Rub a dub dub... not in this tub
October 13, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

What to do with a clawfoot tub while I wait for the landlord to re-enamel it?

I have a clawfoot tub in my bathroom that seriously needs re-enameling. It is chipping all along the bottom and is kind of gross to sit in or look at, though the rest of the bathroom's fairly nice. The landlord has been promising me for months that they've got someone arranged to do it, they're just way behind schedule. I don't want to hold my breath anymore, I want a somewhat cheap fix to make it look attractive, beyond just buying an in-tub mat for the bottom.

Can I chip away and sand off the rough bits on the bottom myself, and paint it? What kind of paint will stick to the enamel and last a year or so while it's used as a tub? Under the chipped paint is smooth white... does that mean it's porcelain? Does that affect what paint to use? Any further advice or anectdotes are welcome!

I've got clearance from the landlord so long as I don't irreparably damage the tub.
posted by lizbunny to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, if it's porcelain, you can scrub it with (a wet) pumice stone and it won't scratch. Not so for plastics. You can try scrubbing the paint off with pumice on an inconspicuous spot to see what's underneath. If it's porcelain, I'd just strip the whole thing down and be done with it.
posted by phunniemee at 10:01 AM on October 13, 2010

I've used enamel paint on a chipped spots on a couple of tubs. It wasn't perfect, but it looked a lot better and has worked well. I had a very small vial, but I'm pretty sure they sell it in larger sizes.

Warning: their white wasn't quite the same white as my tub. But it's a huge improvement!
posted by ldthomps at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2010

Best answer: I used Klenk's Epoxy. It came out beautifully -- a previously grotty tub got a smooth, shiny white surface. It is almost two years old now, and holding up perfectly.

Fantastic product (do buy the "prep kit"; even a little bit of dirt or grease on the tub surface will wreck the finish) -- however -- a lot more work than I would be willing to put into a rental. I did perhaps five coats, over the course of five days, keeping the paint in the freezer (it has a fairly short life span). It was a lot of work to prep the tub. Painting a tub, covering the drain and taps and getting in neatly around them, is no joke. Doing it five times is a biggish job; you can't just rinse out your brush under the tap with an enamel like that, it's a lot of bending and leaning, any spatter needs to be cleaned up asap. Also: no bathing! If that is your only tub you will also have the nuisance of being tubless. I did it when the weather was nice and the windows could be open 24/7, probably the only way to go, fume-wise.

If you are set on investing time and effort, perhaps asking the landlord for a little break on your rent in exchange for the labour would be the way to go. The effect I got from my epoxy efforts was really close to being on par with what I would've expected from a professional doing it.
posted by kmennie at 10:16 AM on October 13, 2010

They make small epoxy repair kits for tubs. As a former landlord, I was usually inclined to cover costs for tenant projects. Works well w/ some tenants, others make a horrid mess. If you think you can be patient and do a great job, give it a shot.
posted by theora55 at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2010

As a landlord myself, I would really not want you to do anything like this on your own. It sounds like this is beyond a tiny chip or some wear around the drain, and something that a hardware store porcelain patch kit might not suffice to fix (if it were, I'd probably be happy to let my tenant take care of it, and I would cover the cost of supplies--it's easy to cover small flaws with an epoxy kit). I would not want you to end up responsible for damages that might occur.

Do you have reason to believe your landlord is stringing you along? You might see about getting some bids from people who are available to do the work ASAP, and then see if your landlord would be willing to have the work done by someone other than his unavailable guy.
posted by padraigin at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: In light of the huge effort you guys are cluing me in to, I just want to minimize the crappy look and feel of the chipped paint on the bottom, will probably just want to remove all the enamel I can in the bottom. So, suggestions on how to remove the enamel from what appears to be porcelain underneath? Will I really have to just grind away at it with pumice, or is there a chemical remover I can use?
posted by lizbunny at 1:09 PM on October 13, 2010

The enamel is baked onto the metal in a kiln. It is the same thing as the porcelain, unless your tub has also been painted. If you remove the paint with a stripper, it will probably etch the porcelain underneath. I'm not sure that's an improvement. Why not just ask your landlord if you can take charge of hiring the crew so it gets done sooner?
posted by oneirodynia at 1:39 PM on October 13, 2010

You can't use some other kind of paint. I have seen a tub where someone tried. It is much grosser than chipping enamel.
posted by desuetude at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2010

Again, IAALandlord, IANYLandlord, but if you just took it upon yourself to try to pumice your tub or chemical it all up without any real knowledge of what you're doing, I would take issue. However it's not great that your landlord isn't dealing with this.

Can you post pictures of the tub?
posted by padraigin at 6:13 PM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: I found the Klenk's Epoxy in the hardware store, for a relatively decent price - about $40 for all necessary products. If I were to redo the bottom of the tub myself for a "quick" fix I'd go this route.

I did call my landlord agency again though about the tub yesterday, after realizing this is no small chore - fumes galore, plus I can't use it for a full five days after refinishing with that kit! They called back this morning to say, yes, they remember what a sad state my particular tub is in, and they've wrangled someone into coming to re-enamel it professionally next week.

Thanks for the advice!
posted by lizbunny at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2010

Glad to hear the person is coming sooner!

For the record, a lot of older (think cast iron with enamel or porcelain) tubs & sinks can leach lead -- making baths into 'lead soup', in the words of one lead abatement expert. It's a pretty big deal with babies/small children and pregnant women. My daughter had elevated lead levels at 12 mos and I ended up spot testing the whole house, to find the biggest source was the chipped tub. Considering that my brothers grew up in lead-encrusted cribs, I didn't freak out much -- but it's good to be aware of.
posted by MeiraV at 5:20 PM on October 19, 2010

« Older Research cost tracking   |   I want to be an Inspector Gadget filmmaker – pimp... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.