Can you spray paint a tub bottom?
August 4, 2016 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Can you spray paint a tub floor gold and actually keep it looking good?

Our (porcelain, I believe) bathtub always looks a bit dingy on the bottom despite repeated Magic Erasering and scrubbing. I've accepted the fact that it will never stay as clean-looking as I would like it to be.

Thinking about it this morning, I realized that I would love to spray-paint the bottom 2-ish inches and floor of the tub gold. I think it would look nice. However, this does not seem to be a thing that anyone does, and I imagine there is an excellent reason for that. What is that reason?

I would think that spray painting, letting it dry, then coating with some sort of... lacquer, or waterproof coating of some sort would do the trick. Is this not so?

I'm ready to have this dream dissolved if actual household products don't work in the way I think they do.

Note: my partner has already tried the Rustoleum Tub & Tile refinishing kit on our downstairs tub and was really unhappy with the results. Should we give it another go? Are there tips and tricks for that product?

posted by amicamentis to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
The kind of paint the average person uses regularly will flake in short order.

The pros that do bathtub refinishing use bondo and the kinds of toxic paints that require special sprayers and resperators. However, even this paint will flake and the refinish will need to be re-done. I can't imagine they would agree to do just the bottom of the tub as that paint edge would be a point of failure. I think you need to do the whole tub or none of it.

It's been a long time since I've paid to refinish a tub but I wouldn't be surprised if it cost $500.
posted by littlewater at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

As the owner of a 90-year old seafoam green bathtub, I would say please don't do this. There really is no coating that will seal the spray paint and the spray paint itself will flake or wear off as littlewater says, not to mention, how are you going to clean it without removing paint?

We had our tub and sink professionally refinished about 4 years ago and it was around $400 for the pair. However, the rusty overflow grate in the sink is already chipping. Again, concurring with littlewater that once you start down the path of professional refinishing, it's something that will have to be redone periodically.
posted by sarajane at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I once had a super cheap crappy apartment with a super cheap crappy landlord. The ancient claw-foot tub had scratched, flaking enamel that was showing the metal underneath when I looked at the apartment, landlord said he'd fix it before I moved in. Landlord painted it with white spray paint and put some sort of lacquer over it. It looked fine. However...

It smelled awful for weeks (worse when I used it) and if I tried to take a bath or a long shower, it got sort of sticky. After about a year, it started flaking and peeling off.

Do not do this yourself. Have it done professionally, with materials that are meant for that surface and purpose. Spray paint and lacquer are not meant for that surface and purpose.
posted by erst at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

You'll have flaking paint the moment after you take a bath in it with the method you proposed.

If you want to DIY it you'll have to do either an epoxy (likely your rustoleum kit) or resin base. I used a resin based product called Bath-Works and was happy with the result. I think key to longevity is getting the prep work down (they had a video showing exactly how to do it) and also wiping the tub right after each bath, being careful to never let soap scum settle or use abrasives, but I fully expect to be doing this again in a few years.

I called a lot of places about getting it professionally done in the DC area, and most quotes were on the order of $700-$900.
posted by Karaage at 9:13 AM on August 4, 2016

If you decide to go with the advice above and get it done professionally, the term you're looking for is "bathtub reglazing." If you call someone who provides this service, they can probably also tell you about color options.

I agree with others that the DIY paint method will not be very durable at all.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:16 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

This might be one of those things where implicit in the question is "we considered all the alternatives first", so ignore this if so, but what about getting a bright-colored or sparkly bathtub slip guard to put in the bottom of the tub instead? As long as you hit it with bleach regularly to stop mildew, it should cover up the dingy tub bottom and make it look more appealing.
posted by capricorn at 10:01 AM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Like others are saying: to do this properly you will need to get a professional refinish - proper preparation, base coat, at least one layer of colored coating, and at least one layer of clear coating. It's not a small job by any means on account of porcelain's main job is "don't let stuff stick to it."
posted by Tevin at 10:21 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had Miracle Method on two different occasions. First time it was $350, second time is was $500, so it might be up to $600 or $700 by now. They can do custom colors. It's like painting a car - they strip, sand, then paint, it cures and with reasonable care it lasts.
posted by fixedgear at 10:44 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are wonderful answers! Not wonderful for my golden tub dreams, but I'm glad to have asked before I went off and DIY'd it. Thank you everyone.
posted by amicamentis at 12:38 PM on August 4, 2016

I don't own a home but I like to think about all the cool DIY things I could do if I did -- Reddit DIY had a photo story recently by a guy who epoxy coated his grave floor, added metal flake, etc. I wonder if that might be an option for a tub? I have worked with resin and epoxy in toy making. It's tough stuff and only gross and toxic when uncured in my experience.... Worth a look maybe?
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 12:39 PM on August 4, 2016

The bottom of a bath is just a really difficult environment for surface coatings. Mostly it's repeated thermal stress that does them in. All it takes is one tiny initial crack, then you've got water that's hot and soapy (so it has scarcely any surface tension) with access to the metal underneath, and then you've got corrosion forming between the metal and the coating, and then the coating starts to come off. And there's always more than one tiny initial crack.

Most bathtubs that appear to be porcelain are actually just an enamel glaze over steel or cast iron. Enamel glaze is tough as hell, and even that eventually cracks and deteriorates. Two-pack epoxy coatings are nowhere near as tough as kiln-baked enamel glaze. Even with perfect surface prep they'll last maybe five years, rather than the easy twenty you'll get from glaze before visible deterioration sets in.

Go ahead and try the golden bath paint and automotive clearcoat caper; just expect it to outgas fumes for several weeks and don't expect it to last more than a year. Once it starts looking ratty, you should be able to get rid of it pretty easily, in a way that's reasonably compatible with breathing the ensuing steam and won't damage the underlying enamel glaze, using a citrus-based paint stripper.

If you don't want to commit to doing the whole thing, you might want to start with a smallish design on the bottom of the tub just so you get an idea about how it wears.
posted by flabdablet at 10:32 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 8:59 AM on August 5, 2016

Following up on the slip guard idea, I just learned that there is such a thing as a bathtub decal. Maybe something like these would suit?

Also... please, I have to know...

Reddit DIY had a photo story recently by a guy who epoxy coated his grave floor

... is "grave" a typo, or is this one of those startling cultural divides that one happens across from time to time?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:05 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

@manyleggedcreature -- it was the autocorrect on my iPad probably. I meant garage. Though that is an interesting concept...
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

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