(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

DIY Tub and Tile Reglazing

As I mentioned briefly in the Rehabbing a Bad Bathroom post; the tub surround in my master bathroom got redone, and there is a slightly bigger hole in the ozone. Both shall be explained here. Warning: this is a wordy post.

The Leadup ~
When I looked at the place, the master bathroom was boring, had an ugly floor, but gave an overall impression of being clean and functional. I even liked the simple white waffle-weave shower curtain.

I don't know why it did not occur to me to pull back that shower curtain and look at what was inside. I'd looked and formed opinions of the showers in every other property I went through. Seems I was blinded by love for the place and forgot all about bathroom due diligence.
Bad move kid.
During the home inspection, the inspector went to have a gander at the shower, but upon pulling back the curtain, we saw no shower stall; only ooold, crusty, sliding glass shower doors. Ok, not a big deal, I could easily rip them out and patch the holes with caulk.
When he opened the door, I was quite displeased to see brownish-green tile on the surround, with patches of white tile around the bottom.
What the what???
The white tile was clearly a replacement of some of the avocado tiles. The inspector didn't see any current issues; so whatever the problem was that necessitated the fix had been solved. Again, not a deal breaker, but the avacadosity was a much bigger issue and I was a bit grumbly at this point for the suprise, and that I hadn't seen it sooner.

A shot after the doors were removed.
Oh honey.....what did they do to you??

After removing the doors, there was adhesive left behind from the bottom track. It was applied in such a way that it had not sealed the connection between the track and the tub, so water leaking in over time had created mold, which in turn had eaten into the porcelain. Removing the mold and the adhesive left a very pitted strip all the way across the top of the tub wall. It is the grey line in the picture above.
The tiles were so ugly, I'd known that I wanted to reglaze them. With the exposed iron on the tub, I would need to reglaze the whole of that as well, since patching looks cruddy and is not durable.


I had seen all sorts of information about getting a professional company to come and reglaze tile, but surprisingly found no home-blogger tutorials or walk throughs about doing it yourself with a kit.
While professional reglazing seemed to produce amazing results and garner tons of rave reviews, there was an equal amount of doom and gloom statements about how the diy kits are horrible to use, have immediately bad results, and fail quickly. I did not want to waste time or money on the kits only to run into trouble later, but neither was I going to be paying someone hundreds of dollars to do it, nor replacing the tub and tile.

An example of professionally reglazed tub and tile.
The floor seems to have eluded capture.

So, I ended up doing a lot of research into why the professional method was so great, and why the diy method seemed to not work. The diy method seems to have the following critical failings:
1. Does not use etching chemicals, leading to bad glaze adhesion.
2. Hard to apply evenly, so produces a lumpy, uneven, dull, and unattractive surface.
3. Takes a long time to dry.
4. Harsh chemical smell.
5. Immediate or soon after scratching, chipping, or bubbling.

It seems that the lack of a porous surface for the diy kit's epoxy to mechanically bond with was the root of all evil.
I thought that I could overcome that big adhesion issue, work with the material's application limitations, minimize my contact with the fumes, and give it plenty of time to dry as I hadn't moved in yet. I bought 2 kits and dove in.

$37 at Home Depot

I read the instructions, and it seemed that the process was indeed insufficient to create a good surface for adhesion. It told users to prep the surface simply by using the provided degreasing wash and scrubbing with steel wool.
As with some other people who seemed to get good results (per the product reviews), I deviated from the directions for both surface prep and glazing.

I'll spoil the secret now: I got FANTASTIC results that have lasted for 8 months so far and show no signs of potential spontaneous failure. Listed below are the steps to get there.

Surface prep steps:
1. Scrub the heck out of the tub and tile with heavy duty household cleaner.
2. Remove all caulk. 
3. SAND the tub and tile with a mid level grit sandpaper. 
I used an orbital sander and 120 grit paper. You don't want to gouge the tile, just remove the shiny top glaze.
Use a particulate filtering mask, same as with any sanding project, to avoid inhaling the powdered glass.
4. Use the steel wool to scrub the surface with the provided cleaner product. 
I doubt this made much of a difference, but I did so for good measure anyway.
Be careful here, the caulk is gone so try and minimize the amount of wash seeping into any cracks.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, two times through. 
This wash n abrade cycle is actually on the instruction sheet. With sanding, this lets you gradually and evenly remove the shine from the tiles.
6. Wipe dry and let air out for a day or two. 
This lets any moisture that has gotten through caulkless seams dry out so you don't create a mold vault.
7. Tape edges and hardware.

Glaze prep steps:
1. Set the temperature to above 70.
This will help the glaze cure strong and be shiny.
2. Turn on the fan in the bathroom.
3. Put on some teeny and/or lightweight clothing.
Even with the fan on, it's gonna get hot in there with the door closed.
4. Mask up.
Get a mask that protects you from vapors/fumes. This will generally be a N95 or R95 rated mask. The epoxy is seriously not good for your lungs, and though masks are not the most stylish or comfortable things to wear: cancer is clearly less fun. Suck it up, it wont cost you much and you'll probably wear it again for another project. Or be someone from The Hot Zone for halloween. Or both. 
5. Put on a pair of goggles. 
Again, this is a big boy epoxy and your eyes will not like it. Grab a pair from your swimming stuff. 
6. Take a picture of yourself. You are aquaman. Nice short shorts. 

Tile Glazing steps:
Note: For changing the color of tile, it is recommended you use the brush on type rather than the spray. You are not going to be able to fight the fact that you can't get a perfectly smooth finish without spraying. Work with the nature of the material, and your inevitably imperfect diy technique, to come up with an attractive result rather than trying to fight it.

1. Use a BRUSH to apply an initial THIN layer of glaze to the tiles.
Ignore the instructions that say roller for this part.
2. Start in a top corner of the tile surround and brush in the same diagonal direction for all strokes.
This is part of the working with the material ramble above. Rollers are for flat and even results, which just aint gonna happen, so why set up the project for failure? Textured tiles exist in the world, so it was not a stretch to make these patterned, thereby also giving myself a lot of wiggle room for lumps and mistakes.

Here you can see the brushing texture and level of coverage on the first coat.

3. Go horizontally across each section then top to bottom.
This worked well for me and helped me keep a consistent and blended brush stroke.

Wrapping up the 1st layer.

After you have finished the surround, move onto the tub.

Tub Glazing steps:
1. Use a roller to apply an initial REALLY THIN layer of glaze.
While there is such a thing as textured tile, there are no textured tubs. Also, the tile is at eye level whereas the tub is at your feet. Any imperfections here due to the roller will be less noticeable.
The glaze seems to work and dry better on vertical surfaces than horizontal. When horizontal layers are applied too thick, it does not dry well. I know this because I did have issues in some spots where I'd caked it on and had to fix later. Not a problem with the product, just my application.
2. Start at a back corner and slowly work your roller back and forth longways in sections around the tub.
Do whole sections at once to minimize ridges: all of the wall-adjoining rim, all of the far side wall, front wall, back wall, etc.
3. Roll longways across all tub surfaces to tie in sections.
Work quick, this can't be done if it has already gotten tacky.
4. Don't forget the front of the tub.

1. Give it 3 days to dry.
The directions tell you to redo it in a couple hours, or a couple days. This stuff is notoriously slow to dry, which happens when multiple layers are applied too soon, and it becomes a molten wrinkly nightmare. Have patience and give each layer a good long time to dry before slopping on the next one.
2. Leave temperature set, bathroom fan on, and door closed. Turn on the house fan.
If it's possible, stay out of the house for those three days, as the smell will waft even with the door closed. If this isn't an option, make sure to keep some windows open and the house fan on.

After 1 layer.
Already a huge difference!

After the first layer, you will see the spots of the old tile color showing through, grout lines that need more glaze, etc. Thats fine, leave it be. Once it's dry, you've got two more layers to go which will even everything out.
The picture above does not show the imperfections well, but you can see them in the close-up shots.

An additional two layers resulted in this:


The directions will tell you to give the last layer extra time to dry. Do it. Double it. Triple it. Then add a couple extra days. You don't have to have the fans on, the heat cranked, or the door closed, but do not use the shower. This looong final drying time is another key step in making sure it is durable.

When I finished, the ugly paint on the wall was looking uglier compared to the shiny new white tiles, so I primed and painted a quick coat of tiffany blue on it. The wall color was later tweaked and more green added, but I digress.
The effect that the glazing had on the room, helped by updated paint, was tremendous.

Before & After

As I mentioned above: the results were great. I have not had any bubbling, cracking, or peeling. I did have some molten wrinkly issues on several horizontal spots in the tub where I'd put on layers too thick. That took several months to dry completely, at which time I sanded the wrinkles away and applied a thin layer to just those problem areas. That was my bad, not the kit, so overall I'd say from what I've seen so far, using the at home kit is a good money saving bet if you go above and beyond the directions a little bit.



  1. you should put a pronunciation guide for cabindo. i feel special when i try to pronounce it. lol

    1. Say it like you are a swarthy man on a tella-novella. Putting 'el' in front helps too. ;)

  2. Wow, your bathroom looks great now. Maybe I will look into tile reglazing for mine. Thanks for sharing this article and those pictures on your experience with this!

  3. I really want to save our tub but am so concerned with all the products "known to cause birth defects etc" I worry that even if I hire someone that the epoxy that will be adding toxic material to our home.. Did you find any products that you felt good about?

  4. We used the DIY kit to redo our walk in tile shower. It looks great. We let it dry for a week before using. After five months it still looks good! Hopefully it will last for years.

  5. You know your projects stand out of the herd. There is something special about them. It seems to me all of them are really brilliant!
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