Old Stone House

Guest Post: Refinishing the claw foot tub

May 3, 2010

Filed under: Day to Day @ 1:58 pm

This ‘guest post’ is actually a comment left by Russel – he was good enough to relay his experiences about refinishing his own claw foot tub. It seemed a shame to hide such excellent advice deep in the blog, so I’ve decided to promote it.  (Thanks Russel!)


I think having any tub “re-porcelain-ed” is a mistake. If you can live with the pits and imperfections (and I bet you can) just leave it. We have 3 tubs in our 110 year old home. 2 of them have been refinished AT LEAST twice over the years. The refinishing coats have begun to crack—one of them severely. This has happened primarily around the drains but there are also large “splotches” on the tubs’ interior-bottoms where the finish has flaked.

Any professional is going to promise you some big “guarantee” but at the end of the day, you are really just spray painting the tub. No matter how heavy duty this coating may be, it is never going to be as strong and durable as the original baked finish. A coating will never make it “original” and is inviting new issues into the situation.

“We are now in the process of removing one of these tubs and sending it to the scrap heap; sadly, but even with a new coat, I fear the cracking and flaking will continue and honestly the thought of soaking in a re-finished (painted) tub kills the romance a little for me. (There is also severe rust where water has seeped under the finish coats). In it’s place, we are installing a tub removed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio. It is far from perfect—a major porcelain flake around the filler opening and etching in the bottom. Still, I consider this a vast improvement over the re-porcelain-ed tub.

You said you are getting a little staining now where the finish has been scrubbed away; In my last place, many years ago, I got this on my old claw-foot. I did a quick wash with Softscrub™ and then waxed and buffed with an electric buffer. This worked quite well and even added some new sheen.

To add to the missing foot debate: here in Chicago there are several salvage companies that have crates full of tub feet. One of the places, Jan’s, has crates stacked halfway to the ceiling and 3 times as wide. They are reasonably priced. If you can’t find a missing one, just buy 4 new ones—with the same mounts as the old ones of course.

Sorry so long-winded. I just have a thing for these old tubs and think it’s a shame to recoat them. It’s old. It’s going to have a few scars. If it must look new, it could always be re-fired… but I say live with the scars.


  1. Great Post! Loved reading about the tub and how to fix it up. Thanks for posting! stpaul lighting gal.

    Comment by stpaul lighting gal — May 3, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  2. Hmmm…. I have recently had a cast iron sink basin powder coated at a professional powder coating outfit here (they mostly do automotive parts). I haven’t used it yet, as it’s part of my bathroom re-do. The bathroom’s cast iron radiator and some cast iron sink legs are at the place now being done.

    I’m planning to bring my cast iron tub to them to have it sandblasted and powder coated inside and out…. I found this web site a few months ago as part of my information-gathering process, and also http://www.doorsixteen.com/ where I read about the success of powder coating for a radiator.

    It seems like the people who come in-house for tubs are definitely a waste of money, but I wonder if anyone’s had any experience with the powder-coating method?

    I don’t want to waste $550 and I don’t want to ruin the tub — I’m so conflicted!

    Comment by Erica — May 3, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

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