Upgrade your bathtub: All you need is a little elbow grease | SteamboatToday.com

Upgrade your bathtub: All you need is a little elbow grease

By Bob Payne
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

Big walk-in showers are certainly having their day. But anyone with young children or grandkids, a reading-in-the-bath habit, or a collection of rubber ducks knows that it’s still a good idea to have a tub in at least one bathroom. Here are a few weekend projects that will help even the most timeworn tub shine anew.


Nothing makes a tub look worse for wear than cracked, yellowed, mold-covered caulking. Replacing it is relatively easy, requiring only a few simple tools, including the same utility knife you probably keep on hand for dealing with Amazon packages. For details on how to remove the old caulking and apply the new, ask at a hardware store or go online. But the key is to use silicone caulking compound. Although you can’t normally paint over it, silicone is more durable than other types of bathtub caulking and holds up better to moisture. Hands-on time for the project: four hours or less.

Removing rust stains 

Removing bathtub rust stains is another weekend project that requires relatively little work to make a big improvement. Numerous commercial rust removers exist, but you can also use natural products commonly found around the house. Lemon juice, white wine vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can all be applied directly. Or make a paste using lemon juice and salt, lemon juice and borax, vinegar and borax, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar. The latter, in case you didn’t know, is a byproduct of wine fermentation and is what gives snickerdoodle cookies their tangy flavor. Let any of these combinations cover the stain for a few hours, then wipe it away with a soft brush or cloth, rinse with water and, if necessary, repeat. Avoid anything that contains bleach and, on fiberglass or acrylic tubs, abrasives. Another alternative for a porcelain tub is to gently scrub the stain with a pumice stone.

Bathrooms in the ‘Boat

For a few more pointers on updating your bathroom, we went to Steamboat Springs interior designer Michael Buccino of Steamboat Interiors, a third generation designerwho has been upgrading interior projects locally for more than 25 years. Here are a few additional ideas for simple upgrades that can go a long way with your bathroom.

Paint — It’s inexpensive and easily done. Plus if you don’t like the color, it’s easy to change again.

Wallpaper — Sometimes just one wall with a pattern will be that accent which brightens up the whole room.

Shelf/coat rack — This will add more surface area for storage and some hooks for towels and robes, which you can never have enough of in Routt County.

Lighting — A simple change of the light fixtures can make a big style upgrade in any bathroom.

Accessories — Don’t overlook the simple things. Sometimes adding something as simple as towel bars or rings hooks in a new finish can easily change a bathroom’s overall style.

Mirrors — Changing the mirror from a plate glass flat mirror to a framed mirror in a new color or finish is another way too easily.

Repairing minor chips 

Although completely refinishing an existing tub will give it a new look, the fumes released during the process can be a health hazard best handled by a professional. But it’s possible to repair minor chips and cracks with products such as Super Glue’s Porcelain Chip Fix, which is easily applied from a squeeze tube. As with similar products, its vapor while it is setting up can be harmful. So consider wearing a paint respirator (they typically cost around $35) and be sure to keep the area as ventilated as possible.

Adding a shine

While installing new bathtub hardware may be within the capabilities of a handy homeowner, the potential for setbacks, such as discovering that you need to cut a hole in the wall, will often make it more practical to call a plumber. But you can apply a fresh shine to faucets and knobs by wrapping them with a vinegar-dampened towel for 10 minutes, then wiping them clean with soap and water. Ketchup, which is mildly acidic, is also useful for shining stainless or copper finishes — just keep it away from porcelain. 

Updating accessories

The fastest way to give a tub a new look can be as simple as adding a new shower curtain/rod, tub caddy or rolling valet. The easiest curtain rods to install are the spring or tension type, which should be set so that the bottom of the curtain hangs 3-5 inches above the floor. Backed by a liner, let fabric and patterns turn the curtain into a bathroom statement.  

If where to prop your book or set your wine glass is important, the answer may be a tub caddy. Basically a tray that spans the two edges of the tub, a tub caddy requires almost no installation, and, when made from materials such as bamboo and teak, adds a pleasingly decadent look. Another popular tub accessory is a shower caddy, which attaches to the showerhead and serves as storage for soap, shampoo and the like. But if reaching for those items, especially once you’ve settled into your suds, is a nuisance, an alternative is a rolling valet, a cart on wheels that puts all your bath amenities as close as an outstretched hand. 

Re-caulking a tub makes a major impact and won’t take more time than a Saturday afternoon.

You can remove rust stains with natural ingredients commonly found around the house: lemon juice, white wine vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide.

Completely refinishing a tub is a job best left to a pro, but with the right product, anyone can repair a minor chip or crack.

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