Old Stone House

Refinishing The Clawfoot Tub

August 6, 2006

Filed under: Master Bathroom @ 11:59 pm

tub3b.jpgThe one item we knew we wanted for the bathroom was one of the antique clawfoot tubs – the hallmark of a Victorian bathroom. Originally, we contemplated purchasing an acrylic or cast iron reproduction from an online clawfoot tubs supplies dealer, but the cost of the tub (let alone the shipping cost) was more then we were willing to spend. Because our bathroom is small, we were limited to installing an undersized tub, 54 inches in length. This proved to be our greatest challenge, as we had no problems finding local salvage dealers who were selling old clawfoot tubs, but none carried the smaller sizes.

We spent several months scouring the paper, and calling salvage shops until we found a local fellow who just happened to know a guy who had one of these small tubs. Excited, we asked to come see it, and agreed on a price of $200. The tub was in great shape structurally, but was quite rusty and had some extensive scratching on the enamel, however, we were confident that we could refinish the tub. Satisfied with our find, we brought our 250lb baby home.

In our searches we gathered some decent criteria for judging the condition of these old tubs, and it helped us make a simple checklist.

The quick checklist

Legs

  • Ensure the legs are solid, and are securely fastened by their bolts – not the surrounding rust! Rust can act like glue, but not strong glue!
  • The feet should be intact and again free of heavy rust. Too much rust will weaken the feett and it may crumble when the tub is filled with water. As well, once a heavily rusted leg is cleaned, it may become smaller and cause the tub to wobble.
  • Four legs are better then three. A mint condition three-legged tub may be a great find, but sourcing the missing leg will be a hassle. The time spent finding that one leg is likely better spent looking for another tub.

Tub Exterior

  • Light rust is not bad, but heavy rust is. Surface rust can easily be cleaned off with a little elbow grease – extensive rust damage can require a great deal of work to remove, and may have compromised the structural stability of the tub. If it looks like you can kick a hole through the tub, you probably can…
  • Inspect the drains – if years of rust have left a crumbly weak edge around the drain, it may be very difficult to properly seat the waste pipe. If you can make the drain hole in the tub bigger by chipping rust away with your finger, the damage may be too extensive

Porcelain / Enamel

  • Scratches and chips can be repaired. There are many companies offering re-enameling services are very reasonable prices.
  • If you want to use the tub ‘as-is’, rust marks and miscellaneous stains can be removed with some household cleaners and a little work – chips can be filled with porcelain repair paint.

Holes for Faucets/Drain

  • The holes left for your faucets may have different widths, and will determine how your plumbing will be installed. Wide set faucets need offset adapters to fit in narrower faucet centres. So long as the holes are in decent shape, the decorative flanges that disguise the supply lines will hide any minor imperfections.

Overall

  • Consider which angle you’ll be viewing the tub from, and which side may be left against the wall. If in the end you have a solid, complete tub, with not too much rust, decent plumbing holes and an acceptable finish, you may have found your new tub!

Refinishing the Tub

At first we thought that we were out of our league when it came to the actually refinishing of our clawfoot tub. However, a few phone calls to local bathtub refinishers revealed that the restoration process is quite strait forward.

Cleaning off the rust.

The exterior of the tub was covered with bits of flaking paint, and lots of surface rust. According to the local refinisher, the key to restoring the tubs appearance was to simply remove any loose rust, and apply a rust inhibiting sealer. When I asked him how he would go about this, and what would he recommend for the sealer, he flatly said,

“sand the tub and give it a coat of Tremclad.”.

I purchased a wire wheel for my drill and angle grinder, and gave the tub a real thorough scrubbing – using a screwdriver to pry out any rust caught between the toes of the feet. In about an hour all of the loose rust had been completely removed and the tub that now had a smooth, yet ‘brown’ finish. We vacuumed the outside of the tub several times with a brush attachment, and then finally I soaked a rag in mineral spirits and wiped the entire thing clean. (A tack cloth would have been handy)

Cleaning the inside.

The tub had only a few major chips in the finish, but as they were going to be facing towards the wall so we didn’t bother repairing them. The top edge of the tub was fairly badly scratched – it looked as if this tub had be loaded and unloaded countless times from the back of a pickup truck. The area around the drain had a fairly deep rust stain, but no rust. The top had a dirty sludgy ring around the inside where water had been allowed to build up – a combination of green/black/brown moldy sludge.

We went to the local hardware story and purchase a number of supposedly ‘industrial’ cleaners and attempted to remove the stains. For the most part, the cleaners were toxic, smelly, and ineffective. Once acid based cleaner did improve the area around the drain, however it left the finish a little more pitted then when we had started.

Frustrated, my wife announced that she would get the tub clean! She emerged from the basement with a tin of Comet, a pair of gloves, and fine steel wool! Possessed, she attacked the tub with fervor and in 20 short minutes had removed every stain, and her fingertips… Aggressive to say the least, the Comet/steel wool combo worked very well. Granted, it did dull the overall finish of the tub, giving it a “satin” sheen, rather then the glossy finish we were accustomed to.

Painting

We next brought the tub inside to our kitchen (an unpopular, by necessary exercise) gave the tub one more wipe down and applied the first coat of paint. We did use Tremclad white paint, however any other brand would likely have sufficed – we simply chose it as it was on sale; $8.00 for 1L/Pint.

We applied the first coat of paint quite sparingly, dry brushing the coat on. The goal was to apply enough paint to seal the surface, to work the paint into every little hole and divot, but not to try to hide all the imperfections. The surface of the tub still had trace amounts of rust dust, and this light coat ensured that all traces of rust would adhere to the tub, and not streak through the white paint.

We let this coat of paint dry overnight, and the next day gave the entire tub a quick sanding with some 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper. This time we simply wiped of the dust with a damp rag, let the tub dry, then applied the second coat of paint. Again we only brushed on a very light coat, making sure that paint was stippled into every detail on the feet, as well as the fastening bolts.

The tub was allowed to once again dry for 24 hours, and the next day we applied the final coat of paint. This time we used a brush for the feet and a small foam roller for the smooth surfaces. This was the heaviest coat of paint, and the roller did a nice even job.

The overall result was stunning. In the course of 3 days, 5 hours of work, $8.00 in paint, and $20.00 in cleaners, we had completely transformed the tub. The tub didn’t look ‘brand new’, but ‘original’ – it looked as if it had always been here.

We’re excited to see it installed – now all we have to do is find a way to get it up the stairs…

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55 Comments »

  1. Hi:
    I am not clear as to whether you re-finished both the inside and the outside of the tub?
    Alan

    Comment by Alan Jeffrey — August 20, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  2. Hi Alan,

    We only refinished the exterior of the tub. We felt that the inside was ‘good enough’ for the time being. Once the rest of the house is taken care of, and we have some free cash, we’ll have a local company come and refinish the inside – about $500.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — August 21, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  3. Thanks for the suggestions. We just bought a house with a clawfoot tub and I’m working on it today. It has a bit of rust on the bottom that I’d like to cover up. My tip for you is a great cleaner that won’t damage the tub – my dad bought us some “kaboom” in a purple bottle and it cleaned up the water stains that were around the bottom edges nicely – after a few applications. The bottom of ours isn’t shiny anymore either but it’s white and clean and slip resistant!

    Comment by Claire — August 24, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  4. Claire – thanks for the tip. After a year of use, the bottom of the tub has been getting ‘darker’ and we’ve been dreading cleaning it… We will definetly give the purple stuff a try.

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — August 27, 2007 @ 9:14 am

  5. I’m more concerned about the weight. My house is from 1890 and has full 10 inch floor joist 16 on centre. The tub will be placed on full 1 inch pine flooring. I am considering bridging the joist just to make sure. More important to me is what damage could be done to the pine flooring. Or, should I place it on something else. I am considering slate flooring but I am pretty sure this would crack. I am tending to think that the pine would be best because it’s soft.

    Comment by Mark P — October 5, 2007 @ 11:04 pm

  6. I’m pretty sure the weight of the tub will dent the floor. There are coasters that you can put under each leg to help preserve the flooring.

    http://www.clawfootsupply.com/search/search.php?keywords=caster

    Thanks for the note!

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — October 8, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  7. forgive me if this is a stupid question, but is there no way to fix “extensive” rust on old tubs? we have one and i absolutely love it, but the rust around the drains is pretty bad….any suggestions?

    Comment by cole h — January 10, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  8. Cole H,

    I do know that there are options with epoxy. For example, lets say the area around the drain is eaten away by rust, and you won’t be able to ‘seat’ the drain properly. One option is to remove as much/all of the rust as possible and then start applying epoxy filler to build up the missing metal – much like body repair on a car. You would need to shape/sand the epoxy once cured but you could rebuild the area – and it would be a fairly straightforward process. Once everything was repaired you can have a professional re-spray the tub, or, as a short term solution, purchase some enamel repair paint and cover the repair. Not fun, not ‘easy’, but certainly doable. Thanks for the note – good luck!

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — January 13, 2008 @ 9:05 am

  9. I have installed a claw foot tub in my bathroom…but the weight of it has cracked my ceramic tile. What is the best flooring for this tub…or will proper coasters help.

    Thanks
    Dallas

    Comment by Dallas — January 28, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  10. Funny & What I Wanted!
    My son-in law was helping his Mother-in-law (my husbands x-wife’s) clean up her property & found an old claw cast iron tub in the brush. He called to see if I wanted it & you bet I did. It was hauled to my house which we are remodeling. The tubs interior is very clean/minor flaws easily camoflauged. The exterior is heavily rusted. I have been using a metal brush attached to a drill like a grinder to clean it & will follow the advice above. Can you explain what the exterior should resemble when I am done. Ex – a cast iron skillit or what color? Please elaborate on what surface I have to have it in. before proceeding with the above. It was free, I have time to spend on it. Please help with advice.
    Thanks!

    Comment by Patty — January 28, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  11. Dallas,

    I’m surprised that the ceramic tile cracked – I say that as ‘properly’ installed title should transfer the weight to the sub-floor, which should be able to bear the brunt of the weight. However, as the tile cracked, it means that either the tile didn’t have 70%+ adherence, or more likely, the sub floor flexed under the weight. Now that being said, I think there would be no harm in using a heavy caster to spread the weight out over a larger area.

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — February 4, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  12. Patty,

    When I was done cleaning the tub, the exterior still had a ‘rust’ colour – although I’d be hard pressed to say it was rusted. In places, the colour was that of a new cast iron skillet. I was concerned that if I didn’t remove ALL the rust colour that the tub was doomed, however time was short so we painted it anyway. Now, 2+ years later the tub is exactly the way it was the day we painted it – no rust. With that, I would say that so long as you remove all the rust you can you should be in good shape. Since this project we have found several rust remover solutions that may help if you have concerns.

    Thanks for the note – good luck – and congratulations on a great find!

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — February 4, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

  13. I am considering purchasing a clawfoot tub in pretty good overall condition. My one question is that the exterior (currently painted black) seems to be pitted. Do you think this means it was painted over after rust pitted it and wasn’t sandblasted first? How smooth should the surface be?

    thanks
    Dana

    Hi Dana – There is a good chance that rust was painted over and you are now left with a pitted surface. The surface should be fairly smooth – not like glass, but certainly no snags. That being said, some tubs did have a ‘hammered’ exterior which gave them a natural ‘pitted’ look. Our tub has a slightly pitted surface – we don’t even notice it!

    Comment by dana — April 13, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  14. I just wanted to note it IS indeed doable to replace a missing foot— given it’s on the wall side of the tub. We had a clawfoot tub with extensive rust on the outside, so we never got around to installing it. Then we suddenly got one that was freshly painted but had a broken foot (morons who took it down the stairs broke the foot, they intended to trash the tub anyway). We discovered a brick was perfectly the right size to go under the broken foot and that’s how it’s now… only visible if you actually go down on the floor.

    Comment by Ragnar — June 3, 2008 @ 6:24 am

  15. Thanks for the ideas with the exterior. I am preparing to restore the exterior of our CF tub. I can offer some experience with rust on the interior of our porcelain tub. I was so sure that I would need to have the interior professionally refinished, I was using the tub as a refuse bin throughout the bathroom demolition, floor refinishing, etc. Our tub is a 1926 Kohler and the rust stains were very dark, caused by years of dripping water. But times are tight, so I decided to give it a go before I spent the $500. Our tub now looks perfectly new (I’m not joking!). Here are the methods and materials that I used.
    1. With a pad of Scotch-Brite, I gently rubbed the areas with 100% natural pumice. It did not affect the porcelain finish.
    2. With a pad of Scotch-Brite, I gently cleaned the areas with a water-paste mix of Bar Keeper’s Friend cleaner. The result was so good, I decided to salvage same vintage Kohler sink and Sibley toilet. (Imagine the condition of the toilet bowl and the inside of the tank!) I first took the toilet over to a coin-operated carwash. I brought along a bottle of bleach, and dressed for a rainstorm on Pluto (sub-zero temps in Michigan.) I blasted the toilet and tank as much as I could. Then I used the exact same cleaning methods and materials as the tub. Again, these fixtures now look brand spanking new. If you’re willing to spend some time and gentle elbow grease, you won’t be disappointed. I have three beautiful porcelain fixtures again, for about $20.

    Hi Frank! Thanks for this – amazing advice!

    Comment by Frank — March 1, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  16. Tiles crack only because the bonding agent used was not properly aapplied and the tile is not sitting on a full even surface. When weight it applied to one spot via the feet, the tile will crack because there is no support from the bottom!

    Comment by Jeff — March 31, 2009 @ 9:47 am

  17. We inherited a CF tub as part of a newer home we bought – they gave us the tub they never installed in the beautiful tub room purposely designed in the house. I will use the refinishing techniques mentioned above to clean it up and make it look good, although there isn’t any rust on the tub – just chipped and scatched porcelain. My two questions are: The tub room floor is 3/4 inch HIckory on 16 inch joists – is Hickory going to need casters? If so is there a source for casters for lion’s paw, since that is what we have? Or is there a source for a large under tub type of pan or pedestal that will spread the weight and protect the Hickory?
    Second, If need be, can we just purchase and use different feet than what came with it?
    Thanks
    Elaine

    Hi Elaine: I think the floor should adequately hold the wight of the tub, although i would recommend getting some casters. I know that several of the online retailers sell them, but I have seen some at the local hardware store. Likewise, I have run across the odd set at the local antique stores. I’m not sure what success you will have replacing the feet, as most of the feet I’ve seen still concentrate the wight of the tub into a foot pad about the size of a dime – the reason I’m recommending casters. Thanks for the question! All the best.

    Comment by Elaine — May 12, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  18. Thanks for sharing your secrets on refinishing a claw tub. I hope it brings many years of joy for your family. I am in the early stages of refinishing my claw tub. We have removed the many layers of paint and will wet sand soon. In your article you mentioned that you used Tremclad for your initial application. Was this used in all preceding coats? If not what brand of paint did you use.

    Thanks, Horace

    Comment by Horace Ward — June 30, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  19. Hi all,

    I had my exterior sand blasted and powder coated. This is a process where a magnetic powder is applied to the surface and then baked. You can get any color you wish and it only cost me $200. The hardest part is loading and unloading the tub. You should be able to find a powder coater via a local google search or talk to your local steel workers union.

    Matt

    Comment by Matt — July 23, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  20. As a professional tub refinisher I would like to make a careful warning regarding the refinishing of the outside of any clawfoot tub, feet included. Care must be take in the handling and removal of the old paint. This is a lead based paint and therefore is dangerous and toxic to breathe. A dust mask would be very minimum portection, while a NOSH mask is much preferred.

    In addition, any cracks in the porcelain which are outlined in rust must be addressed as the porcelean finish is obviously compromised. What this means is that over time water is eating away at the surface of the cast iron beneath the porcelain and eventually the porcelain will fail.

    Therefore, you might consider this when comparing one tub against the other.

    That being said, a profession can deal with these problem while refinishing the tub back to it’s original lusterous beauty. Cost and materials differ greatly so care needs to be taken in backgound checks into the any business that offers this kind of service. I my opinion money spent on such a service is well worth the time and effort to do so.

    Comment by Keith — August 16, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  21. Any suggestions for reattaching original legs?
    I didn’t label so I’m not certain which leg goes where. Legs attach with modest clamp and set screw. They all appear identical but the seats on tub are slightly different, front to back providing for slope to drain. I can’t get legs secure enough to turn it over. Once I did get over the tub had a wobble.
    Any ideas greatly appreciated. Tub is a Standard manufactured in 29′ with eagle claw feet.

    Comment by Chris Widdowson — October 4, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  22. I am doing a bathroom re-do BECAUSE friends gave us an original Wolff 1910 Claw Foot tub. The bathroom is coming along nicely but we are having some last minute reservations about the OUTSIDE finish on the tub. Do we go with a rust reformer, a rust inhibitor, what kind of paint, tremclad, rustoleum, what? There are so many opinions of what is best to use. Please help me! My bathroom is a week away from being done and I’m scared!

    Hi Mindy – we simply sanded down the rust and applied two coats of Tremclad. 3+ years later and there isn’t a mark on the paint. Good luck!

    Comment by Mindy Frank — October 19, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

  23. I am currently redoing he outside of the clawfoot tub I just purchased for $ 100.00. I have a few marks on the outside lip of the tub that have allowed the rust marks to come through. Does anyone know what would be the best way to repair this problem. The outside is looking good after removing 7 layers of paint, I am finally getting to the original tub. I am looking forward to installing it into my bathroom to replace the other CF tha has far too much rust to repair.

    Comment by Brad — October 30, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  24. hello all, I know this is about CF. cast iron but I am at a cross roads in my bathroom reno about whether to remove an old cast iron tub (not claw foot) but from 1960′s with finish fairly scratched and worn. Should I refinish it or tear it out? I already have the toilet, vanity, subfloor, wall boards, tub surround off – this is the time to decide! I would be replacing with soaker fiberglass – is this crazy?

    Comment by sallye wood — January 6, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

  25. Hey, So I have a few quick questions about Clawfoot tubs, I just purchased an old victorian, and I know they had a clawfoot tub in the upstairs bath, because they took it just before we closed, but I have no idea how much it weighed or the size and true style of the tub. I want to buy one local or off craigslist to refinish or have refinished, but I dont know how much my floor can handle. The house is just over a hundred years old. How do I find out how much weight my floor can handle? also any tips that would help when buying a used antique tub, would be awesome Thanks!!!

    Hi Samerie – The only thing I can suggest is that you check to make sure the floor is sound to begin with. If the joists are on 16″ centres and the the subfloor is of a decent grade, you should be okay. If you are still worried, you can also place steel coasters under the tub feet which help to distribute the weights more evenly.

    Comment by Samerie — February 6, 2010 @ 2:25 am

  26. I’m curious about how the interior finish has held up over the years since you did it. I have a cast iron tub that is my sole bathing resource (no shower), so I use it every day. I’m re-doing my bathroom this summer, and am exploring my options. I’d love to save money, but I want it done right. The porcelain is slightly pitted throughout, and there is a ring around the drain that shows the cast iron. The outside is not rusted, just painted, but you can tell there are many layers of paint and it’s kind of ugly.
    I’m game to give it a go myself if I can save $500+, but I want to continue to be able to bathe in it comfortably daily.
    Do you have recent photos/report of your own fix up job?
    Thanks!

    Hi Erica – I never actually touched the interior finish. What I can say the finish has remained unchanged since we installed the tub. The exterior finish is also perfect. We will eventually have the inside of the tub re-porcelained, but until then, this tub is a war horse!

    Comment by Erica — February 8, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  27. I have an old claw foot tub that I am using as a fish pond. I have sealed the plug but the tub is leakind slowly from somewhere. how can I seal the inside?

    Comment by jack bobo — March 8, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  28. Our clawfoot tub was surrounded by a home-made wooden, tiled box when we bought our home. We ripped off the box, the outside of the tub was in better shape than the inside. We took the tub to a refinisher who repaired the porcelain and put some sort of finish on the INSIDE. He suggested we use ordinary household paint (we just used something we had on hand — I think alkyd) for the OUTSIDE. The inside and outside were beautiful! We were careful cleaning the tub with non-scratch cleaners, but within a few years the finish started chipping off, especially around the drain (I think due to the water gushing while filling the tub). Over the years, more and more paint has chipped off and it looks quite unsightly. The original, and the new finish were both white, but different shades. The outside of the tub still looks wonderful. This paint has held up better than the paint on the walls. This tub was heavily used as it was the only tub in our house until recently.
    Once again we want to refinish the INSIDE of the tub, but do not want to move the tub (this was by far the worst part of the whole job), so we are looking for a DIY solution. My husband would like to try fibreglassing it. Any ideas out there, for fibreglassing or other DIY methods of refinishing the outside. Thanks for any help.

    Comment by Heather — March 21, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  29. hi, I have been scouring the web looking for information on whether there are any health consequence to bathing in a claw foot tub that has an interior with porcelain that is quite chipped. This tub was in the house when we bought it and it would appear that the refinishing on the interior was a DIY job. I am planning to have it professionally refinished when we can afford the $500.plus to have the job done. A good portion of the bottom of the tub has the base exposed and up until a while ago I would bath with a bath mat in place. Now it’s nothing but showers and I really miss my bath! thanks for any info you might have.

    Comment by michele — March 23, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  30. i have a question on a claw tub. i resurfaced my tub with a kit (porelain paint kit). and after a few years i am noticing rust under the painted porcelain just on the bottomof the tub. it there an easy fix for this? can i just redo over this again or will it just keep coming back?

    Comment by Beverly Herman — April 21, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  31. Hi.

    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.

    Comment by Russell — April 24, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  32. Does anyone know if, instead of using the claw feet for the tub, I could make 2 wood block cradles to support an old claw foot tub? This style is available in new freestanding tubs, but I can’t find the cradles to purchase alone. Or are wooden stands/platforms available anywhere? Thanks!

    Comment by Cheyenne — May 18, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  33. This may be a viable suggestion for someone who has a ok/sentimental but not great claw foot tub:
    My tub has an extensively rusted exterior including one broken claw that won’t support it. We can not fit it in our home as planned but am looking to rid the rust as much as possible and then spray painting it with a Rustoleum product. Then I plan to use it as a garden peice with plantings inside. Unfortunately, it was painted with interior wall paint in the 50′s or 60′s which is chipping off as well. What a mess! After reading someone elses input I think I’ll try sanding the paint and rust. But what should I do next to inhibit more rust? Thanks for your help.

    Editor: For what it’s worth The outside of our tub was quite rusty – I simply sanded 90% of the rust off and painted it with Tremclad. Several years later, not a single issue. Perhaps the same for the inside?

    Comment by Jennifer — July 5, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

  34. I am thinking of using the mend-a-bath resurfacing kit to redo the inside of my old claw foot tub. Has anyone used or heard of it? The canadian company is tubby.

    Comment by colin — July 29, 2010 @ 5:01 am

  35. I’m appreciating people’s thoughts and experiences regarding refinishing and refurbishing clawfoot tubs as I just bought a fixer upper. I thought I’d share that the tub I purchased from Craig’s List came with lots of dirt and stain, but with some elbow grease and Barkeeper’s Friend the tub shines like new. Barkeeper’s Friend is gentle enough for porcelain and won’t set stains unlike Comet with Bleach. I even used a natural, compostable sponge…granted my shoulders were sore the next day.

    I’m curious if people have bought tub surrounds to create shower capacity. I’ve found kits from various websites like signaturehardware.com but need certain individual parts versus kits. Suggestions?

    Comment by Valerie — August 16, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  36. I have a clawfoot tub that came with my house. We renovated the bathroom and left the tub, I did paint the outside and feet with a great result. I thought about refinishing as the inside is kind of a mess, bare spots in the finish etc…I thought instead of refinishing, maybe removing the rest of the porcelien and sealing it? Or just cleaning it really well, leave the bare patches and sealing it? I have also heard of using marine paint and getting better results than the refinishing products.

    Comment by shannon — September 5, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  37. When I bought my house it had a footed tub, no claws though, on the FOURTH floor and naturally it stayed up there! One leg was missing and a piece of 4×6 had been used. I bpught four claw tub feet which turned out not to fit onto the tub. I would like to sell them to someone but is there a way or a “clearning house” to identify them to sell as photos might not be enough? Thank you for all the good ideas about cleaning and casters!

    Comment by Jack Schmitt — September 5, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  38. I was given a baby clawfoot that was found at a re-store. I appreciate (and need) the above comments for exterior renovation, but am concerned about the interior of my tub. It has two largish spots (~2×4 inches) around the drain where the porcelain is eroded away completely. It’s not rusty, just bare metal showing. Is there a sealer or wax that has been tried to protect the tub as it is? The rest of the interior is great and I don’t want to harm it by trying an overall ‘fix.’ I don’t mind it looking old and second hand – that’s kind of why I want this sort of tub to start with!

    Also, what are good sources for faucets, drains, etc? Is a company like Renovator’s Supply quality? Are there other sources?

    I have a plumber coming next week!

    Comment by Linda — September 13, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  39. Have a cast iron antique tub. Wondered about the correct and easy ideas of refinishing the outside not inside. Paint and what kind to buy and use to refinish the exterior?

    Comment by jaon — September 23, 2010 @ 8:03 am

  40. I saw a neat gizmo at the Canadian Tire–a sandblasting attachment that fits onto a wet/dry vac, and blasts a small area at a time. With, say, slag or garnet grit, you could do the tub in no time, and get ALL the rusty crap off. There’re also some good zinc-rich epoxy primers, for marine use, that would keep the rust off the underside. Awlgrip, or something would work as a topcoat. I’d try this with an old claw-foot I have…but I’m still wondering where to put it, where the floor is sturdy enough (the basement?).

    Comment by Adam — September 25, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  41. I just installed a new acrylic clawfoot on a new tile floor with cement backerboard over plywood subflooring. I love it!
    The tub feet came with holes for bolting it to the floor “if necessary.” I’m wondering under what conditions would a person need to bolt the tub thru the tile into the subflooring? thanks for any input…

    Comment by Jerri — October 19, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

  42. thanks for great directions

    Comment by Sara Boskovich — November 28, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

  43. Hi my husband gave me one of these old Cast Iron claw tubs a guy he worked with braught it back from back east I have called around to places on pricing and I cant decide on wheather I would like to do it myself or have somebody else do it I guess my question is can in anyway I ruin or hurt the tub or is the wort thing that can happen is I sand it down again & re-do it?

    Comment by Vicki — January 2, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

  44. Hello, I came to your site from a google search. We have a beautiful claw foot tub that it way to heavy to move out, the only problem is the previous owners painted bule with fish on the front of the tub!! Ughh. Do you know if there is any way to sand and paint over it? Without totally looking horrible? Other thatn that it is in great shape.

    Comment by Amber Petz — March 1, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  45. I had a solution of muriatic acid and water put in my old clawfoot tub. It cleaned away the soap stains and discoloring, but the surface is dull and on the side walls of the tub the surfaace is a bit uneven and the white color has some small splotches when the light hits it at an angle.

    One reader mentioned buffering the inside of the tub. Can you tell me about this process. I would like the inside of the tub to be a bit more glossy.

    Many thanks.

    Comment by Dorothy — March 6, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  46. I’m noticing a lot of people (including myself) have questions about refinishing the interior of a clawfoot tub. If anyone has experience with this to share and can ideally speak to longevity that would be most helpful. Thank you!

    Comment by lexi — April 16, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  47. I have a 1926 claw foot bathtub in very nice condition, can anyone tell what the value of the tub would be.

    Comment by Bruce — May 6, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  48. If you’re looking for a good clawfoot, don’t waste your time with newspapers. These things are too rare and you want pictures before you waste your time going to someone’s house. I wanted a clawfoot for my 1920′s house, we’re doing a complete bathroom remodel. I went to Craigslist every day for about 2 weeks, found exactly what I was looking for ($150! and only a 20 minute drive!), and could compare prices among similar tubs. After an hour with a sponge and Bar Keeper’s Friend, the interior is gorgeous (jealous?), but there is one nasty rust stain where the water dripped from the faucet. A woman that works in a bathroom supply store told me to try Sno-Bowl on it. Since it’s upside down right now (just spent the last two days stripping the old paint from the exterior, sanding in places, grinding in others, and putting the first coat of primer on), I’ll have to try the Sno-Bowl after we flip it over again but BEFORE we put the drain on, since it can be corrosive.

    For the stripping I used a multi-purpose stripper from Sherwin-Williams, the primer is latex and the topcoats are going to be oil-based (both from Sherwin-Williams and matched to my accent tiles). I was worried at first about scratching the surface, but that has not at all been an issue (cast iron is very hard!!). The feet are the biggest pain, since they have a lot of articulating metal (they are baroque in style). I think we have to take them to a friend’s house to sandblast them, stripping is just taking too long.

    One question: I’d like the feet to look like chrome. Will chrome-colored spray paint look tacky, or do you think plating them is an option? Love to hear your thoughts. And thanks so much for this forum!

    Comment by Cecilia — July 17, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  49. One more thing – if you’re planning on working on the exterior, I highly recommend getting two sturdy horses to set the tub on (after applying painter’s tape all along the edge for protection). It saved our backs, I am sure of it. Always get at least 4 people to help you pick up and move the tub – cast iron is hard but brittle. One drop and it could be over (plus watch your feet!).

    Comment by Cecilia — July 17, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

  50. I wasn’t clear about that rust stain – it’s a rust stain of accumulated rust from minerals in the water; the water did not eat through the porcelain.

    Comment by Cecilia — July 17, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  51. Just got back from the powder coaters in town. They will sandblast and powder coat the baroque clawfeet for $20 each, $10 if powder coating only. I have an advantage that my clawfeet slide onto the bottom of the tub with a simple rail (wish I could post pics!). No bolt removal required. Do I cheat and only powder coat the two feet that face outwards, and just prime and spray paint the two that face the wall? What are your thoughts on this?

    Comment by Cecilia — July 18, 2011 @ 11:49 am

  52. I decided plating is not an option, BTW. They have to get the finish super-smooth, then plate the iron with copper or nickel, then plate with chrome. They would probably charge upwards of $50 a foot for this. I think the powder-coated white would look nicer. The tub exterior is a spring green to match accent tiles.

    Comment by Cecilia — July 18, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  53. The outside of our clawfoot bathtub was painted a deep blue by previous owners. The interior white finish is in surprisingly great shape (except for the remains of about 14 anti-slip stickers); so the inside does not need refinishing.

    We are trying to figure out our options re the outside. There is no rust, so we are thinking of just repainting it. SO:
    1.) Can we just repaint the outside?
    2.) And, if so, what kind of paint should we use?

    Comment by Aviva — July 22, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  54. I enjoyed reading this…we’re in the final stages of putting in our clawfoot tub. We chose to have the outside and the feet sandblasted. It was actually quite reasonable price wise and was fast. We primed it immediately, and then painted it with appliance paint.

    Our biggest headache has actually been hardware! The original faucet was in bad shape, so we ordered one online…only to discover that the holes were too large and weren’t covered by the new faucet. Many trips to the plumbing supply store later…we’re FINALLY up and running! Still have to scrub the inside, though…! :)

    Comment by Natalie — August 10, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  55. I too have really enjoyed reading these comments. I have a 2 storey neo gothic victorian house with servants quarters in the attic. I found a clawfoot bath for the downstairs bathroom, very narrow but long which works in my very small space. Like one of the other comments above, the outside surface has no rust but is uniformly pitted on the outside. I would really like a smooth finish before painting but am not sure if I should leave it the way it is or try and find some way to smooth it. This is not old rust covered up by paint as unpainted and rustfree areas have the same dimpled effects. Any suggestions?

    Comment by Ann — January 8, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

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