How to Refinish an Antique Bathtub

Clean it up and smooth over the rough patches with these step-by-step instructions.

After this project, you'll have earned that soak in your newly refinished claw-foot tub. Here's how to give it a smooth new surface:

Materials and Tools:

high-velocity, low-pressure sprayer and compressor
bucket
sponges
paper towels
exhaust fan
plastic sheets
paper-tape dispenser
small paper cup
5-in-1 painter's tool
putty knife
spreader
stir stick
240-grit and 1,500-grit sandpaper
scouring pads
respirator
rubber gloves
safety glasses
two-part cleanser
two-part filler putty (auto-body putty)
fine filler putty
chemical adhesor
base
catalyst
primer reducer
paint thinner

Steps:

1. Set up an exhaust fan to vent toxic fumes to the outside.

2. Rough-clean and scrape the bathtub surface to remove bits of old gaskets and other materials, using the painter's tool. Wipe away any debris with a sponge.

3. Wearing safety glasses and rubber gloves, clean the tub with part one of the two-part cleansing solution. Pour some of the part-one solution into the tub and scrub thoroughly with 240-grit sandpaper. This removes any soap residue and grease.

4. Thoroughly clean and rinse the tub. Pour some of the step-two solution into the tub and scour with scouring pads. This roughs the surface, allowing the new paint to adhere better. Clean the tub thoroughly, and dry with paper towels.

5. Wipe down the tub with primer reducer and paper towels to remove any traces of the previous two chemicals.

6. Mix the two-part filler putty and fill in damaged areas around the drain opening, using a putty knife. Allow about 30 minutes for the putty to dry, and then come back and sand it smooth with a fine-grit sandpaper.

7. Wipe away dust and clean the area with a paper towel and primer reducer. Repeat the putty process to fill in any other damaged areas.

8. Apply chemical adhesor to tub surface. Mask off the tub exterior and other areas you don't want to repaint.

9. Mix the three elements for the base coat (primer, catalyst and reducer) in the sprayer. Follow manufacturer's instructions when mixing.

10. Connect the sprayer to the compressor and pressurize the system.

11. Wearing a respirator, take a few practice strokes with the sprayer, using a scrap piece of cardboard. Once you have the hang of it, apply the new finish to the tub.

12. Allow the first coat about 30 minutes to dry. While waiting, mix paint for the top coat.

13. Apply the top coat and allow to dry. It will take about 48 hours for the paint to cure. After that time, come back with ultrafine 1,500-grit sandpaper and buff away any imperfections.

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