Many times I prefer old things to new things. I appreciate the character of something used and built to last, and I enjoy the vintage aesthetic. Naturally, when the idea of a claw foot tub came up in our initial design scheming, I started salivating.
My dreams were soon crushed after a short exploration of cost. New tubs were out of the question, most used tubs needed their porcelain interiors re-finished, and finding one with a good faucet and shower curtain assembly seemed an impossibly rare discovery. (The curtain assemblies alone are surprisingly spendy.) We canned the idea and started planning for a more traditional installed tub / tiled shower.
And then, all of a sudden, Julie happened to make an extremely rare discovery on Craigslist. A claw foot tub, complete with faucet and curtain assembly, for a fire-sale price. I called the seller and we drove to Hendersonville the same day to see it for ourselves. For being almost 90 years old, the porcelain finish was in amazing condition. We gave the lady a deposit and I returned the next night with a truck to take it home.
The tub has a long, unknown history of helping people bathe themselves, and that heritage came with many thick layers of cracking and peeling paint. We counted at least 4 colors, including pink, blue, mint green, and white. A fresh coat was in order, so we took to the Depot to stock the stripping and painting armory.
The rest is thankfully history, one including long hours of scraping, sanding, wire-cup-brushing, scrubbing, prepping, priming, and painting. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a few lessons we learned and our materials list.)
And now, enjoy a few pictures of the transformation.
Full disclosure for the overly-regulatory type:
I currently work for Liquid Wrench through my employer, Brains on Fire. I took this can from a bunch of samples they gave our team. They didn’t give me money to post this. If they had, I would have taken it and paid someone to sandblast the tub.
These were my friends:
- Get powered sanding equipment. Scrapers are great for the first round of removal after stripper has been applied, but a drill and oscillating multi tools will save you sore arms and a whole lotta time.
- Our friend Loyd in the paint department at Home Depot confirmed that it’s important to get down to actual metal for the primer and paint to take (if you want the longest lasting finish). We used his recommended metal stripping / paint preparation chemical, and it made a significant (visible) difference in cleaning the surface.
What we used:
- Paint stripper for use on metal applications (We used almost two quarts to do the tub – there were multiple coats of paint)
- 5-in-1 painter’s tools (for scraping)
- A wire cup brush for use in a drill (like this) – it was the hardest working tool on the project
- Some sort of really abrasive sanding disk for use in a drill (for some extra grinding power on the thick spots)
- Oscillating multi-tool with the triangular sanding attachment (awesome)
- Rust-Oleum rust-preventative primer – oil based
- Rust-Oleum white semi-gloss multi-purpose paint – oil based
- Celebratory gyro sandwiches
6 thoughts on “Heavy Iron: The Claw Foot Bathtub”
Great tub. Needs airbrush touch. Do you want ivy or flaming skulls?
Must say…Major kudos to both of you on a super project completed. Julie, way to display that unbeliever Halllberg sense to find deals. Eric, superb documentation to share all necessary details for a successful job (noting personally that I could never undertake such a task). Together, the finished product is stunning and will continue its “history of helping people bathe themselves”.