Sunday, March 10, 2013


First, find a tub.
It's below the window.

We bought an old house that had a claw tub in the bathroom. It was in poor shape, but it appeared to be fairly solid.

If the tub isn't located where you want it, then you'll need to disconnect the tub from all of the plumbing and move the tub. This almost goes without saying, though—if you find a claw tub in your house, and it's exactly where you want it, and it's in good shape, then you really don't need to be reading about how to install a claw tub. Just leave it where it is and use it.


Many of these steps can be skipped if you take the tub straight to someone who refinishes tubs. We weren't sure we wanted to do that, so the next step is to strip the old finish.

On our tub, the inside had a porcelain finish and the outside had a painted finish. The tub itself was iron.

Given my lack of management skills, I had a great idea for how to strip the finish from the outside of the tub and clean up the porcelain on the inside: assign the job to my wife. When she didn't have a job to do, she could work on the tub. She did a great job.

Have at it. I don't know what else to tell you to do.

I built a dolly for the tub out of 2X4's so that we could move the tub.

I sleep in that room now.

To strip the paint from the outside, she used a paint-stripper wheel and a corded drill. It took the paint off, and also reveal just how rough the outside of the tub was. The goal on the outside of the tub was to strip as much of the finish from the tub as possible, revealing as much of the iron tub as possible.
This is a paint stripper wheel.

On the inside, she used a few tools. For the flat enough areas (sides and bottom of the tub), she used a palm sander with 150 grit sandpaper. For the curved areas (corners, back of the tub), she used sandpaper and foam sanding blocks. For the inside of the tub, the goal was not to strip the porcelain—sandpaper might be able to do that, but it would probably take years. The goal on the inside of the tub was to remove as much of the corrosion and damaged surface (there was plenty of this) as possible, leaving only a solid surface for filling and finishing.

While my wife was working on it, we rolled the tub all over our house while we worked on the different rooms of the house. Once she was done stripping the tub, we sent the tub home with my in-laws. They took the tub to their farm, where they proceeded to further strip the outside of the tub by sandblasting it.

Then the tub sat for what seems like years. Maybe it was. Math isn't my thing when I'm writing.

Eventually we decided that we wanted to get the tub refinished (not refinish it ourselves, and we also decided against installing a jetted tub). We took it to Surface Solutions, a company (one guy, really) who specializes in refinishing claw tubs at his farm near Shelton, NE.

He did a great job. The generalized version of his refinish technique involves stripping the tub (already done, in our case), filling the pitted and damaged areas with reinforced filler, and then spraying the inside and outside of the tub with enamel. The results nowhere near as durable as the original porcelain finish, but the finish is beautiful and is said to last for years (it has a five year warranty) if cared for properly. That Ajax cleanser stuff you use on your tub? Don't use it on an enamel-finished claw tub. It will explode.

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