Yes. The cast iron tub refinishing procedure also known as cast iron tub reglazing, not only is a viable alternative to replacement when the tub is old, stained, damaged, or simply doesn’t look good anymore but has become the number one choice for contractors nowadays when they are hired by a homeowner to remodel a bathroom where there is a cast iron bathtub installed.
There are multiple reasons for that but the two main ones are:
1- the substantially higher level of quality these bathtubs normally have compared to the newer types and,
2-the massive weight cast iron bathtubs have, which makes their removal significantly more complicated and expensive.
In this article, not only will we discuss some ins and outs of the cast iron tub refinishing process and the advantages of this procedure over the choice of replacement but also a little bit of the origins of this kind of tubs, how they are made, what are the different types of existing cast iron tubs, among other interesting topics.
WHAT IS A CAST IRON TUB?
A cast iron bathtub is a bathtub made of melted iron fused with porcelain. This mix is poured into a mold that is located inside a blast furnace. The tub is then coated with enamel to prevent chipping. The result is a bathtub that is highly durable and considerably resistant to scratches, heavy impacts, and other mechanical agents due to its baked enamel coating. Its solid and compact structure makes it much more durable than any other kind of tubs and since cast iron naturally absorbs heat, this bathtub will hold water temperatures for much longer periods, creating a more lasting and, consequently, superior bathing experience.
ORIGINS OF CAST IRON TUBS
The cast iron tubs had their origins in the mid 18th century. Back then they were made of the stand-alone type only, decorated with claw-shaped feet (known today as “clawfoot tubs”). This design of ball and claw originated in the Netherlands, possibly artistically inspired by the Chinese motif of a dragon holding a precious stone. The design spread to England, where it found much popularity among the aristocracy, just as bathing was becoming increasingly fashionable. Early bathtubs in England tended to be made of cast iron, or even tin and copper with a face of paint applied that tended to peel with time.
WHEN WERE CAST IRON TUBS FIRST SEEN IN AMERICA?
Cast iron bathtubs have been around in America for way over a century already. They were seen for the first time in an American vessel in 1842. They were the first type of bathtubs used in this continent and were considered a luxury item in the late 19th century. Unless they were in fancy places the majority of them tend to be unsophisticated, in most cases simple and somewhat rustic until a Scottish-born inventor named David Buick created a process for bonding porcelain enamel to cast iron in the 1880s while working for the Alexander Manufacturing Company in Detroit.
The company, as well as others including Kohler Company, began successfully marketing porcelain-enameled cast-iron bathtubs, a process that remains broadly the same to this day…
CAST IRON TUBS IN THE PRESENT DAY
In the latter half of the 20th century, the once-popular clawfoot tub morphed into a built-in tub with a small apron front. This enclosed style afforded easier maintenance and, with the emergence of colored sanitary ware, more design options for the homeowner. The Crane Company introduced colored bathroom fixtures to the United States market in 1928, and slowly this influx of design options and easier cleaning and care led to the near demise of clawfoot-style tubs.
At present cast iron clawfoot tubs are still being made, besides but there are many other material options: stone resin, steel, acrylic, and fiberglass.
PROS AND CONS OF CAST IRON TUBS COMPARED TO TUBS MADE OF OTHER MATERIALS
Out of all the materials that bathtubs are made of today: acrylic, fiberglass, steel among others, cast iron bathtubs continue to be the finest and strongest ones. Two of the most important things that make them so considerably superior are their tremendous durability and the fact that they offer the best user experience due to their fantastic heat retention, which allows for longer soak times.
Regarding durability, we must say in favor of cast iron tubs that they very rarely get damaged due to the effects of corrosion. After many years (20 or longer) they may show some signs of aging which in most cases barely translates into a dull surface or maybe a chip here and there, as opposed to steel tubs that start showing rust after just a few years (sometimes even sooner) and if they are not refinished quickly they end up with a hole, most frequently around the drain or the overflow.
Acrylic or fiberglass tubs, on the other hand, very often suffer serious cracks at the bottom due to the constant effect of the weight of the user over their thin and weak body. Cast iron bathtubs, on the contrary, are compact and solid, a characteristic that makes it almost impossible for them to crack anywhere.
However, cast iron bathtubs still pose some important disadvantages. One of the main ones is cost. They are usually way more expensive than bathtubs of any other materials. A regular built-in standard size Kohler villager (one of the cheapest ones), for example, costs around $570, more than twice as much as an acrylic, fiberglass, or steel tub of the same characteristics and decent quality which range around $200 to $250. Other models of built-in cast iron tubs manufactured by Kohler at present, fluctuate from $750 to $1,200.
The second drawback of cast iron bathtubs is that they are the heaviest of all the bathtub materials available due to the features and qualities of cast iron itself. They normally weigh between 200 and 370 pounds on average, unfilled, making them harder to handle and requiring a conscious and time-consuming reinforcement of the area where it is to be placed, especially on higher stories, which would raise the costs of the project.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO REFINISH A CAST IRON TUB?
The base price for the refinishing of a cast iron tub, when done by a reputable bathtub refinishing company, varies from state to state and depends on whether the tub is a built-in standard size tub or a clawfoot tub. For the built-in standard size tub, the average price ranges from $230 to $350 while for the clawfoot tub would be from $450 to $750 if it’s done outside and inside. Other factors like whether there are multiple chips to repair, excessive wear, or significant deterioration could also affect the price.
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WHY IS CAST IRON TUB REFINISHING THE WISEST CHOICE OF ALL WHEN ITS TIME TO REMODEL?
Due to the significant disadvantages of cast iron bathtubs mentioned, home developers nowadays tend to often opt for other alternatives like steel or acrylic tubs when they build a new house to the detriment of quality. These same weight inconveniences combined with its virtues, however, make cast iron tub refinishing the preferred choice for contractors when the time to remodel a bathroom arrives and the bathtub currently installed is a cast-iron one.
Main advantages of cast iron tub refinishing
The advantages of cast iron bathtub refinishing are multiple and undeniable for both contractors and homeowners:
1-HIGHER DURABILITY THAN REPLACEMENT DUE TO MATERIAL SUPERIORITY: As we have explained previously the superiority of cast iron over other materials that bathtubs are made of today is overwhelming, so the homeowner, by choosing the option of cast iron tub refinishing, would always be voting for a much better bathtub that would last way longer.
2-ECO-FRIENDLY: Replacing a cast iron bathtub creates a lot of waste when you dispose of the old one. There are packaging and support materials the contractor must either recycle or dispose of too. This means that the cast iron bathtub refinishing option would avoid a couple of thousand pounds of trash out of local landfills.
3-LOWER COSTS: The costs will go down significantly for both, the contractor would not have to deal with the removal of the fixture which would require unnecessarily purchase and installation of a new tub as well as demolition and rebuild part or all the structure of the bathroom to be able to take the existing tub out while the homeowner would keep a much better bathtub for her enjoyment.
4- LESS STRESSFUL FOR THE HOMEOWNER: Since a new bathtub would not need to be purchased and installed and there will not be demolition and trash disposal, the bathroom remodeling project would be significantly smoother and shorter, thus less stressful for the homeowner.
5- FACTORY FINISH: The look of the final product of a cast iron tub refinishing, if done with an experienced and reputable bathtub refinishing company, would be spotless and in some cases could even be superior to that of many brand new tubs that are manufactured nowadays whose quality and finish sometimes is not what we could call the best.
6- MUCH FASTER PROCEDURE: The professional cast iron bathtub refinishing procedure is relatively quick and expedite. The average time averages around 2 to 3 hours, including all the steps of the bathtub refinishing process: acid wash, deep clean-up, removal of the old caulking, application of bonding agent, and spraying of topcoat are some of the most important ones. It could take a little longer in some cases when the bathtub has been refinished or painted before or when there are chips that need additional attention.
In conclusion, if you decided to gut your bathroom and re-do it, always ask your contractor to refinish your cast iron tub instead of having it replaced. Not only will you keep a much better tub but will you save time, money and will you avoid lots of stress and headaches.