How to Paint a Clawfoot Tub
Want to add character to a freestanding or clawfoot tub? Learn how to paint the outside of the tub for a designer look at a fraction of the cost!
Let me tell you two absolute truths about renovations. First, they always cost more than you hope. And second, sometimes you have to get really creative to accomplish your vision. Today’s project is a result of both of those realities: how to paint a clawfoot tub.
We purchased a little Texas ranch house several years ago, but it was in need of a lot of work.
Fortunately, the existing attic provided a lot of extra square footage we needed, so we decided to build that out, adding a bedroom, family room…
And this bathroom.
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I had visions of a black clawfoot tub tucked into the nook under the eaves in the converted attic bathroom… but budget was running low by that point. And the only black tub I could find was $500 more than the white tub. So I began experimenting.
We purchased this acrylic fiberglass tub, and I started by testing my idea on the back side. The one that would forever be hidden against the wall in the space.
And it worked! So, as you can tell, I repeated the steps on the rest of the tub, and I give you what you see today. Let me show you how.
How to Paint a Freestanding Tub: Video Tutorial
And for those of you who prefer written directions, get the step by step process of how to paint an acrylic tub below!
How to paint a tub
Learn how to paint the outside of a freestanding or clawfoot tub with these steps.
- Remove the legs and other hardware.
Take off the clawfeet and any other hardware you can remove from the bottom.
- Sand the outside of the tub.
Give the outside of the tub a light sanding, removing the sheen of the tub’s finish. You want a nice, matte surface for the paint to adhere.
- Clean the tub.
Using damp paper towels, be sure to remove all sanding dust from the outside of the tub.
- Tape off everything you don’t want painted.
BE SURE YOUR DRAIN HOLES ARE COVERED (you don’t want paint spraying through the holes to the interior of your tub!). Then use plastic and quality painter’s tape to tape off the top and lip of the tub so only the bottom is exposed.
- Prime the tub.
Using a high-quality bonding primer, apply a light, even coat to your entire surface.
- Paint the tub.
Once the primer is dry according to package directions, apply a high-quality water-resistant paint. Oil based paints or exterior paints are a good choice for withstanding the damp bathroom. I used this exterior paint in a satin finish.
Brush, roll, or spray the paint, careful to avoid brushstrokes. Once dry, sand lightly (if needed) and clean before applying a second coat of paint. Apply a second coat and let dry.
- Reattach hardware and install tub.
DIY Painted Tub Tips and FAQs
Can I paint the outside of a tub that is already installed?
This tutorial obviously assumes your tub is not installed. But can you paint a tub that’s already installed? I think so!
The trick will be protecting your floors, taping off the hardware VERY carefully, and getting into the nooks and crannies… the job would be harder, but I don’t think it’s impossible.
Can I paint the inside of my tub?
I would not recommend this method for painting the inside of a tub. This is purely for the outside of a tub that will only receive drips and moisture from the air. Tub refinishing is what you want if you need to paint a bathtub on the inside.
Tub and tile refinishing kits are your best bet for something like that. These come with epoxy paint and require that you wear a mask. I have not actually used a tub and tile refinisher myself, but my friend Lauren used a rust oleum kit and had great results if you’d like to see it in action.
Can I paint a cast iron tub using these same steps?
Yes! I love the idea of restoring an old cast iron tub to life… We just didn’t find one that was in good shape and the right size for our space.
Be sure to sand off any old, flaky finish. If you have trouble, you could try a little paint stripper to get it clean and ready. Then use a bonding primer that is made for metal.
How will it hold up?
I’m pleased to say that I did this project about a year ago, and we haven’t had any problems at all. There was a small chip in the paint during installation, but I touched that up and haven’t had any chips, peels, or scratches since.
To be fair, this tub at the ranch doesn’t get nearly the use that it would if we lived there full time… but it does get looooooonnnnnng baths from the kiddos after playing in the woods. And the shower is used heavily (since that bathroom is shared by at least four people each time we visit).
So the tub has definitely been put to the test while we are at the ranch. I wanted to wait a full year before I shared the tutorial to be sure my experiment worked. So far so good!
How do you design around a painted clawfoot tub?
I love to use simple, classic materials in order to let the tub shine. You can see more about our attic bathroom here, or shop the sources from the space below.
Another helpful tip for styling a clawfoot tub is to include a step stool or wall shelf. Since most freestanding and clawfoot tubs don’t have ledges, these will help you to store soaps, set drinks, and more!
Here are several cute options:
I hope you found this tutorial on how to paint a clawfoot tub helpful! Be sure to pin it for later and tell me… have you had similar creative journeys when trying to achieve a particular vision and stay within budget??
I am drooling!!🤤 Everything looks so good! Awesome job!!
Thank you, Victoria!
You make it seem easy! Great job. I would have never thought to use exterior paint. Love the black!
Thank you so much, Cindy!! It was a gamble, but I’m so thrilled with how it turned out! 😉
Personally, I am not a fan of clawfoot tubs but you did a beautiful job of painting yours. It looks great!
Thank you, Jo!
What did you use to finish the feet? Chrome-like spray paint for metal?
The feet actually came in a chrome finish, so I left them as they were. I hope this helps!
Gorgeous!What paint color did you use for the exterior?
After using a high quality primer, this is the paint I used for the exterior: https://www.kilz.com/magnolia/color/blackboard-JG-05
question, I’d like to buy a clawfoot tub for my remodel. However at the base where you lay, the dimensions on most are only 16″ wide, super narrow. I’m 5’6″ 130 lbs. Seems very narrow even for me, never mind a bigger person. What’s your’s? Is it comfortable for long soaks? Thanks Debi
Hi Debi, the bottom edges are curved, so it’s hard to find the exact base to measure. The specifications on my tub say 16″, though, so perhaps it’s the same as what you’re looking at? I’ve never felt cramped in this tub, though, and I’m of roughly similar size to you. Others larger than myself have used the tub, too, and been very comfortable. I hope that helps!
thanks for taking your time to reply to me on this !!
absolutely stunning! I have charcoal enamel paint that i used on my kitchen backsplash. Wondering if i need to prime an old tub that already has enamel on the exterior? Also, how did you do the feet? Thank you
I always recommend priming as it will help maintain the finish longer. The claws on the tub were a part of the tub kit.
Thank you for responding so quickly and sorry that i didn’t see the previous question you’d already answered about the feet. My tub is 1930s iron with enamel already on the outside. Do you think just priming (i have used Bullseye 1-2-3 which is like kilz on other projects) is enough or do i have to remove the old enamel first?
2 coats of primer should be ideal! Make sure the surface is clean as well.
How is the paint holding up? Acrylic, being like plastic, could scratch or peel easily. We have an elderly acrylic tub (20 years) and it is in great shape. But some yellowing on the undersides of the exterior. We would like to paint it.
Carol, we are super pleased with the finish up to this date. You can also explore enamel paint finishes as well.