You can replace or refinish fixtures with style

Refinishing paints can provide a simple way to restore a fixture's beauty.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The bathroom is supposed to be a spa retreat, right? But chips on the tub, stains in the sink and ugly tile are less than luxurious.
So it comes down to a choice: refinish or replace.
If it were easy, the best option would be to reglaze porcelain-enameled fixtures by re-firing them in an oven. But such a large-scale operation would be too expensive for individual tubs and sinks.
A quick fix exists. Professionals can recoat fixtures using a two-part urethane finish, consisting of a resin and catalyst. "The [urethane] coatings are glossy," says Robert Jones, owner of DreamMaker Bath & amp; Kitchen, a refinisher in Roeland Park, Kan. "But they reflect light differently than porcelain. The [urethane] coating almost has a wet look."
Refinishing paints have improved in the last 15 years, says Dan Allen, owner of Allen's Specialty Coatings in Kansas City. Before, professionals and do-it-yourselfers used more epoxy-based products, which yellowed and stained easily. "New coatings work like the anti-graffiti coatings on buses," he says.
Cost considerations
However, it often costs less to replace fixtures than it does to refinish them. Here's what to consider:
Sinks cost $100 to refinish, about the same price as a new one. Unless you have a retro sink you can't part with, it's best to replace it. You definitely want to replace a kitchen sink because pots and pans would quickly ruin a refinished surface.
Tubs cost up to $300 to refinish inside and out. Mary Hall of Mission, Kan., recently updated her bathroom, installing new tile on the walls along with a new sink and mirror.
Although it would cost about the same to replace her tub, Hall decided to refinish it. That way she didn't have to deal with gaps in the flooring -- new tubs can be a few inches thinner than tubs of a few decades ago. "The finish was just worn off," she says. "It came from years of cleaning it."
Another option for tubs involves covering them with quarter-inch-thick acrylic, which can cost about $1,000.
Tile costs about $400 to refinish because it includes the tub -- otherwise, the acid used to strip the tile would ruin a perfectly good bathtub. It could cost less to replace, depending on the price of tile.
Coating tile also has a big downside: Because it's sprayed on, the color fills in the grout lines. So unless you use white or ivory coatings, the tile could look odd. Brian Bradley of Leawood, Kan., who owns single-family rental homes, had fixtures refinished in several properties, including his own home. "I've had pink tile painted white," he says. "It worked well."
Laminate countertops cost about $500 to refinish on average; replacements start at $1,000. Professionals often use a speckled paint to give bathroom and kitchen countertops a look of a solid surface or granite. But the coating lacks the depth of those finishes and won't last as long. Most coatings have a life span of eight to 10 years.
Getting to work
To refinish fixtures, professionals prep surfaces using a razor blade, solvent and a chemical stripper to loosen rust and old paint. They put masking tape on faucets and other areas in the bathroom so they don't get resurfaced, too. Then they pour hydrofluoric acids on top to make surfaces porous so new paint will adhere to them.
Professionals first spray on an epoxy-based primer, then two coats of an acrylic urethane. To minimize fumes, they use fans and open windows to ventilate. The refinished fixtures should be ready to use in less than 48 hours.
Allen gives customers a choice for follow-up work: He can give them a kit of supplies and instructions, or they can pay $50 to have the last steps of work professionally done. The work entails removing the tape with a razor blade two days after the coating is applied. Using 1500-grit sandpaper on a wet surface, rough areas should be buffed out. A conditioner is added.
The complete curing time for a recoated surface is 30 days, meaning it should not be cleaned until then. Allen suggests using a high-quality car wax once after the curing period because it aids future cleaning.
Professional refinishers offer more than 100 colors, but people commonly choose white or ivory. Most professionals guarantee coatings for five years. In the last decade, Bradley says most coatings in his houses have endured. However, one tub peeled after shampoo pooled on top of it for months.

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