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Can you paint a bathtub instead of replacing it?


Replacing a bathtub can be a costly and time-consuming process. Many homeowners wonder if simply painting the existing tub can refresh the look for less money and effort. The short answer is yes, you can paint a bathtub instead of replacing it. However, there are some important factors to consider before taking on a bathtub painting project.

Should you paint or replace your bathtub?

Here are some key points to help you decide if painting or replacing is the better option for your needs:

Reasons to paint:

  • Much less expensive than replacing
  • Relatively quick project that can update look fast
  • Good option if tub is structurally sound but surface is worn or damaged
  • Allows you to change color of existing tub
  • Lower commitment than full replacement

Reasons to replace:

  • Permanent solution if tub is cracked, leaking or has other structural issues
  • Lets you change style and features like depth, shape, jet system, etc.
  • New tub will have full warranty
  • No need to deal with potential limitations of painting existing surface
  • Can make bathroom feel brand new

As you can see, painting is generally best for updating the appearance of a structurally sound tub, while replacement is better for comprehensive upgrades or fixing major damage.

What to consider before painting a bathtub

If you decide that painting could work for your needs, here are some important factors to consider:

Type of tub:

Certain materials hold paint better than others:

Tub Material Paint Suitability
Cast iron or enameled steel Good – paint adheres well
Fiberglass or acrylic Fair – can be painted but requires special preparation
Cultured marble Poor – paint often chips or peels

Condition of existing tub:

Paint adheres best to surfaces that are cleaned, lightly sanded and primed first. Tubs with the following issues are not good candidates for painting:

  • Deep cracks, holes or other structural damage
  • Existing paint that is heavily chipped or peeling
  • Surfaces with heavy soap scum, hard water buildup or rust stains

These conditions should be remedied through reglazing or replacement instead.

Desired new color:

Darker colors show scratches and imperfections more than lighter shades. Stick to medium to light hues for a better finish. Neutral colors also make repairs and touch ups harder to notice later on.

Use frequency and user habits:

Painted surfaces require more careful ongoing maintenance than new tubs. They can become marred or worn over time, especially in homes with children or frequent heavy use.

Considering these factors will help you determine if painting success is likely, or if replacement is ultimately a better investment.

How to prepare and paint a bathtub

If your analysis shows that painting could work well for your tub, follow these steps for best results:

Clean thoroughly:

Use a tub cleaner or bleach scrub to remove all dirt, soap scum, mildew stains and buildup from the surface. Rinse thoroughly. Leaving any residues will impede paint adhesion.

Make minor surface repairs:

Use epoxy filler on small chips or cracks for a smooth painting surface.

Sand lightly:

Giving the tub a light scuff sanding helps the paint grip better. Use fine sandpaper, moving in the direction of the existing scratches to avoid deepening them.

Remove hardware:

Taking off the drain cover, faucet and spout prevents paint buildup on these parts.

Clean and dry:

Tack cloth the entire surface to remove dust from sanding. Ensure tub is fully dry before painting.

Apply bonding primer:

A bonding primer like Stix adheres paint to slick surfaces like fiberglass and acrylic. This crucial first coat provides an improved grip.

Paint tub surface:

Use a tub and tile enamel paint formulated for high-moisture areas. Apply 2-3 coats following label directions, allowing proper dry time between coats.

Replace hardware:

Reinstall removed parts once paint is fully cured, usually in a few days. Add new silicone caulk if needed.

Allow full cure:

Wait the recommended cure time before using shower or tub. This is typically 7-14 days for quality tub paint.

Tips for best bathtub painting results

Follow these tips as well for a professional-looking, long-lasting paint job:

– Maintain proper ventilation while painting to allow solvents to fully off-gas.

– Wear an organic vapor respirator when spraying paint.

– Apply coats in even, overlapping strokes using a high-density foam roller.

– Use painters tape for crisp paint lines and to protect nearby tile.

– Work methodically and carefully around the drain to fully cover.

– Seal painted surface with enamel clear coat for added durability and stain resistance.

– Let kids know tub is being refinished so they avoid use until fully cured.

– Check label to confirm paint brand is compatible with your tub material.

– Work in warm room temperatures around 70°F for ideal paint drying.

Maintenance and touch-ups for painted bathtubs

While DIY bathtub painting can save thousands over replacement, the paint job does require some ongoing care and maintenance:

– Avoid abrasive scouring pads or cleaners that could scratch the finish.

– Use non-acidic daily tub cleaners instead of bleach products.

– Re-caulk with bathroom-grade silicone as needed to prevent moisture entry.

– For touch-ups, lightly sand problem areas and spot paint with original color.

– Plan to repaint tub every 1-2 years to keep looking fresh and new.

– Consider recoating with clear enamel annually to help maintain protection.

With proper preparation and application, painting can extend the life of a worn but structurally sound bathtub for years before replacement becomes necessary. Paying attention to surface prep, paint selection, application tips and follow-up maintenance will help ensure you achieve beautiful, long-lasting results.


Painting a bathtub rather than replacing it can be a cost-effective way to give your bathroom an updated look on a budget. As long as your existing tub is structurally intact and a suitable material like cast iron or enameled steel, painting it with a high-quality formulation designed for tub and tile can refresh the space. While painting does require careful surface prep and maintenance compared to a brand new tub, the massive savings make it worthwhile for many homeowners. Just be sure to consider factors like your tub type, its condition, the color you want, and your family’s usage to determine if painting will work well or if replacement is ultimately a better fit for your needs and budget.