you have an older plastic tub surround that is discolored or scratched, painting it can provide an inexpensive makeover option. With the right prep work, materials, and painting technique, you can refresh your plastic tub surround with a shiny new finish.
Can You Paint a Plastic Tub Surround?
Yes, you can paint a plastic tub surround. Use a primer first, then apply epoxy acrylic paint which adheres well to plastic. Epoxy acrylic paint is water-resistant, durable, and gives a porcelain-like finish when dry. Be sure to use paints approved for use on plastics.
Why Do You Need To Paint a Plastic Tub Surround?
If your plastic tub surround is still structurally sound, painting provides an inexpensive way to update the look without a full replacement. Here are some of the top reasons homeowners choose to paint their surroundings:
Change the Color
The most common motivation for painting a plastic surround is to change the color. Bathroom trends come and go, so the white or biscuit tub surround you installed 10 years ago may feel dated today.
Painting the surround provides an easy color change. You can match the new hue to the wall paint, floor tiles, shower curtains, or other bathroom accessories.
Refresh the Surface
Over time, daily use takes a toll on a plastic tub surround. You may notice light scratches, chips, or discoloration forming on the surface. Painting gives the surroundings a fresh start and masks any imperfections.
Match New Decor
Has your color scheme changed since the last time you updated your bathroom? Painting the existing plastic surround allows you to match new decor rather than replace the tub surround entirely.
What Type of Paint Should You Use?
Choosing the right type of paint ensures proper adhesion and durability when painting plastic:
Enamel paints provide a hard, glossy finish that stands up well to bathroom humidity and daily cleaning. The acrylic resins allow enamel paints to flex rather than chip or crack as the surround expands and contracts.
Look for interior/exterior porch and floor enamel intended for high-traffic areas. Or choose tub and tile refinishing paint formulas designed specifically for bath surfaces like surrounds.
An adhesion promoter or bonding primer helps the new paint stick to the slippery plastic surface. Always use a product designed for plastic when painting a non-porous tub surround.
How to Prepare a Plastic Tub Surround for Painting
Proper prep work ensures the paint bonds tightly to create a smooth, lasting finish. Here are the key steps:
The first step is to thoroughly clean the plastic surround to remove any dirt, oil, soap residue, or built-up grime. Use household cleaners, mineral spirits, or a tub and tile cleaner to cut through grease.
Avoid abrasive cleansers or scouring pads, which could scratch the plastic. Rinse well after cleaning.
Lightly sanding the plastic tub surround gives the paint something to grip. Use fine (220-400 grit) sandpaper to scuff up the surface.
Work in the direction of the tub’s texture or grain lines to avoid deep scratches. Focus on sanding glossy areas to dull the shine. Rinse and dry after sanding.
Before painting, wipe down the entire surround with a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding. This helps the paint adhere directly to the plastic.
Painting a Plastic Tub Surround
Once prepped, it’s time to paint. Follow these steps:
Apply Adhesion Promoter
Start by applying a thin, even layer of plastic adhesion promoter. Use a small foam roller or high quality brush.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time before painting. The promoter chemically etches the surface so the new paint can form a tight bond.
Apply Two Coats of Enamel
Using a brush, roller, or paint sprayer, apply the first coat of enamel tub and tile paint. Work in sections and maintain a wet edge to prevent lap marks and brush strokes.
Allow the full drying time specified on the paint can before moving on. Drying times range from 1-3 hours.
Once the first coat is fully dry, apply the second and final coat of enamel paint. The second coat provides complete coverage and protection. If the first coat absorbed unevenly or shows any thin spots, add a third coat as needed.
If the existing caulk around the tub is cracked or peeling, this is a good opportunity to refresh it. After painting, run a smooth bead of silicone caulk around the tub. Wipe smoothly with a damp fingertip before the caulk dries.
Fresh caulk provides a cleaned-up finished edge. Allow the caulk to fully cure for 24-48 hours before using the tub.
If you’re facing Why Bathtub Feels Like Sandpaper? Here Is The Solution
Caring for a Painted Plastic Surround
Once the paint has fully cured, a painted plastic surround requires similar care as before:
- Allow the paint to cure fully before scrubbing or intense cleaning. Check the paint can for the recommended cure time.
- Stick to gentle cleaners. Avoid abrasive powders, scouring pads, or anything acidic which could wear down the painted surface over time.
- Use soft cloths or sponges for surface cleaning. Spot clean mildew and soap scum buildup promptly.
- Touch up any chips or scratches as soon as they appear. Touch up enamel paint is available for flawless repairs.
The Benefits of Painting a Plastic Tub Surround
Beyond the cosmetic upgrade, painting a plastic tub surround offers many advantages:
Painting costs a fraction of a full tub surround replacement or re-tiling. With proper prep and application, it can refresh the space for years before needing repainting.
Quality bathroom enamel paints hold up well to moisture and cleaning. The hard, glossy finish resists chips, scratches, and stains better than a standard paint.
Painting a tub surround is a relatively easy DIY project compared to remodeling. It can be completed over a weekend with common tools and materials.
Paint allows you to choose any color for your tub surround. Match your shower curtains, wall color, or accessories.
Maintains Existing Surround
Painting preserves the existing plastic surround. No need to demolish and replace if the structure remains in good shape.
Unlike tile, a painted plastic surround remains seamless and grout-free. Cleanup is easier without grout lines to harbor mildew and grime.
Matches Existing Tub
Rather than replacing the tub and surround together, painting allows you to refresh the surround only. The painted surround will match a still-functional existing tub.
Key Takeaways on Painting a Plastic Tub Surround
- Lightly sand and clean the plastic surround first to help paint adhere
- Always use an adhesion promoter or bonding primer made for plastic
- Enamel paints provide the most durable finish
- Apply two coats and allow proper drying time between coats
- Maintain gentle cleaning and touch up paint as needed
Can I paint over the old plastic surround without removing it?
Yes, you can paint directly over the existing plastic tub surround provided you properly prepare the surface by cleaning and lightly sanding to help the paint adhere.
What kind of paint adheres best to plastic tub surrounds?
Enamel paints specifically formulated for bathrooms provide the most durable and water-resistant finish on plastic tub surrounds. Always use an adhesion promoter too.
How long does it take for tub surround paint to cure?
Most bathroom paints take 1-3 days to fully cure and harden. Avoid heavy cleaning during this time. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Can I paint a fiberglass tub surround?
Yes, fiberglass can be painted using the same process as plastic surrounds – clean, lightly sand, apply adhesion promoter, and use enamel paint.
How do I repair chips or scratches in painted plastic surrounds?
Use touch up paint that matches the original color. Clean and lightly sand the chip before painting it.
William J. Bullock is a licensed plumber with over 15 years of experience installing and repairing bathtubs. He runs his own plumbing company in Greenville and serves residential and commercial clients. William is dedicated to providing honest, transparent advice to help homeowners make informed decisions about their bathroom renovations.
He has established expertise in selecting bathtubs, planning custom installations, diagnosing issues, and completing repairs. William aims to share practical tips and reliable recommendations based on extensive hands-on work. When he isn’t on a job site, William enjoys spending time with his family and volunteering at local community events. He takes pride in delivering quality service and enjoys helping people upgrade their homes.