If you have been following along, you are familiar with the progression of our main floor bathroom which has primarily been made over with paint. It started with adding some shiplap, then painting the laminate vanity, followed by stenciling the laminate flooring. With each update I fell more and more in love with this room and the time and energy spent have been so worth it! It has slowly transformed into my most favourite room in our home. Seriously! So next on my to do list for this bathroom was to tackle the tub and tile in the shower. It was a cream colour that looked so dated and dingy next to the white shiplap. It stood out like a sore thumb after replacing the toilet and sink and the decorative tiles had to go! BUT we were not prepared to gut it or to even consider a bath fitter situation so I started researching the Rustoleum Tub and TIle Refinishing kit. For under $60 I could transform my shower so I decided to go for it.
**This is a long and detailed post about my experience , so grab a coffee or a glass of wine and settle in :)
So here it what the tub and tile looked like before;
Gross right?! Ugh, it's a bit embarrassing sharing these. Even after cleaning well, the tile grout was stained with mildew and the tub, well it's seen better days.
I read the instructions with the kit and also several online reviews for people who had used the kit and had a positive experience with it. It didn't seem too challenging but everyone stressed the importance of cleaning and preparing the surface well and provided strong warnings about the strong chemical fumes.
So I gathered my supplies;
- Rustoleum Tub and Tile Refinishing kit from Home Depot
- paint brushes and small foam rollers with tray from the Dollar store (*I always get my paint supplies from the dollar store because they are good quality and inexpensive so I don't mind when they get ruined and I just throw them away)
- green painters tape
- rubber gloves and respirator ** super important to protect yourself from the product. I would also suggest grabbing some goggles
- CLR bathroom and kitchen spray cleaner
- abrasive sponges
I followed the directions and cleaned the tub and tile using bleach water. I wiped everything down with this and a rag and then rinsed with water. I then used comet and a sponge and scrubbed well, rinsing with water. I finished by using the CLR bathroom and kitchen cleaner to remove lime scale, scrubbed with a sponge, wiped with a rag and rinsed with water. I then left it to dry for over an hour. The kit says to remove any caulking beforehand. I tried by best to remove the caulking with an exacto knife but it didn't come off easily and after a half hour I got pretty fed up and figured I had removed the majority of it. Then I used my painters tape to tape everything off which I didn't want painted, I did not remove anything like the faucet, drain, shower head, etc. I did remove the grab bar and didn't replace it. .
My next step is one you may want to avoid as this is where things might have gone wrong. According to the kit's directions, the next step would be to sand with 400-600 grit sandpaper in order to remove shine and ensure the paint can adhere to the surface. My tiles and tub were far from shiny so rather than sand I decided to apply primer instead. While researching use of this kit, I came across a tutorial in which the person had primed prior to using the epoxy mixture. In my mind I thought priming would help with the adhesion. Also, when I had painted my kitchen backsplash tiles I cleaned the surface well and then primed prior to painting with an oil based paint and sealed with polycrylic. This process has held up incredibly well but given that this is a tub and tiles that will constantly be exposed to water, moisture, humidity, etc I knew the process for the kitchen wouldn't be the same and thought that's why it requires the epoxy. Truthfully, I didn't know much about epoxy as this was my first experience with it so I thought priming would be a helpful step. In retrospect, I would not do this again. Honestly, I cannot say that this was necessarily what caused the problems but it is not in the directions so it is probably safe to assume this affected the process.
So, now my tub and tile had been cleaned and primed. I waited about 2 hours for the primer to dry and then continued with the kit. I made sure I had the exhaust fan on as well as a oscillating fan blowing to help with the fumes as it is beyond stinky! Remember your gloves, respirator and goggles. The directions state that you mix equal parts of the base with the activator. Now the trouble I ran into was that all of the tutorials I read online were likely US based and the US kit provides a larger base can that appears about half full and allows room for you to pour the activator in. The Canadian kit is two small cans so they need to be mixed in a separate container. The kit explained the importance of mixing the two equally and also stresses that you only mix the amount you will need as you can only use the mixed product within 6 hours from mixing. Unsure how long this would take I decided to mix half each can together. I did so in a red solo cup. BIG MISTAKE. Again, not being familiar with epoxy, I didn't realize the strength of the chemical and that it would literally eat through the plastic cup. I didn't notice this until I was dripping pink residue everywhere. I went ahead applying the first coat which was quite thick and sticky. I applied it mostly with a bristle brush in order to get in between the tiles and grout lines. After the first coat, many of the decorative tiles were still visible. I left it to dry for an hour as stated in the directions. I mixed the remaining base with the activator in the cans as they were only half full so now allowed for room to mix. This time the consistency was very thin and when applying to the tub it appeared almost translucent. I was immediately concerned as the first and second coat appeared so different. The second coat did not appear to be applying any additional coverage so I started to worry, knowing that I would now need to purchase a second kit. I was bummed as this would immediately double my cost of the project.
So I let this dry overnight with the exhaust and fan running and the door shut. When I entered the bathroom the next day I was super disappointed to determine that the surface was not drying. It was quite sticky and tacky to the touch. I was instantly concerned as the directions state it should feel dry to the touch within an hour but you leave it for 24 hours before applying a third coat and then let it cure for three days. I went ahead and purchased another kit and while at Home Depot I explained my situation to a sales associate. He informed me that he hates two part epoxies for this exact reason. He encouraged me to leave it alone and see if it dries as applying another coat at this point with only make more of a mess and the current sticky parts will never dry. So I listened and let it sit for 72 hours. Every once in awhile I would check and see if it was drying and each time was super disappointed to find that it was still tacky and leaving noticeable finger prints in many spots. Some of it had hardened but at this point I was panicking. Remember I said when I said it was not in the budget to retile and replace the tub or pursue bath fitter? Well it still wasn't in the budget especially after spending $130 on product. So then I started researching what to do with epoxy if it isn't curing. I had a heck of a time coming up with results at first. Although there were lots of negative reviews I was finding for the refinishing kit, no one was talking about a solution. Panic continued to settle in, I even woke up in the middle of the night and spent about 2 hours on my phone researching how to fix my mess.
I then came across suggestions to use a plastic scraper to remove the wet/sticky material and then apply acetone to it which dissolves two part epoxies, This gave me a little bit of hope. So I returned to Home Depot and grabbed myself a bottle. Again, this is a chemical solvent and should only be used with gloves, a respirator, goggles and ventilation. I went at the sticky areas with the plastic scraper but this didn't do much so I applied some acetone to it to dissolve it slightly and then scrape. Well it certainly works at dissolving and you have to be careful with it as I was starting to make a mess with what it was dissolving and how to properly wipe it up. Don't use paper towels as this will get stuck in any of the sticky residue, use a rag and throw out after. Also, ensure you area is prepped well with a drop cloth, I didn't take this precaution and unfortunately managed to drip some of the acetone on my painted floor.
The acetone worked fast and soon I was down to the original floor of the bath tub which seemed to be the area that wasn't curing at all. I scraped what I could and for the areas that were only mildly sticky, I wiped them gently with the rag with a bit of acetone to try and remove the sticky-ness. Then I let it sit overnight.
I came back in the morning and for the first time since starting the project, I was finally feeling better and hopeful that I could now apply the kit again and pray it would cure. I used a handheld plastic container meant for paint and mixed both cans completely together in it. I definitely think this made a difference immediately as it was likely a more appropriate mixing ratio. I still blame Rustoleum for suggesting that you don't mix both cans together at once but only encourage equal ratios. This was definitely a misstep with my first try.
I applied the mixture to the bare areas first using a foam brush. Then I used a combo of a bristle brush and foam roller to all of the tiles and the tub. I was so relieved that it appeared to be covering all of the decorative tiles and everywhere was looking bright and shiny. I applied a second coat to the areas that had been scraped and cleaned with acetone and it was finally starting to appear that the coverage was even. I had about half of the mixture left when I let everything dry. Again it says not to wait more than 6 hours to use after mixing but the first coat also didn't appear dry after the first hour so I decided to leave it. I was content with the coverage if I wasn't able to use the rest of the product within the 6 hour time frame.
Also, I am not sure if it was the mixture of the acetone with the epoxy or if I was just more sensitive to it, but I had to leave the bathroom on several occasions this time around as I started to feel incredibly dizzy. I went outside for fresh air and opened all the windows in the upstairs to allow for a cross breeze and additional ventilation. It took quite awhile to feel better and it left me with a pretty nasty fume headache. Please be careful when using these types of products, make sure you take the proper precautions and breaks as needed! This bathroom is directly beside our two spare bedrooms, thankfully our bedroom is on a different floor. I am thankful to have completed this project now as it is not something I would ever consider if I had children in the home and I also made sure my dog wasn't near it.
I let this dry for several hours and practically cried when I did a touch test and it WASN'T sticky!!! FINALLY!!!!! There were a few small, slightly sticky areas but I knew I would be leaving it alone for at least 3 days so I crossed my fingers. I ended up leaving the tub and tile for about 5 days before having a shower in it. Again, it isn't perfect. There are a few areas that appear to have bubbled since being exposed to water and heat. Nothing seems to be peeling yet, we will see what happens when I have a bath. But it looks much better than it did even if it is only a short term fix! I finished it by applying fresh caulk around the tub where it meets the tile and along the front of the tub where it meets the floor. I also added some caulking in the holes left from the grab bar. I almost cried when I removed the painters tape after caulking and some of the paint from the tub peeled off. Seriously?!?! I didn't know how to fix it given that I had thrown the remaining amount of the epoxy mixture out days ago. I decided to chance it and applied some ultra white semi gloss paint to it and it seems to have done the trick!!
When I finally felt that this project was almost complete, I decided to try to fix my floor where I dropped acetone and ultimately decided to repaint and stencil it. In my original post on this project I mentioned how when applying the polycrylic, it pulled some old paint from the brush across several of the "tiles". I also didn't properly space the stencil the first time around so I decided I could quickly redo it.
It took me two evenings and I followed the same process as I did the first time. The only thing I did different was I started in the corner against the tub so that I wasn't bending the stencil against the tub and the entire wall and I also spaced it properly. It still isn't perfect as no stencil is but I am much happier with it! One project always turns into another.
One other thing I did during this process was apply a fresh coat of paint to the shiplap. Has anyone else had their white shiplap start to yellow? I know paint can do this and wondered if the moisture in the bathroom contributed to this but the shiplap in our entryway has done the same thing. I'm confused considering I used a paint + primer. Moving forward I will use a primer then paint. I plan to repaint the entryway shiplap at some point too, just another thing added to the list :)
So there you have it. For those of you who hung in there and read the whole thing, good work!! heehee. This definitely wasn't the easiest project I have ever completed but looking at the BEFORE and AFTER pictures makes it all worth it !!