Why Do Bathtubs Peel? [And What To Do About It]

A peeling bathtub can be unsightly. If this is happening in your bathroom, you may be wondering how this happened and what to do about it! You have come to the right place. We have thoroughly researched these questions and have some tips from the experts to guide you.

There are generally three main reasons your bathtub's surface could be coming off:

  • An improper refinishing
  • Long term wear and tear
  • Damage left unattended

The solution to your peeling bathtub problem would depend on a few different factors such as severity, age of the tub, and which materials make up your bath. Your options to remedy it include:

  • Replacing the tub
  • Install a bathtub liner or cover
  • DIY refinishing or reglazing kit
  • DIY tub repair kit
  • A professional refinishing service

Don't worry if this seems like a complicated task at first! We know you have more questions, and we have the answers! We are going to discuss the reason your bathtub is peeling in more detail. Keep reading for information on what methods you can apply and the costs that may be involved.

Why do Bathtubs Peel?

Reasons why bathtubs peel, Why Do Bathtubs Peel? [And What To Do About It]

Improper Refinishing

When a bathtub starts to peel, it usually means that it has already been refinished at least once. If the surface has not been prepared properly, pores and bubbles in the finish can form and cause peeling. Extreme changes in the temperature, which are common in a bathroom, can also make a finish that has been poorly applied peel off.

Long Term Wear and Tear

When a bathtub is older, peeling can occur on its own. Older types like cast iron bathtubs need to be refinished or reglazed normally sometime after the 10-year mark. 

Damage Left Unattended

If a heavy object falls in the bathtub or impacts in some other way causing a chip in the glaze, moisture can enter through the crack or chip. If this is not repaired and left to worsen, it will cause the tub's finish or paint to peel.

Is Refinishing a Tub Worth It?

Modern bathroom interior design with white stone bathtub

In most cases, refinishing a bathtub is often the most cost-effective option. It will also allow you to keep using a unique tub with added style and character to your bathroom. This is the least intrusive and time-saving option. Replacing a bathtub will require disrupting your bathroom and may make it difficult to use during that time. This type of project can last days, and if there are complications, it can last weeks or months.

For many people, it is definitely worth it to refinish the tub.

It may not be worth it if the tub is a cheaper material and the damage is extensive. In this instance, you may refinish it only to find it peeling again in a short time after. In this case, we recommend replacing the tub or relining it to save time and money in the future.

Replacing the Tub

Contractors installing bathtub in house bath room

There are some things to consider if you decide to replace your tub. If the peeling is extensive and it's already been refinished before, this may be a viable option for you. 

When replacing your bathtub, you do want to make a plan. Most people who are doing this for the first time are surprised to learn that getting rid of their old bathtub might not be as easy as they thought! Most cities have rules as to how and what you can dispose of curbside when it comes to bulkier household items.

When getting rid of your old tub, you will want to decide if you will repurpose your tub for another project, use a junk removal service, or plan how you will get it to your local landfill.

When you replace your tub, also consider how much time will need to be blocked off for the whole process and whether you will need to make other arrangements if you do not have another bathtub or shower in the house. These projects can have unforeseen complications that can cause you to be without a bathroom for weeks, even months. Having a plan in place will greatly reduce the stress during this time.

Read more about replacing a bathtub here:

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Bathtub?

Install a Bathtub Liner or Cover

There is an option that avoids all the mess and fuss of refinishing or replacing your bathtub. You can just cover it up! Professional services will look at your setup and give you a price well below what it can cost to replace your bathtub entirely. This option is usually more costly than refinishing since it often requires work on the surrounding walls as well.

Read more about installing a bathtub liner in this article: “How To Install A Bathtub Liner (In 6 Steps).”

How Much Does it Cost to Refinish a Bathtub?

Cleaning dirty old bathtub with corrosion and mold with detersive

The cost of refinishing a bathtub will depend on the method you choose and the makeup of your bathtub. Below are the different ways to refinish a bathtub and the associated costs.

DIY Touch Up Kit

You can get a touch-up kit for $16 to $25. This is a great option if the peeling is in a small area. Using this method is great when you have caught the peeling early, and you want to keep it from becoming a bigger problem.

Click here to see this touch-up kit on Amazon!

DIY Reglazing/Refinishing Kit

Refinishing a whole bathtub yourself is a great idea for a person experienced in doing home projects. Experts do advise caution as materials used in resurfacing your tub can be dangerous. Please follow the instructions that come with your kit and never refinish without proper ventilation and protective equipment. The average cost for refinishing your whole tub yourself will cost around $130 to $300, depending on what tools you already have on hand.

Click here to see this complete kit on Amazon!

A Professional Refinishing Service

Woman holding cleaning tools in bathroom removing dirt on bathtub

If you go with a professional service to refinish your bathtub, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 for a minor bathtub repair to around $1,000 for a complete reglaze of a castiron or porcelain antique. This typically includes the cost of materials and labor.

Necessary Tools for the Job

Though materials can differ greatly, If you decide to do the job yourself, here are the main items you can expect to use for any project in addition to what comes in your kit:

  • DIY refinishing kit
  • Orbital sander
  • Masking tape
  • Respirator

Click here to see it on Amazon!

Personal protection equipment is essential for this job, as you will be working with chemicals, so do ensure you have proper ventilation and wear a respirator, gloves, and eye protection. 

Click here to see it on Amazon!

Learn more about the exact reglazing process in this post: "How To Reglaze A Bathtub [And How Much It Costs]."

How Many Times Can You Reglaze a Tub?

Experts differ a little on answering how many times you can reglaze a tub; most agree that you can do it once. The consensus is that you may be able to refinish an already refinished tub as long as your bath does not have other issues.

If you are refinishing a tub that has already had its surface done once, then you will need to spend extra time and care sanding down to get down to the original finish. If you are refinishing more than once, you can expect that the job may not last as long as expected. The life of a refinished tub that is being done a second time is around three to five years as opposed to a first-time reglaze that can last up to 10 years when it's well taken care of.

Enjoy Your Refreshed Bathtub for Years to Come!

An old-fashioned acrylic bathtub in modern bathroom, Why Do Bathtubs Peel? [And What To Do About It]

Now you know what causes peeling in your bathtub and what you can do about it. Whichever option you choose, you now have the information you need to make your plan and act on it!

As long as you are giving your bathtub a facelift, you may want to go ahead and do a complete bathroom makeover. Here is some further reading to help get you started: 13 Perfectly Zen Bathroom Ideas.

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