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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Leon Frechette Correspondent

Question: The house we live in has a black toilet and black bathtub. The toilet is easily replaced, but the tub is more of a problem. Because of the ceramic tile which runs up the walls and over the tub, it would be more work than we want to do to remove it. I have purchased a kit to paint the tub instead but have some (OK, a lot) of anxiety about doing it. Any helpful hints would be appreciated. — Penelope G., Worley, Idaho

Answer: I wish I could provide expert advice in painting your bathtub, but I cannot. I don’t believe in reglazing bathtubs, ceramic tile, plastic laminate, cultured marble, and other surfaces. Every project of this type I’ve seen done, especially those done with consumer products, don’t last. In fact, I think they look worse than the original finish, and I’ve seen some pretty sad porcelain tubs over the years.

Professionally speaking, I would replace the tub and enclosure; there is nothing like the look and feel of a new tub. However, a bathtub is a pretty expensive item to replace because the project always requires opening three walls. If you are on a budget or prefer not to be inconvenienced for a week or two, especially if you have only one bathroom, then let me suggest a couple of alternative products and methods to consider. Both require professional installation.

Consider installing a bathtub liner which will completely cover the existing cast iron or steel (not fiberglass) tub. One company I recommend is Re-Bath; they have been around since 1979. Their liners are made of ABS acrylic and available in a wide range of colors to fit any decorating scheme.

Re-Bath’s liners have to be installed by factory-trained applicators. After you contact a dealer, they will come to your home to measure the existing bathtub, take photos and then match those measurements and photos to one of more than 850 molds stocked in their manufacturing facility. Then the acrylic is vacuum-formed to fit your tub and the liner is shipped. Installation can be completed in a day once the liner is in hand.

Most important on this installation is to achieve the smallest gap possible between the wall/floor and liner to achieve a good bond for the caulk used to seal the liner’s perimeter and to give an attractive finish. To learn more, go to, or call them at (800) 228-4882.

Another option is reglazing. Unique Refinishers, a company that’s been reglazing tubs for more than 30 years, offers a one-day process at about 20 percent of the cost of replacement. Their reglazing process efficiently encapsulates the old finish of your bathtub and prevents lead from seeping out.

High concentrations of lead are being released from old and worn finishes of many bathtubs worldwide. Recent studies conducted by Unique Refinishers, Inc., have shown that as many as 70 percent of the bathtubs manufactured prior to 1984 and commonly used today are leeching lead into bathwater. The Center for Disease Control and other health professionals warn that repeated exposure to high concentrations of lead can be hazardous to the health of your family, particularly children.

Factory-trained applicators first clean the tub surface using an etching process, an important step because it assures a strong bond between the old and new surfaces. Chips and cracks are individually repaired before glazing is applied. Applied using a spray gun, the glazing can be matched to any color sample.

For a professional finish, remove all caulk around the tub and on the floor in front of the tub. Also remove the overflow and drain trim from the tub so the new glazing will be under the new caulk and trim. To learn more, visit or call Unique Refinishers, Inc., at 800-332-0048.

While neither product is as good as ripping everything out and starting fresh, it’s a great way to give a tired bathroom a new look at an affordable price.

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