So you’ve noticed your fiberglass bathtub looking a little worse for wear lately. Maybe it has some unsightly scratches or discoloration that just won’t come clean no matter how much you scrub. You’re probably wondering, can you actually refinish a fiberglass tub to make it look brand new again?
This is a great question that many homeowners find themselves asking at some point. Fiberglass bathtubs can really take a beating over the years from daily wear and tear. The good news is, that refinishing is often a viable option to breathe new life into a dull, faded tub. Below we’ll walk through everything you need to know about refinishing fiberglass bathtubs.
Can You Refinish Fiberglass Bathtubs?
Yes, you can refinish fiberglass bathtubs to bring them back to their former glory. Instead of shelling out big bucks for a brand new tub, a refinishing project can restore your old one to like-new condition. It’s a cost-effective way to extend the life of your tub and freshen up your bathroom.
However, fiberglass does have some downsides. Over time with heavy usage, you may notice:
- Discoloration and fading from chemicals, cleaners, and minerals in water.
- Light surface scratches that gradually accumulate.
- Loss of the glossy look, leaving a dull appearance.
- Stains that are difficult to remove completely.
These aesthetic issues don’t necessarily mean the tub has reached the end of its lifespan. Refinishing the surface may help restore the appearance.
So, What Exactly is Refinishing a Bathtub?
Bathtub refinishing is a process of renewing the surface layer of the tub. Professional refinishers use special coatings and application techniques to essentially give your existing tub a fresh “paint job”.
The new coating is sprayed on as a liquid that hardens into a smooth, protective finish. Modern tub refinishing products are durable, designed to stand up to regular use and cleaning.
Refinishing can give an old, worn fiberglass tub a facelift at a fraction of the cost of a full replacement. Instead of a large remodel, you can improve the look in just a day or two.
Some key points about bathtub refinishing:
- Process – Starts with cleaning and sanding tub surface. The new coating is sprayed on. Usually 1-2 coats.
- Types of coatings – Epoxy and polyurethane are common. Acrylics are also used.
- Cost – Approximately $300 to $800 professionally. DIY for under $100.
If you’re considering refinishing, evaluate if your particular tub is a good candidate (more on that below). The process won’t work miracles, but it can be an affordable way to get more life out of your existing tub.
Can Fiberglass Bathtubs Be Refinished?
In general, yes – refinishing can work on fiberglass tubs. But there are some factors to take into account to determine if your specific tub is suitable for refinishing.
You’ll want to inspect the actual surface closely. Check for any cracks, deep gouges, or leakage that may indicate bigger underlying issues. Look at the overall condition. Severe staining or etching that penetrates deep may be difficult to cover up.
Here are some limitations to keep in mind:
- Won’t fix cracks or holes – can fill small chips but not major damage.
- May not cover up bold marker stains or permanent dyes.
- Can’t remove detergent buildup if it has etched into the surface.
Assuming your fiberglass tub is structurally sound with no major damage, refinishing is usually an option. But be realistic about the results. It improves appearance but doesn’t recreate a brand new tub.
Professional vs DIY Refinishing
You have two main options for refinishing a fiberglass bathtub – hire a professional or do it yourself. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each approach:
- Evaluate tub & recommend coating
- Clean tub & sand surface
- Spray on coating
- Protect nearby surfaces
- Apply 1-2 coats
- Let cure 24 hrs.
Cost: Approximately $300-$800
- Experienced results
- Proper preparation
- High-quality coatings
- Smoother finish
- Warrantied work.
- Higher cost
- Fumes during application.
- Paint sprayer
- Epoxy coating kit
- Gloves & mask.
- Thoroughly clean and dry tub
- Sand surface
- Clean off dust
- Mix coating
- Tape and mask off area
- Spray in a ventilated area.
- Let dry 24-48 hrs.
- Customize color
- Satisfaction of doing yourself.
- Lots of preparation
- Easy to make mistakes
- Results are not as professional.
Evaluate whether your skill level and budget make DIY viable or if hiring a pro may yield better results.
Preparing to Refinish a Fiberglass Tub
Proper prep work is crucial for successful results in refinishing a fiberglass bathtub. Here are the key steps:
Cleaning – Use a non-abrasive tub cleaner and scrub thoroughly. Remove all dirt, soap residue, grime, and stains that you can. Rinse and let dry fully.
Surface Repairs – Fill any chips or cracks with a waterproof filler designed for tubs. Allow time to cure completely according to product directions.
Safety Precautions – Work in a well-ventilated area and wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling fumes. Wear gloves and eye protection.
Ventilation – When spraying on the refinishing coating, you’ll need air circulation to ventilate fumes. Open windows and use fans. Some pros use masks with built-in ventilation.
Proper prep sets the stage for the new coating to adhere properly.
Refinishing Process Step-By-Step
Once you’ve prepped the fiberglass tub surface, here is an overview of the full refinishing process:
- Lightly sand the original tub surface to help the coating bond. Use fine 150-180 grit sandpaper.
- Wipe clean – Remove all dust after sanding. Tack cloth works well.
- Apply bonding agent if your kit includes one. This helps the coating stick to the slick fiberglass.
- Mask off the area around the tub using painter’s tape and drop cloths. This protects nearby surfaces.
- Mix refinishing coating according to the product directions. Carefully follow the mixing ratios.
- Spray on coating using smooth, overlapping strokes. A paint sprayer works best for an even application.
- Allow drying per the coating manufacturer’s cure times, usually 24-48 hours. Ensure good ventilation.
- Apply a second coat if needed to achieve full coverage and a smooth, glossy finish.
- Let the final coat cure fully before using the tub, often 5-7 days.
- Enjoy your bathtub’s facelift!
It’s a multi-step process, but could save thousands over replacement. Be sure to follow all safety precautions when working with refinishing products.
Longevity of a Refinished Fiberglass Tub
If done properly, refinishing a fiberglass bathtub can last several years. With proper prep, high-quality coatings, and proper application, expect it to hold up well.
Here are some factors regarding longevity:
- Durability – Modern tub refinishing coatings are formulated for durability and scratch resistance. Epoxy and polyurethane hold up better than older acrylic finishes.
- Maintenance – Taking good care of your tub will maximize longevity. Gently clean with non-abrasive cleaners and soft cloths.
- Frequency of use – Refinished tubs in frequently used bathrooms may show wear sooner. Consider a more durable coating.
- DIY vs. pro job – Professional refinishing often lasts longer due to experience and quality coatings.
Evaluate condition annually. Plan to re-refinish every 2-5 years for best results. This extends the life at a fraction of the replacement cost.
The Bottom Line: Worth Refinishing or Not?
So is refinishing worth considering for your fiberglass bathtub? In many cases, yes. The cost is reasonable, the results are often good, and it can buy you more years before a major replacement.
Here are a few key factors to weigh:
- Tub’s current condition – How worn is it? Can refinishing make a significant improvement?
- Your budget – Refinishing is very affordable compared to new tub costs.
- Your expectations – Understand it improves the appearance but isn’t brand new.
- Other options – Compare to repair, re-glazing, or liner inserts.
Q: How long does a refinished fiberglass tub last?
A: With proper preparation and application, a refinished tub can last 2-5 years with proper care. Re-refinishing may be needed every few years.
Q: Does refinishing work on badly scratched tubs?
A: Light scratches can be smoothed over but deep grooves may still be visible. Severely scratched tubs are poor candidates.
Q: Is the refinishing process messy?
A: It can be messy if not properly masked off. Drop cloths and painter’s tape help protect surrounding surfaces.
Q: Can I use my tub right after refinishing?
A: No, you must allow the coating to cure fully first, usually 5-7 days minimum.
Q: Will my tub look painted after refinishing?
A: With a quality coating like epoxy applied smoothly, it will not look painted on. Results mimic a factory finish.
Q: How do I clean a refinished tub?
A: Use gentle, non-abrasive cleaners and soft cloths or sponges. Avoid heavy-duty scouring pads.
Q: Does refinishing work on tubs with mold or mildew?
A: No, mold and mildew must be remediated prior to refinishing for best results.
Q: Will a refinished tub match my existing tile?
A: Refinishing allows you to customize the new color, so you can match your existing bath decor.
Q: Is DIY refinishing any cheaper than hiring a pro?
A: DIY kits can save on labor costs but often require more coats to achieve professional-level results.
Q: Can I just refinish the bottom of my tub?
A: For best results, the entire tub surface should be refinished to have a uniform appearance.
In summary, refinishing fiberglass tubs is often a smart choice to extend the life of your existing tub for a fraction of the replacement cost. With reasonable expectations and proper prep and application, you can achieve results that make your bathroom look fresher.
Consider both DIY or professional refinishing based on your budget and comfort level. With some restoring work, you can enjoy your fiberglass tub for more years before needing a complete redo of your bathroom. Give your tub a makeover!
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.