Jacuzzi Refinishing

Old 07-31-05, 12:08 PM
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Jacuzzi Refinishing

I have an old Jacuzzi jetted tub (circa mid 80's) that is still working fine. The problem is that I'm remodeling and need to change the existing tub color to basic white. There are no cracks or leaks from the tub. I'm loathed to get rid of something that is still working well--nevermind the expense of jetted tub replacement! The tub is used only occassionally, so I'm having a really difficult time justifiying the cost of replacement just to get a white tub. Is resurfacing possible (I'm not sure if it is acrylic or fiberglass)? If so, what is the best process (painting versus others) and what would be a typical price range? Would anyone have any suggested contractors in Philly area?

Old 08-01-05, 05:57 AM
Doug Aleshire's Avatar
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Best thing to do is to start making calls. A company that does reglazing but also does fiberglass as well. the below is an example of what is usually done with cast tubs but this is not a do-it-yourself project regardless of others comments. It would probably be more wise to replace than to re-do in this case but you be the judge on that. Information that you receive may tend to sway you that way.

These excerpts were written by Bill Syms Jr. for posts on Do-It-Yourself.com
Excellent Information – 10/2004

Tub Reglazing

Reglazing a bathtub can be a cost effective part of a bathroom remodel and will perform over the long haul if it is done properly. It is like any of the other trades, the job will only be as good as the person doing the job as preparation is the key to making the coating bond to the tub.

Unfortunately when you are dealing with the larger franchised reglazing companies, finishing jobs fast precedes finishing jobs right. They cut out necessary steps needed to make the job last in order to save time. They also have a higher turnover of employees which means they "technician" that comes out to do the job might not have that much experience.

When I am involved in a bathroom remodel, the question comes up about replacing the old tub with a new one. I will be up front with you; I tell all of my customers that if you are thinking of getting a new tub, get one. There is no comparison to a reglazed tub. There are a few things to consider in making this decision.

1. Cost.
You can go to your local home improvement store and purchase a new bathtub from $100 to $3,000. However what needs to be pointed out is that the tub in a house built before 1970 is probably a high quality cast iron bathtub. That is why most of these though being a little worn still look half decent. Let’s say your house was built in the 1950's. Do you think that $100 tub will perform and last as long as the original? You be the judge.
Kohler makes a cast iron tub (villager) that can be found at most home improvement stores for about $275. It is a good quality tub. I charge $325 to reglaze a bathtub so although the tub is cheaper, when you figure in the cost of setting it and hooking up the waste / overflow, reglazing is actually cheaper.

2. Size.
People (and some contractors) don't realize that tub today are made to conserve water, therefore they are smaller on the inside. Go look at the tubs at the home improvement centers and compare them to your old one. If you like to take baths, this is important. Do you want to settle for a tub you barley fit into? I have purchased new tubs that are bigger on the inside that the generic tubs on the market but they are very expensive. In this case reglazing the tub is a viable option to the customer.

3. Character.
In older houses, modern fixtures actually clash with the character of the house. In these bathroom remodels the tubs are usually kept because they are so big and bold, especially if it is a claw foot tub. You can replace the tile, pedestal sink and toilet but if you change the tub it somehow does not look right.

OK, OK. But does the reglazing really work? My customer is going to spend thousands of dollars in material and labor to take this project on and hope this process works?

It all has to do with the materials I use and more importantly the preparation to make the coating bond. I have been reglazing tubs for 14 years, started with a company that serviced property management companies where quantify was more important than quality. My superior knew why my tubs did not fail as much as the other technicians; I was taking to long to do a job.

But this gave me a good reputation among the owners of the buildings as they requested that "Bill comes out to do the work".

My secret was in the way I prepared the surface of the tub, not taking the shortcuts that unfortunately most reglazers do. I also experimented with various coatings around the country to find the best product to use in peoples homes.

These are the steps to insure a good bond with your coating.

1. Cleaning the tub with an industrial cleaner.
Older tubs are normally worn and porous. This is why they are so hard to clean. An industrial cleaner acts like a degreaser and dissolves soap, oils and dirt. As I rinse the cleaner off I wet sand the surface of the tub to remove paint spots and calcium stains.

2. Acid washing the tub.
Porcelain is like glass. It is too glossy for any product to bond to it. Hydrofluoric Acid will lightly "ETCH" the surface of the tub.

Most companies skip this step for 2 reasons:

a. Saves time

b. Acid washing the tub has to be done very neatly as it will etch anything it comes in contact with. This is very important on a remodel, since the tub is reglazed last.

3. Repairing the surface.
The coatings used to reglaze bathtubs are not designed to fill in imperfections, rather to lay on a perfectly smooth, clean surface. A body filler (Bondo) is spread on the bottom and along the top ledges of the tub to fill in the porous areas. Once it dries the whole tub is sanded to smooth out the body filler and sand chalky areas of the tub from the acid washing.

Most companies skip this step because it is time consuming and if not done neatly can make a huge mess. Also if you do not etch porcelain, body fillers will not bond to them.

4. Adhesion promoter.
Not all tubs need an adhesion promoter. The newer tubs that are fired with China Porcelain (like a toilet) barley etch. Adhesion promoters help in these situations. I use a product that is sprayed in 2 coats.

Most companies use a tack rag with an adhesion promoter and just wipe it on the tub.

5. Primer.
It is very important that an "EPOXY" primer is used to bond to the tub. Nothing I have found performs better that epoxy.

Most companies do not primer to save time and money.

Once all these steps are taken, a good quality topcoat is all you need to make the tub look like a new one. Since most companies are trying to finish the job in 1 day they use accelerators in their topcoats to make them dry in as little as 4 hours.

But any chemist will tell you that slower cure times with coatings will create a better molecular bond thus producing a stronger coating on your tub.

If you look at this previous posting, you'll find that Bill did an excellent job of explaining the process and what to watch out for.
Unfortunately this is the case in the real world. Most reglazing companies do not etch and primer tubs and even more frustrating to customers do not honor their warranties.

Some coating companies don't help either as they promote products that cut out etching, primering and repairing. This technology is not perfected. These shortcuts will usually give the coating a life expectancy of 2 to 3 years or "just enough time for the customer to loose their invoice".

Most chemists that work at coating companies still say the best way to assure adhesion on porcelain is to etch, repair and primer the surface. However they are working every day for the miracle bonding agent that will work on glossy surfaces.

I reglaze allot of tubs that were reglazed before, most of them because they are peeling. Messy job too. You have to take a heavy bodied paint stripper (Jasco) and completely remove the old finish and start the job over from scratch.

I remember when I first started doing this for a living; a fellow reglazer told me "if you’re not doing 5 tubs a day, you’re not making money". 14 years later I still do 1 tub a day, I just don't redo them.

Here in California you can pay anywhere from $125 to $500 to have a tub reglazed.

$125 to $250
usually the 1st time business owner with the lowest price looking for jobs or large reglazing companies doing multiple jobs.

Both tend to be inexperienced in preparation and the products they are using. Tend to use products that are cheaper rather than better performing.

$275 to $350
usually the technician that breaks away from the big company and is making it, sole proprietors and franchises.

The only reason you are charging more is because you are setting the prices. Still have the 1st timers and new franchise owners with little or no experience, but this is where you will usually find the expertise if your lucky.

$375 to $500
Franchises that are mass marketing to home owners. The expert bids the job and sends the laborer to do the job.

In California there is so much work, you are depending on the person selling you the job. Honoring your work tends to be the exception rather than the rule. California contractors are required to warranty their jobs for observable defects for 4 years. Most Tub reglazers warranty their tubs for 5 years. You will find warranties from 3 to 10 years.

Earlier this summer I was doing a tub in a house and next door a tech from "Tub King" was also doing a tub. He proclaimed to me "If you're not charging $300 per tub, you don't know what you are doing"(I told him I was charging $275). The next day he was embarrassed when we looked at each others jobs and wanted to know what products I was using. In Pasadena, Tub King has 14 techs, who are all busting tail.

OK, OK, sounds like I am making your case for you. Let me tell you what you should be looking for in a reglazing job. First a good place to start is the internet. Search "bathtub reglazing" and review the many company’s web sites. Almost all of them will have FAQ sections in them. They are telling you what to ask a reglazer when they are trying to sell a job.

Ask the person who is trying to sell the job what kind of process they are using to reglaze a tub. You should hear from start to finish everything they do to complete your tub. The more thorough the explanation, chances are the better the tub will look and perform. Ask them very specific questions about the chemicals they are using. I would also ask how much experience they have and if they are licensed / bonded and if the person with the license will be doing the job. This person should have knowledge of tile cleaning and repairing, regrouting, recaulking, shower door installation and plumbing repairs.

A tell tale sign to question is someone who want to finish a job fast. If you are told a tub takes 2,3 or 4 hours to complete, they are trying to do more than 1 (or 2) jobs in a day. I laugh when companies advertise that you can pull the masking down the next day or charge you to caulk the tub upon completion. If you do not want your jobs to fail you should take care of things that your customer would expect you to do or would ruin the tub trying to do themselves. It takes me 5 to 8 hours to do a tub (due to repair, masking and ventilation situations) and I always return the following day to finish the job. A tub upon completion should have a very high gloss (without polishing) without runs or other imperfections in the coating. The entire surface of the tub should be coated evenly.

This year, California has a new classification, D-12, synthetic products for states contractors licenses. State law permits you to do any kind of work under $500 without a license / contract, so tub reglazing is viewed as Handyman work.

Hope this helps!

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