Before and after bathroom tub2

Painting a bathtub… and a toilet…and grout!

Weird colored tub? That can be fixed!

I’ve talked a lot about all the upcoming projects at my new (to me) old house but do you know where I actually started?  The nicest bathroom in the house.  Ok, nicest is being generous.  It is the least ugly.  And by least ugly, I mean Carrera look alike ceramic tile from floor to ceiling (varying sizes with a mid-wall border), white builder grade tile in the tub/shower, gold trimmed safety glass sliding shower door, crystal chandeliers (not the good kind), off white  circa 1985 laminate vanity with cultured marble top, gold faucets, and a grey tub and toilet.  I thought I could work with the tile, especially because I was not relishing the idea of demoing then re-drywalling the entire bathroom, but the rest was gonna have to go.  First up – a makeover was in order for that tub and toilet.  You really don’t see many colored toilets or tubs in new homes, they are almost always white or occasionally off-white.  Even though our grey tub wasn’t as offensive as a mustard yellow, avocado green or, gasp,  a burgundy tub, any color other than white just screams “dated!”

ugly bathroom
Before bathroom with grey toilet and tub and fancy gold shower door!

The Plan

Since I had no plans to totally gut this bathroom Plan A was to try and coat the tub in one of those specially formulated epoxy based paints for tub and tile.  If it failed, then Plan B would be to rip out the tub and toilet.  I’d heard good things from others who had done this project and read mixed reviews online but still felt it was worth a shot to potentially save over a thousand dollars and the sweat equity involved in replacing the tub and toilet.

Materials

I first checked my local Home Depot and Lowe’s but both only carried a brand of tub coating that got terrible reviews.  I bought Rustoleum Tub and Tile Refinisher (2 kits) on Amazon and it was at my house in 2 days.

rustoleum tub and tile
This is a high quality tub and tile paint. Rubbing alcohol can be used to clean up drips.

Other supplies I used included:

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Mask, rubber gloves
  • Calcium Lime and Rust (CLR) cleaner
  • Bleach-based cleaner
  • Alcohol
  • Caulk remover tool or razor blade
  • Mini paint roller for smooth surfaces
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Tack cloth
  • Screw driver
  • Drill

How to Paint a Tub (or any other ugly bathroom surface)

First, I removed the gold shower doors and track.  I planned on putting up a shower curtain afterwards.  After they were unscrewed, I had to remove excess silicone from the tub lip and tile with a razor blade.  I also went back later and filled the holes where the track had been screwed into the tile with white caulk. I also removed all the caulk between the tile and the tub and unscrewed the little brass drain doo-hickey.  I didn’t bother removing the toilet handle deciding to make it white since most toilet handles these days are the same color as the toilet anyway. The toilet already had a new-ish white seat on it so I removed that.

remove shower door frame
A utility knife can be used to remove the caulk or silicone between the shower doors rails and the tile.

 

With the doors out of the way, I gave the area in and around the tub and toilet a really thorough cleaning with a bleach based cleaner in a lame attempt to remove lots of mildew and other nasty stuff.

mold and silicone
This is the gross crud that may be under a 30 year old shower door. Eww.

 

This left me better able to see any other remnants of caulk or silicone that had to be removed around the entire tub.

silicone removal
Scrape off old caulk with a razor blade. The paint won’t stick to caulk or silicone.

Still there is a set of about 6 tiles with brownish yellow grout that I just could not get cleaned that will get new grout once I do other tiling, but these didn’t concern me too much since I didn’t want to paint the tile, only the tub and toilet.

Next, I cleaned the tub and toilet with CLR.  This was especially important because we have well water which generally has more minerals in it than city water and can leave residue on your tub.  Regardless of your water source, do this step anyway.  Your tub can’t be too clean for this process.  Note, CLR, when used in a small space has fumes so wear a mask, open a window and turn on your bath fan for ventilation.

After everything was clean, I sanded the tub and toilet with very fine grit sandpaper.  I used a 400 grit.  Then I rinsed with water, dried it, sanded and rinsed again.

sand the tub
Sand the entire surface with a fine grit sandpaper to remove leftover scum and to slightly score the surface so it better accepts the paint.

 

…and sand some more… keep sanding….

 

Once everything is totally dry and dust free you are ready to paint.  It’ll be important to assess where you are in the process before you commit to painting.  The special paint is an epoxy that comes in 2 parts.  Once it’s mixed it must be used in 6 hours, after that it thickens to the point where it’s unusable.   I opted to come back the next day ready to paint.

I began day 2 by taking a tack cloth and running it over every surface to be painted to pick up any lint, dust, hair, and small particles that somehow magically appeared overnight.  The surface must be perfect to accept the paint.  I taped off the adjacent areas that weren’t going to get paint with blue painters tape.

I followed Rustoleum’s directions and poured the contents of one container into the other and mixed them.  The odors from this paint are noxious!  Definitely wear a mask, open windows and put a fan or two on.  No matter what you do it will permeate the whole house and linger for days, it’s that strong.  I filled a disposable pan with some paint, soaked a fine nap roller made for smooth surfaces and started rolling.  As advertised, the paint has unique self leveling properties… to a point.    It is runny and will drip if you use too much so it’s better to use many thin coats rather than glob it on.  Nobody wants a drippy tub.  This stuff dries pretty quickly so if you find yourself overlapping an area you already did 5 minutes ago it may get tacky and not re-level so be careful of that.

Just roll the paint right on in thin coats.

 

I also noticed in areas where there once was silicone holding the door on it still didn’t adhere to even after scraping the silicone off, cleaning and sanding.  In hindsight perhaps maybe using acetone might remove this residue, who knows?  But since I had already started it was too late.  I used the small foam brush in the corners where the tile met the tub and where the toilet met the floor.  I removed the lid from the toilet tank so that I could cover the entire thing and also the tank itself.  Now here’s where you might be wondering what I did inside the bowl which was also gray.  I suppose I could have been all thorough-like and taken the toilet bowl water out in cupfuls then soaked up the last bits in rags, but nope, I didn’t.  I just left it gray.  And you might notice if the seat’s up and your looking right at it (sorry boys), but otherwise the eye is fooled into thinking it’s a shadow… at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I was honestly a little paranoid about screwing the inside of it up then having to rip the toilet out altogether, which wouldn’t normally be a big deal but some moron grouted, yes, grouted the toilet to the floor – ugh.

Anyway, 2 coats later and I could still see gray through, so I knew I was definitely doing a third.  I decided to wait until the next day for more complete drying.  I used what little I had left in my paint pan to cover a nasty looking fiberglass slop sink in my laundry room.

utility sink painting
The tub and tile paint works on fiberglass too, like for this utility sink.

 

This thing was so gross I wouldn’t have cleaned an old paint brush in it let alone laundry delicates (who am I kidding, I wash NOTHING by hand).  Anyway, the slop sink looks brand new now.  In between days 2 and 3 of this project is where I made my most critical mistake.  I learned an old trick a few years ago that if you’re painting project will take you the course of several days then you put your brush or roller in a plastic bag, wrap it up tight and stick it in the fridge and the next time you paint it’s still perfect and fresh, not at all gunky or dried up.  It can save you a ton of time cleaning brushes.  Whatever you do DO NOT PUT THIS (or any epoxy, shellac or varnish based paint) in your fridge.  Certain foods are very susceptible to odors and flavors that may escape the wrapped brush or roller and totally ruin your food.  I learned this the hard way.  I had an English Muffin the next morning with a little epoxy-butter. Yech. Butter itself isn’t healthy but chlorofluorocarbon laced butter is most certainly even worse for you.

On day 3 of the tub project I mixed the second set of cans together to do coats 3 and 4 on the tub and toilet. (WARNING! Many a YouTube video will make this whole project look like it’s complete in mere hours, not days. Lies…all lies…unless one has nothing better to do that literally sit around and watch paint dry.) Anyway, after the third coat the silicone residue area on the rim of the tub was starting to get covered and accept the paint.  With a 4th coat the paint was fully covering this area and for good measure I gave just this area a 5th coat.

painted tub
The tub (minus ugly gold hardware) looks like new!

 

painted toilet
You’d never know this toilet used to be grey!

 

I still had some paint left over so I racked my brain about what else I could epoxy-paint.  And then, an epiphany!   What is the bane of every awesome looking kitchen or bath that at some point WILL definitely go down the tubes and look like crap? Yep, the grout.  I dunno what’s in that grout sealer they sell but I am convinced it’s a racket.  Grout never stays clean.  So it remains to be seen if this will last or not but I decided to paint the grout in between the bathroom floor tiles.  Figured it couldn’t be any worse than the dingy dirty gray-brown that currently flanked the bright white and grey tiles.  It was a bit tedious taping off each tile, but it seriously turned out better than I expected.

taping edges
Use painters tape against any edge that you don’t want to get paint on while completely coating the grout in epoxy paint.

 

I did 2 coats.  All of the tub and tile paint has to cure for at least 72 hours before it can get wet and sustain foot traffic.  I waited that long before I put back the toilet lid, the drain thingy, then I hung 2 tension rods at the ceiling one for a liner and one for my extra-long shower curtain.  Hanging your shower curtain at the ceiling makes the room look taller! And yes, I know, I know the chevron print shower curtain  is soooooooo 2016, but I had it leftover from my last house.  I’ll change it when I update the rest of the bathroom.

completed painted tub, tile and toilet
This bathroom is far from complete, but painting the tub, toilet and grout helped it a ton!

Results

It’s been almost 5 months since I painted the tub, toilet, laundry sink and tile grout and it all still looks great!  Admittedly the finish isn’t as smooth as a regular tub, it’s a little dimpled, sort of like an orange peel, but it looks 100% better than having a dated bathroom ensemble.  In the near future I’ll rip out the huge mirrored cabinet, fill the empty wall spaces left with remaining tile, and switch out the vanity and fixtures for something more current.  So I’d not consider this photo a true “after” shot, but rather an interim.  Now that we’re deep into the kitchen remodel and basement demo, it should only take me …. meh…. 3 years or so to get back to this project.  Who’s hanging in there with me?

Before and after bathroom tub2

I’m Casting My Vote For Cement Tiles (and their lookalikes)

First we had slick granite, then tumbled and honed travertine, then the ubiquitous white subway, and it seems like the latest tile trend to be taking hold are printed cement (also called encaustic) tiles.

cement-tile

You might think, cement, huh, so it’s cheap? Uh, well no it’s not. So then you think, oh it must be super resilient, uh, well it’s not really that either, actually if not sealed properly, they can stain and the pattern can be worn off the surface. So, ok, well then it must look great, and the answer to that is yes, yes, it does.  And if the price and durability issues are too much, then there are other options to get the cement look in a porcelain or ceramic variety.
Certainly cement tiles must be used dubiously, or else they may either look dated or their bold patterns could be too much for your space. Here are a few great cement tiles as well as a few great imposters.

real-cement-tile

 

  1. Pencil Salon Tile
  2. Liria Negro Encaustic  Cement Tile
  3. Cle Tile Cabin Quilt
  4. Ikat C Washed Denim
  5. Tugboat Four-Color Cement Tile
  6. Malmo Zebra Native by Commune

cement-lookalike

 

  1.  Faenza Azul 13 in. x 13 in. Ceramic Floor and Wall Tile
  2. Villa Lagoon Tile for Zazzle Ceramic
  3. Tile Bar Instinct Karioca Ceramic
  4. Merola Tile Twenties Vertex Ceramic
  5. SomerTile 9.5×9.5-inch Vendimia Kubic Porcelain
  6. SomerTile 17.75×17.75-inch Royals Flatlands Ceramic

Wondering how to best use cement tiles and their imposters?  Here’s some gorgeous rooms that have leveraged the encaustic excellence.

This black and white bathroom by Byrd Design is so bright and that tile, those shower doors, that tub!

cement-byrd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re afraid to take the full-on plunge with a whole floor of cement, how about a charming fireplace hearth?  This little slice of perfection is by House of Jade.

cement-house-of-jade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you imagine how boring this kitchen would be with regular ‘ol white subway?  This cement tile backsplash adds just the right amount of personality.

cement-better-homes-and-gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The peek of pattern on the risers of each of these stairs draws your eye upward and adds a ton of interest to this residence featured on the website for Grenada Tile.

cement-granada-tile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you bold, daring?  Then go all-in for a eyecatching look like this one by Wit and Delight

cement-witanddelight