Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing.
Painting Fiberglass Tub/Shower Unit (cont'd)
A discussion started in 2003 and continuing through 2017 . . .(2007)
Q. I am remodeling my home and my downstairs bathroom has an old iron tub which was refinished at one point but the refinish is beginning to peel away around the top back. The tub surround had been replaced in the past few years with a plastic surround that has little soap holders and whatnot. Between the tub and the surround the caulking is beginning to mold, even when I tried to replace it, and the surround itself is beginning to discolor. My question is can I roughen up both the tub and the surround and then paint on some fiberglass epoxy. Then Is it possible to sand down and primer/paint the fiberglass? I have used fiberglass on my boat before, but only to cover existing fiberglass. I don't want to start the project just to find out that the fiberglass doesn't really stick or that the project will look unprofessional. Has anyone had any experience doing a project like this?Brian Nicklaus
home improver - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Q. After reading these letters I know I don't want to paint the existing walls in my tub/shower stall. The walls are a Marlite type stuff (composition board covered with a very thin, brittle layer of waterproof membrane) but because the tub is tucked under the stairwell, the wall slopes and the folks who put the walls up did not use any joint trim. They just butted it up to the next piece. Now all those edges are chipping and swelling and leaking. I know I have to resurface the walls but the question is - with what? Because of the funny sloping ceiling and angled wall (stairwell above) I know I'll have to create it myself (no kits, etc) but what material should I use? There are compound angles -- channel trims will not work with this one.
Advice and thoughts?
- Springbrook, Wisconsin
A. For resurfacing the walls of a tub/shower. Try vinyl flooring. The house I grew up in had "kitchen" flooring on the walls of the upstairs batch enclosure. It was something a local carpet/flooring company did on a regular basis. It was professionally installed. They used large diameter 1/4 round in the corners to keep the flooring from bending to much in the corners. Other than that, I believe it's just glued on like a regular floor.You have unlimited choice of patterns. You can cut cut it around obstacles. The bath/shower I'm talking about didn't get daily use, but it's been at least 27 years since it was installed and still looks great. I've never understood why I haven't seen it more. If a floor can hold up to foot traffic and is water proof, why not use it on a bath wall ?Jesse Hopkins
- Grove City, Ohio
A. Replacing shower walls that are 'weird' is easy. Just use FRP (Fire Resistant Panel). Water proof and fire resistant it comes in white usually or almond and is available at home improvement stores. Remove the old 'stuff' and make sure that the sheet rock is in good shape, dry, fairly smooth. Then just cut the panels to fit and use liquid nails to glue them up. You will need some wooden temp braces and make sure to use plastic panel molding on all the edges. After the glue dries, caulk the seams with a good silicone caulk and the repair is 'long term'.Ken Berkowitz
- Frederick, Maryland
Ed. note: For the record, FRP stands for "fiber reinforced plastic" rather than "fire resistant panel" :-)
Please don't assume it's fireproof unless it says so.
March 23, 2008
A. OK. Time to put an end to this epoxy business. My best friend owns a tub restoration company. The answer is gelcoat. The good news, it's cheaper than epoxy, the bad news, much more labor intensive.
1. Sand entire tub with 200 grit paper.
2. Bondo [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or Duraglas any imperfections, chips, cracks, etc. the fiberglass (this is very important)
3. Spray w/ Gelcoat (it will dry an orange-peel finish)
4. Sand with 100 grit, then 220 grit, then 600 grit wet dry, then 1600 grit wet dry.
5. Polish with rubbing compound.
6. Polish with fiberglass finish.
7. Wax and buff.
Guaranteed this will work 100% of the time. No blisters, no peeling, no reaction to caustics. The surface is more resistant to scratches and dings as well. Plus, if you do something stupid like drop a cinder block or sledgehammer in your tub after you finish the project, that ding can be fixed with just a little bit of gelcoat and some sanding.
This is more difficult than just throwing some Rustoleum on it. But it is the way professionals do it, and the funny thing is, a 5th grader can do it. My friend has resurfaced hundreds of tubs. He is actually the guy that is called in by construction companies when they do the stupid cinder block/sledgehammer thing. A $50 repair beats a new $600 tub.
Using bondo or Duraglass is easy as pie. Even if your tub has a hole completely through it or a compound crack that runs for dozens of inches, you can fix it.
Incidentally, use this same process to restore boat hulls. I'm a sailor... I've done it a bunch.
- Provo Utah
Ed. note: Thanks, Branden; you've sold us.
July 6, 2008
Q. I also intend to paint a tub surround, but mine is in 5 sections which I intend to take off the wall. I have one small round hole to fill/repair. After sanding I intend to wash the sections with a cleaner and water. After it is dry, and before applying the paint, I intend to use a automotive tac cloth to remove any dust, thus avoiding the acid and the fumes from the acid. I intend to use the newer spray paints formulated for plastics. I use to be in the electronics business and when monitors (CRT type) where expensive, I would repair and refurbish monitors. I repainted the cases with a spray paint that I found which left the cases looking like new and it held up well. Do you see any flaws in my intended plans?Tom Gilligan
diy guy - Whiting, New Jersey
August 12, 2008
Q. I'm only planning on painting the outside frame and exterior portion of my shower/tub unit, so this area will not receive much direct water. Should I just go with Rustoleum Appliance paint or should I use something more serious? I'm hoping for minimal fumes and mess.
Auto paint sounds like a good option as well. Any suggestions or ideas? Thanks!
DIY - Guerneville, California
September 11, 2008
A. Homax also has a paint made for tubs and showers called Toughtile =>
It does not come as a spray and only in white but it can be tinted with standard hardware store paint tints. Rust-oleum appliance paint, mentioned in the previous post, is not appropriate for a shower or tub. It is made specifically for metal.
- Wheaton, Illinois
April 8, 2009
A. I used the Rustoleum appliance paint (white) =>
to paint over a blue tub it came out great.
Step one clean with denatured alcohol
Step two sand lightly but entire surface (important) entire surface with 220 grit sandpaper.
Step three wipe down tub with denatured alcohol until no more dust comes off.
Step four shake can well and start painting you will need about six cans for a full enclosure tub spraying in light coats, do not let the previous coat dry before applying the next coat just give it about 5 mins to tack up.
Step five repeat coats until fully covered and let dry for 48 hrs before using.
Caution use a good respirator cover every inch of your body and anything in the room and ventilate the room well this stuff is messy and tough to clean off once it is dry!
- Gloucester Massachusetts
April 9, 2009
Q. They paint fiberglass car bumpers wouldn't that be the same kind of paint to use on a fiberglass shower?martha walker
- Crawfordsville Indiana
April 10, 2009
A. Hi, Martha. Very few if any bumpers are fiberglass, although most bumpers today are plastic. But automobile manufacturers employ methods to improve adhesion, such as flame treatment combined with dyne testing, that you will not be able to do at home.
I'm not saying you cannot achieve what you want to do, I'm just saying that making an analogy to car bumpers probably isn't the best direction to go :-)
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 12, 2010
A. Sounds like everyone made the same mistake. Don't ever attempt to refinish a tub or shower unless you are a professional refinisher! For many reasons:
1. The chemicals you need to use are harmful to your health if not handled properly.
2. If you use the wrong material it will peel and discolor.
3. If you don't prep the surface properly it will peel and not have a smooth surface.
4. You need to use an HVLP spray system to apply a fine, glossy and smooth finish. The application takes experience to perfect.
5. The right refinisher using the right product can apply a beautiful lasting finish.(if taken care of properly)
There are other reasons, but you should get the idea. Some things aren't worth taking the cheap way out, although refinishing can save you thousands compared to replacing the units even if you do hire a professional.
- Phoenix, Arizona
April 20, 2010
A. I resurface tubs for a living. I have read all this and the thing that is most important is prep. First you must make sure there is no silicone around tub. Nothing sticks to silicone it must all be removed and cleaned off before sanding. Same goes with soap scum; clean it before sanding. If you sand either of these into your surface it will bubble up and peel. If your surface is clean and scuffed almost any good paint will work. May not last a life time but still cheaper than replacing.frank v.
- Lafayette, Louisiana
October 10, 2011
Q. I've just embarked and yet another bathroom reno, this one with an acrylic clawtub. I'd like to paint the outside of the tub after I remove the clawfeet. The brass needs cleaning and sealing and I'd welcome suggestions for products to use for both the exterior of the tub and for the brass feet.Karen RM
- Edmonton, AB Canada
November 22, 2011
Q. I have a kit purchased from a home improvement store to resurface my bathtub. The surface feels slightly rough after 2 coats, possibly from holding spray can too far away. Is a third coat possible to get a glossy appearance? Should I use steel wool or sandpaper to smooth surface before another coat?Ray Trahan
December 12, 2011
A. I have just gone through this process with the Rustoleum appliance paint. Looked great for about 2 weeks and is now slowly chipping off the bottom as well as discoloring in the back part of the tub where a slight amount of water gathers. I did read on the can that it is not made for standing water... maybe that should have warned me off.
Definitely need a respirator when doing this job, also make sure that you have the over spray going through an area that is well plastic'ed off as it will make a big mess. Do not turn on your vent fan, I almost did and am very glad I did not. There would have been a large white paint spot at the vent exhaust.
Going to try sanding the coat down and put on either a gel coat or the Rustoleum stuff made for tubs, will see.
- Newport, North Carolina, USA
December 18, 2011
A. I have a 58" tub and shower that was going to require moving walls to change out with a standard 60". So I decided to try painting it. I'm in the automotive painting line of work so it isn't that difficult. DO NOT USE ACID, unless you have some super super ventilation, then I still don't recommend it. It will eat away at everything in the house and out. Sand well with 320 grit 3m wet or dry sandpaper until there is no gloss left. Lacquer thinner will do the job just fine to clean it. I used Rustoleum products to do mine, used a spray gun with compressor though, not aerosol cans. Primed, let it dry good then 2 to 3 thin smooth coats of semi gloss white. Looked great and still does 4 years later.Ryan Rip
- Altus, Oklahoma, USA
February 6, 2012
Q. I painted with the epoxy paint you can get from Benjamin Moore that is supposed to be good for fiberglass. I filled and sanded and then I got the type of roller that doesn't break down while using the epoxy, and did the shower surround as well as the tub. The shower surround looks great after 6 months, but the tub itself seems to show some hairline cracks where adults have stood for the shower and sat in the tub. Then I rinsed out the carpet cleaner in the tub and scratched my nice paint job. How can I avoid/fix the hairline problem, as I have now primed it with Stix from BM and in desperation took a bath and it seemed to stay on the surface, but for how long? However, it is winter and it is hard to keep the house warm if I have the window open and it would seem the lower the temperature the longer it takes to dry, and it is terrible to have to smell the epoxy roc's if there isn't sufficient ventilation (I could only take 10 minutes while painting and my eyes were streaming even with a fan and window opening).Kat Berryere
- Red Deer AB Canada
December 9, 2012
A. You cannot paint or glaze a fiberglass bath or shower and expect it to last. It is a bandaid. The reason you are having problems is that fiberglass turns dull. Every time you clean it it begins to dull as you are taking off a minute film of the gel coat. Look at a brand new fiberglass boat, and see how it looks after a few runs sitting in someone's driveway. Boat owners just expect the hull to get dull; you should expect the same for your bath or shower.
When hot tubs first came out they were made of fiberglass. After a season of use they were dull. So the quality ones are made of acrylic.
The reason you have fiberglass is because it is cheap & easy for builders to install. Most tract builders are not going to give you a quality tub or shower.
My advice would be to live with what you have or buy an 100% acrylic tub or shower base because it is non-porous, easy to clean, and stays shiny for the life of the product. It also never yellows, chips, or stains, and is a good insulator. If you get a scratch just buff it out just like they do with Corian countertops and football helmets. Do you think that NFL football players get new helmets for each game? The equipment manager buffs out the scratches before each game
- Laurel, Maryland
June 17, 2015
A. I have been refinishing cast iron tubs for almost 2 years now, in the Atlanta, Ga area. It takes me anywhere from 6-8 hours to properly prep the tubs. Prep is the absolute key to a refinishing done right that will not bubble or peel. After my initial sanding, I etch the tub with phosphoric acid, let it stand for 30 minutes, rinse with hot water, let dry completely (using a paint removal heatgun to dry, which heats the metal prior to painting), lightly wipe clean with a terry cloth and acetone. These steps are done after the sanding with 320 grit sand paper.
I then apply 2 very thin coats of 2-part epoxy primer (grey), which helps me see to an even coverage over the entire area of the tub (not just in the trough) allowing complete drying of each coat and sanding between coats with 500 grit automotive sanding finish paper, and very lightly, as before, removing dust debris with a terry cloth and acetone.
Only then will I attempt to apply the 2-part epoxy color paint, applying 4 light coats. After all this, and a 72 hour dry/curing time, I return to buff the paint and what is known in the south as "burn it in". Paint, has to be heated if it is to harden properly. The hardening process is what stops the paint from peeling, hardened paint will chip; as with ceramic and porcelain, which are both put through extreme heat curing processes.
JN Construction,llc. - Sandy Springs, Georgia