Do you want to find out how to refinish a cast iron bathtub? For the bathroom in the cabin we thought it would look really nice to have a vintage clawfoot bathtub. If you have the time, why not spend it making an old, ugly, very heavy bathtub beautiful again? I have never done anything like this before, and probably will never do it again. But I do believe this was the right choice for the cabin bathroom and I think the finished tub kind of looks amazing.
To refinish a cast iron bathtub, the main steps are to clean, strip, prep, and paint. You can often find these bathtubs for free, but I did pay money for this one because it came with the hardware and the shower curtain rod. In hindsight I should have just looked for a free one because the faucet is broken. But anyways… let’s get into it.
1. Clean the cast iron bathtub
Depending on the condition of you tub, your prep work may only be to clean it. Just use soap and water to get the dirt of to see what you’re dealing with, and a steel brush to flake off any loose paint on the outside. Before you start thought it’s a good idea to test the paint for lead. Either way though, you should wear a mask while refinishing a cast iron bathtub.
2. Strip the old paint
My bathtub was no so easy. There were multiple layers of various paint colors on the outside, and a layer of beige paint on the inside of the tub. I used a mixture of steel brushing, chemical paint stripper (please wear a mask and gloves), a pressure washer, and lots of scraping with a paint scraper to get off all the old paint. It took multiple hours. Multiple. But I got just about all of the paint off the inside and the outside, at least to a point that I was content with.
3. Prep the tub
A paint job is often only as good as the prep work. On the inside of the tub, for the type of tub and tile paint I was going to use, you have to etch the surface first. I used a tub and tile etching cream, let it sit for 5-10 minutes on the inside of the tub, and then rinsed it off.
Once you remove the old paint, you’ll want to prime the outside of the tub. I used a metal based white primer, and did two coats on the outside of the tub using a paint brush.
4. Paint the cast iron bathtub
I wanted a nice pop of color in the bathroom, so I chose an exterior paint color that’s good for metal and had it tinted a deep blue color (approaching storm by Behr). You don’t have to get an exterior paint, but I’ll be using this same color for the front door and I didn’t want to buy two cans of paint. Since the cast iron is pitted anyways, you don’t need to worry too much about brush strokes. I just used a paint brush and did two coats of paint, letting them dry for a few hours in between coats
For the inside of the bathtub I used Rust-Oleum tub and tile in a spray can. I used this product in our rental property, except I used the can type and applied it with a paint brush. I did not like it at all. But I figured even if the spray cans were a little more expensive, the application might be nicer. The can says to do at least two light coats, but I did much much more than that. I found this paint was really drippy, so if you do even just a slight amount too much it will run down the tub. I don’t like that, so I probably did 40 very super light extra thin coats. It dries pretty quick, so every 20 minutes or so I went out and did another coat. I had to use three cans to get the coverage I wanted for this bathtub.
The picture below was after two cans of spray paint. After the third can, the color was very even and a nice bright white.
Finally, I spray painted the claw feet using a matte black paint that I had leftover from the propane stove.
How to refinish a cast iron bathtub
And that is how to refinish a cast iron bathtub! We carried that bathtub about 500 feet from the garage to the cabin. It’s very heavy, so be prepared if you plan to do this yourself!! The inside of the bathtub is not quite perfect, but it’s pretty close. It’s shiny and white and very clean looking now. And the blue paint looks really nice against the pine paneling in the bathroom.
I’m almost done installing the wood walls panels in the entire cabin. Tony built the bathroom vanity and will install it soon, then we’ll start working on the kitchen.
CABIN DESIGN AND PLAN
PHASE 1: SITE PREP AND EXCAVATION
PHASE 2: FRAMING
PHASE 3: CLOSING IN THE CABIN
- Tin roof and tiny cabin exterior framing
- Housewrap, cabin windows, and exterior door
- Exterior siding
PHASE 4: INTERIOR FINISHING
- Electrical wiring, interior framing and loft
- Cabin insulation
- Whitewashed pine ceiling
- Vinyl tile click flooring
- Loft flooring and pine walls
- Clawfoot bathtub
PHASE 5: FURNISHING
Gail VanderVeen says
Wow Jess! When I first saw the tub in the back of your van I couldn’t have imagined it to look this beautiful! I absolutely love the blue colour and the sparkling white inside. All your hard work has certainly paid off.