DIY Cast-Iron Tub Makeover

The main floor bath is just about ready to be revealed (so exciting!), but I wanted to take a little time-out to highlight the tub you’ll be seeing in there!

I felt like this tub deserved it’s own post, and a little how-to, since it required a little sprucing up.

When we bought the house, there were all kinds of things in there! Molding from doorways, old doors and windows, an old dresser (which we have some as-yet-undetermined plans for!) and…. this strange old tub.


It’s cast iron, and sort of clawfoot? It’s got feet, but they aren’t the typical “claw” style.  The tub itself isn’t the rounded shape you’d expect, but rather octagonal from the top view.  It’s like a strange, art-deco claw foot tub. I’ve never seen anything like it, and after many searches, trusty Google only turned up ONE similar looking one from an antique shop in Michigan. It looks quite similar, but there wasn’t  much information about its origins. I wish I knew more about it, and may have to try digging some more one of these days!

Similar tub to the one we found in the house. You can see the shape of it really well with this top view.

Even though we don’t know much about it, it seems likely that this tub was original to the house. We really wanted to keep it and attempt to put it back where it would have been when the house was built.  So, into the plans for the main bath it went.  It took a few big strong men to heft it back up the stairs (how it got into the dining room in the first place, I do not know!), and then it was my turn to get to work making it look pretty again.  The rough-looking side seen in the before picture ended up being the back side of the tub. The “front” had been painted a few times, but was still a mess with flaking paint, rust, and random colors showing through.  I could tell the tub had at least been red, green, pink and white in its life though, which is kind of neat!  I decided to do as others have before me, and paint the outside with a nice coordinating grey to the bathroom color scheme. After sanding a bit to smooth out the surface, I looked up the best paint to use, and the consensus seemed to be that regular ol’ exterior paint does the trick.  I went with a flat finish, since there is plenty of shiny going on in the bathroom already. I left the back with all the character as is- you can’t see it when it’s installed, but if anyone ever removes it, it’s kind of neat to see the “oldness” on that side!

I spray-painted the feet chrome, since we were using chrome fixtures, and it’s a likely enough finish for the era of the house/tub. The last step was to refinish the inside.  I wanted to wait to do this part, since we still had some dirty work going on in the house, and it takes a while to cure.  I used a Homax refinishing epoxy (similar to the one in the affiliate link below).  For tubs I use the paint-on type, but I found the spray-on to be more useful for wall tile (I freshened up the old tile in the existing bath in our first project). I love that for less than $50, I’m able to make old tubs and tile look fresh and new again.  It’s some pretty potent stuff, though, so adequate ventilation (Don’t be like me.  Remember to turn the vent fan on BEFORE you finish the first coat…), a mask, gloves and preparing your significant other/partner in crime for a little post-refinishing loopiness are a must.    I read some reviews before using this stuff, and many of them stressed the importance of following the directions to a T, and scrubbing/cleaning like an absolute crazy person before application.  I’m normally one for cutting corners, but I decided to play it straight in this case- and scrubbed my little heart out.   It also helps the curing process if it’s a little warmer in the room, so think of it as a hot-yoga meets crazy-cleaning-housewife experience and roll with it.  Then drink yourself a nice big glass of your cool beverage of choice (margaritas, anyone?) when you’re done.  I swear it helps with that “loopy” thing. 😉

Where I did stray from the directions is with the painting tool (I just have to be a rebel).  It specifically tells you not to use a foam roller.  So I used a foam roller. I actually did test a number of painting tools on the previous tub I did (which ended up being professionally refinished after the plumber spilled red pvc glue all over the freshly finished tub… *sigh*.  At least they paid to fix it!).  I found that with a brush it was really difficult to get the thin, even coats needed.  The foam roller does give the finish a bit of texture, which may be why they don’t recommend it, but I really like the way it comes out- and it stays consistent and even over the whole surface, with much less effort. It was really hard for me to get the brush to produce a smooth surface without being super meticulous. Which I am definitely not. If you’re working in an area where you can test out a few techniques in a spot that won’t be seen, I recommend trying a few things to see what works best for you!

Main bathroom- finished!
Re-finished 1900s cast-iron tub!
1900s Tub makeover
1900s Tub makeover

I’m pretty happy with how this little project turned out, and it is such an easy process!  I definitely won’t be letting any ugly tubs or crazy-colored tile deter me- bring ’em on!

Check out these affiliate links to some of the products used in this project! If you like what you see, and purchase through one of these links to Amazon, you can help support my blogging habit, which would be pretty amazing of you. 🙂

Homax Industries 720771 One Part Epoxy Spray Wh 32Oz

Barclay 4013-PL-CP Barclay Gooseneck Tub Filler with Diverter and Plastic Shower Head for Cast Iron Tubs

3 thoughts on “DIY Cast-Iron Tub Makeover

  1. “pretty happy” is an understatement! Absolutely amazing! this posts makes me want to move to Mobile even more now! love it!

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