Refinishing a Clawfoot Tub

I'm a bit of a purist. I love to go vintage whenever I can. I guess I'm a sucker for charm. I don't like to go overboard but there are definitely some things that I will never budge on if I don't have to. One of those being old cast iron tubs. I have never been a fan of jetted tubs. To be honest, they freak me out a little bit.

I saw this tub on craigslist and I was smitten. It seemed like a perfect candidate but I still had to see it to make sure. For those of you who are thinking of buying an old tub, here are a few tips:
  • Make sure that if it has legs, that all the legs are in good condition. Trying to find matching legs is near impossible. You can get away with different legs if you only see one side of the tub. However, keep in mind that they must all be level or your tub will not work.
  • The inside of the tub should be pristine. You can buy kits to refinish the inside of the tub but it is best to get that professionally done. If it is in your budget to get the inside of the tub refinished, then the inside doesn't have to be pristine but it should not have huge pits or holes.
  • The outside should not be porous. Some pits are normal because of the age and material but it should not all be pitted.
  • Check to see what kind of faucet it needs. Some faucets are more difficult to find and not to mention, more expensive. The difference between a deck mount (drilling is on the rim of the tub), a tub wall mount (drilling is on the inside wall of the tub like mine), and a free standing mount (faucet is literally free standing and your tub will not have any drillings) can make a huge difference on your budget as well as where in the room you can place your tub.
  • If you are not going to do the refinishing yourself call and ask for prices for someone to refinish your tub. It may make a difference on what you thought you were going to spend versus what you will end up spending. Also, some tub refinishers will not do a cast iron on site. Plan on dropping off and picking up the tub yourself. They weigh somewhere around 300-400 pounds so plan ahead.
  • Also make sure to check costs on buying brand new legs versus refinishing costs if tub has existing legs.
We were up for the challenge and it was a great project to get to do together so we went for it. This is how we chose to refinish the tub and it worked for us. I cannot guarantee that you will have the same results we did so proceed at your own risk and don't send me any hate mail.

Materials we used:
A grinder
two different grades of sand paper
Mineral Spirits
Rust-Oleum Metal Primer
Oil based Paint in the color Sanctuary
Paint Brush
Paint Roller
Old Rags

  1. We removed the legs and then used the grinder to blast off all of the rust and get the surface nice and smooth. We wiped it down with Mineral Spirits and old rags. Do not wipe down with water. It will immediately create rust. Wear goggles and a mask.
  2. We then used a finer sand paper to smooth out any rough spots. Again, when we were done we wiped it clean with Mineral Spirits. This process was not done in one day. It took us a few days to get it done. Be patient.
  3. We applied two coats of Rust-Oleum Metal primer which is a brownish color. It actually looked really cool. I think they sell a spray-on version but we decided against it and used the paint instead. A brush and a roller worked just fine.
  4. We found a Ralph Lauren color we liked called Sanctuary ML16. Name sounds cheesy but it's a great color. We took it to a paint store that carried oil based paint. They were able to match the color almost perfectly. Another option that was presented to us was to use car paint, except they only sold it in gallons and it was somewhere in the range of $150. If we had that in the budget we would have gone with that for sure.
  5. We gave it two coats of the oil based paint and let it dry!
The time it took for us to do this was about two weeks. The grinder saved us time, but the weather prevented the coats of primer and paint to dry when they should have so it took us longer. The total cost with materials, price of tub, delivery of tub to our house, faucet and water supply lines, and getting the legs cleaned and chrome plated was about $600 dollars. Had we bought a customized tub or had it refinished professionally we would have paid anywhere from $1500 and up once all was said and done. Not to mention, the tub would not have been cast iron but acrylic.

Below are pictures of what it looked like from beginning to end.


  1. I love your tub! How beautiful! Call me later to let me know how things are going? How is the architect doing? Are you keeping A in check? Talk to you soon! Love- "LL Cool J"

  2. What up "LL Cooooool J" Thanks for the compliments on the tub!! When are you and L coming for a visit? Gimme a heads up though before you come so I can baby proof the house. I don't want your Mrs. Cool J sticking her little fingers in light sockets for fun.

    We miss you guys!!!!! Please come visit! Come with the kids, or without the kids, just come. We love you! Big hugs and kisses to all of you. I will post new info tonight to get you guys all updated.


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