Small Home Improvement Project: Refinishing Our Vintage Bathroom Cast Iron tub

Our old 1940s tub right after it was reglazed with epoxy

After Photo of our tub refinishing/ reglazing. The 1970s solid surface surround is visible in this photo.  I still like the streamline details on the side of the old tub.  Some of the new bathroom decor items can also be seen in this photo, including the cute little retro chrome and white trash can from Target.

This fall we decided to have our old 1944 white bathtub refinished by a professional tub reglazer.  It has been needing it for about five or six years.  When our kids were younger and still liked to use lots of bath toys, it seemed pointless to waste the money any sooner.  When we bought our house fifteen + years ago, the sellers unfortunately already had it refinished just before listing the house and we didn’t realize it at the time.  Part of the process included chemically etching the old enamel so the epoxy would adhere, but it also permanently damaged the tub.  It looked great when it was first done, and it still did up until we had a toddler using the tub regularly.  With the toys, or anything for that matter, like a shampoo bottle being often left in contact with the epoxy surface, the tiny bit of moisture under the objects, slowly caused deterioration of the reglazing material.  Eventually it was full of chips in the finish.  Our bathtub looked absolutely terrible after about five years of regular use.  This is why most of the tub re glazing care instructions say to wipe it down after use and not to use any kind of non skid mats.  Eventually the kids complained about how bad it looked so we knew it was time to be redone.

We didn’t want to go through the headaches and major expenses of redoing another bathroom just yet, at least not until the kids are a bit older, therefore, getting it reglazed/ refinished again, made the most sense to us, rather than ripping out the tub and starting from scratch.  The stripping of the old epoxy glaze was about $100 and the application of the new finish added another $300 to the expense.  It was not the cheapest quote we got, but the company had some of the better reviews on Yelp and AngiesList out of the local companies.

We tried to plan the refinishing for a time when it wouldn’t effect our lives too drastically.  The chemical stripping of the old ugly chipped glaze and resurfacing took about three hours from start to finish.  The workman was here at 9 in the morning and gone by noon.  He used a big tube that sucked out the smelly fumes outside while he worked.  Nevertheless, it was really stinky in the rest of house for most of the day, even with the door closed to the bathroom.  I am pretty sensitive to smells and really hated the off-gassing part. The care instructions said to not use the tub for at least 24 – 48 hours and to make sure all water was cleaned up after bathing or showering for the first month after application.  The room still had a chemical smell for a few weeks after it was done.  To avoid the awful smell, we generally kept the bathroom door closed, unless we needed to use it.  And for showering, we only used the other bathroom during that first month.  That wasn’t necessary, but we figured we had the second bathroom, and a little extra caution while the new finish cured wouldn’t hurt anything.

We aren’t expecting this to be a permanent fix, but at least it will get us another half dozen years of decent looking use out of the old 1940s tub, especially now that the kids are teens and no longer into bath toys or long soaks.  By time it is looking worn out again, I hope we will have forgotten about all the frustrations and hard work that went into our other bathroom and be ready for another big home improvement project.

About a year ago, I found a section of the seafoam green floor tile under the transition between the bathroom floor and the red oak floor in the hallway.   When the time comes, we will likely return it to the original green with maybe an accent of yellow, similar to what was probably in the bathroom before the previous homeowners ripped it all out in the mid 1970s.  Sometime in the mid 70s they replaced the original bathroom tile with a beige marble looking solid surface tub surround, white counter top, and beige vinyl flooring.  It wasn’t very exciting or dramatic like 1940s or 1950s tile.  But for now, the tub does look much better than it has in a long time.

Since we were fixing up the tub surface, we also cleaned up the old chrome tub spout with a good soaking in vinegar and put in a new handle, new trim kit on the shower and handle, and new drain cover.  When everything was complete, my daughter, B, and I went shopping and picked out a new soap dispenser, a little retro looking pop up trash can, and towels, a bath mat, a shower curtain to match the soap dispenser.  B was really considerate, and didn’t pick anything too juvenile or girly that her teenage brother would totally hate.   It isn’t an awesome vintage looking bathroom yet, but since this is my kids bathroom for the next half dozen years, it doesn’t have to be.  For less than $550 dollars, it looks like a nice new contemporary bathroom.  They really aren’t into retro decor, and they are pretty happy with the results of their bathroom.

Our old 1940s bathtub before we had it professionally reglazed

The ugly, embarrassing BEFORE reglazing Picture of the tub

Another view of the old tub with all the chipping and damage to the glaze that was added 15 years earlier

The Before refinishing of tub photo. This is what years of use did to the previous reglazing job.   I must be crazy to be showing this ugly looking tub online.

The after pic of the tub with a new coat of finish on it

The tub AFTER the glazing was done. My daughter helped pick out a new soap dispenser, new towels, and shower curtain from Target, and a bath mat from Burlington to refresh the bathroom decor.

The new soap dispenser in the bathroom with the towels and shower curtain reflected in the mirror

A vintage/ retro looking pop up new trash can from target

Aside from the tub and toilet, one of the few retro looking items in the bathroom, the step on pop up lid white and chrome colored trash can from Target

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