Q: Can you tell me how I can find a good bathtub refinisher who works in San Francisco? I am looking for a refinisher who will provide references from satisfied customers.

A: It’s time to hit the Yellow Pages or the Web. Look under “Bathtubs and Sinks – Repairing and Refinishing.” Or go to www.google.com and do a search on the words “bathtub refinishing.”

Also try calling a salvage yard or two that specialize in restoration and ask for a recommendation.

After culling all the ads, pick a half dozen refinishers and give them a call. Chat with them and ask about their process and costs. If any of them refuse to give you references, just move on to the next one.

If you are lucky enough to have one of the fine old freestanding clawfoot tubs of yesteryear, you may want to take the tub to the refinisher rather then have the refinisher come to the tub. It’s likely to save you a good deal of money.

We’ve seen these tubs framed in to make poor imitations of modern tubs. We’ve seen them used as planters. We’ve even seen them used as watering troughs for livestock in western Marin County, Calif. Frankly, this offends us. If you have one of these tubs – please restore it!

We may have mentioned that one of Kevin’s homes was a two-story Victorian built in 1879. As near as he could figure, it was built with running water but no toilet. Some time after the house was built, a bath was added on the first floor. When nature called during the night, it was a long trek from the upstairs bedrooms.

As part of the renovation, Kevin decided to put a bath on the second floor, sacrificing a small bedroom for a large bath.

Being ever frugal, Kevin got one of his neighbors to give him a clawfoot tub that was rusting in the backyard. It was in rough shape, to say the least, with rusted feet and stained and chipped enamel. The outside was a collage of rust and old paint. And it had no plumbing fixtures.

Kevin’s first step in restoring this gem was to grind the rust and paint off the exterior. This prepared the tub for a later coat of paint.

Then it was off to the tub refinisher. Kevin chose Miracle Method, a nationwide company that has been around since 1979.

Whichever company you choose, be sure to ask the best way to keep your tub looking like new. Generally, bathtubs don’t get heavy use, so a finish that might not be quite as durable as enamel can work well if you maintain it properly.

Now, what to do with those rusty feet? Brass plating was the answer. Kevin contacted a salvage yard in nearby Berkeley that put him in touch with a foundry that would plate the feet. Meanwhile, Kevin was able to scrounge a faucet. That, too, went to the foundry to be brass-plated.

The only part missing now was the tub overflow. That was available new from the salvage yard. It was the only part that Kevin paid for.

When the tub came home from the refinisher, Kevin painted the outside burgundy to match the walls and installed the feet and fixtures. Brass fixtures and the burgundy exterior beautifully offset the white tub. It was elegant – and done on a dime.

Cost for the entire tub renovation in 1990 was less than $400. That compared very favorably with a new modern tub that would have been totally out of place in an old home.

For our money, the old tubs are several steps above today’s. They may not come with Jacuzzi jets, but they are deeper, longer and a lot more comfortable than their modern-day counterparts.

Bill and Kevin Burnett will attempt to answer your questions although the volume of e-mail sometimes makes this impossible. Contact them at sweat-equity@comcast.net.


Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to newsroom@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 124.

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