Tearing out an existing tub or shower unit during a bathroom remodel is a real pain — especially if it was installed during the framing stage and won't fit back through the bathroom door. But if the only thing wrong with the unit is its color or a dull, scratched surface, then refinishing is an option worth considering. First, forget about epoxy and polyurethane paints and do-it-yourself refinishing kits. Those products don't hold a candle to the quality and durability of professionally applied spray-on products. Whether the old tub is porcelain-glazed cast iron, enamel on steel, or fiberglass, it can be refinished on site to a like-new appearance. You can even have ceramic wall tile refinished, as long as the backing wall is in sound condition. Just replace any broken tile, clean out the joints, and refloat with new grout before refinishing.

A tub with major defects is not a good candidate for refinishing. A cracked or crazed fiberglass tub bottom generally indicates inadequate support under the basin at the time of installation. Delamination and blistering are common defects in older fiberglass tubs — suction-type bath mats are often to blame, as the cups pull on the surface 24...

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