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Cast Iron Claw Foot Tub Makeover

Cast Iron Claw Foot Tub Makeover

Our bathroom before picture is not exactly inspiring - It's actually pretty terrifying. The room was cramped and small. Somewhere along the line an extra closet took over part of the bathroom landing the tub in the middle of the room. The laminate tile was peeling and the sloped plaster ceiling was crumbling everywhere. Replacing the vanity and toilet was easy enough but putting in a modern tub/ shower was way out of my DIY league and budget. The tub was going to have to stay but it definitely need a makeover.

Bathroom - May 2015

Bathroom - May 2015

Bathroom - September 2015

Bathroom - September 2015

After we removed the tub we noticed that there were some markings on the underside. I was interested in trying to dig up some history. There was no manufacturer stamp or date and all we learned from the makings was that the tub was made in the USA and is 4 1/2 feet long. Not all that interesting.

Cast iron claw foot tub underside markings 

Cast iron claw foot tub underside markings 

Back to work! There were several steps to this makeover.

Claw foot tub before repainting

Claw foot tub before repainting

  • Repainting the outside of the tub
  • Touching up the inside enamel
  • Cleaning up the existing faucet hardware
  • Buying and installing new hardware
  • Hemming the shower curtains to length

The first thing I tackled was touching up the paint on the outside of the tub. This wasn't particularly difficult because it was already painted black and that was the color I was looking for. When we turned the tub over you could see a few layers of paint, I counted three, white, baby blue, and black and then there was a section that was up against the wall that as raw cast iron that had never been painted. You can also see in this picture where we took out the extra closet that was taking up most of the bathroom space and had forced the tub into the middle of the room.

We started by setting the upside down and giving it a good cleaning with TSP heavy duty cleaner. Then I scraped the rough patches with a wire brush to removed any loose paint. Then I cleaned the tub again with TSP and after allowing it to dry I hit it with some liquid sander to prime the surface for new paint. For paint I used Rust-Oleum Black metal paint and applied two coats of fresh paint to the entire tub basin and feet with a small roller and a brush on the foot details. I chose to leave the feet on because they seemed pretty sturdy and I didn't want to compromise that by taking them apart and reassembling later. In the end this part of the project took about an afternoon to complete start to finish.

Prepping tub for new paint with wire brush

Prepping tub for new paint with wire brush

Claw foot tub fresh black paint

Claw foot tub fresh black paint

Next Maxx took care of the rust around the drain and faucet fixtures. He removed the rust with a grinder until the raw cast iron was exposed and there was no remaining rust. We then sprayed the spots with 2 coats of Rust-Oleum metal primer and 3 coats of Rust-Oleum enamel spray paint. We went with white and it doesn't match the original enamel perfectly (the original is more of an eggshell shade of white as apposed to a paper white) but the affected areas are almost entirely covered by the fixtures so it blends in pretty well. We were lucky that this was the only rust damage.

Cast iron tub rust around fixtures 

Cast iron tub rust around fixtures 

Cast Iron tub after grinding off rust

Cast Iron tub after grinding off rust

Cleaned claw foot tub faucet 

Cleaned claw foot tub faucet 

Next I cleaned the existing hardware that was still in good condition. This included everything from the faucet down. The faucet was in great shape and heavy! I bet the faucet alone weighs 5 lbs. I was able to get all of the soap scum off of it with toilet bowl cleaner. I find that toilet bowl cleaner is a little more caustic than general bathroom surface cleaner so it's perfect for stuff like this. After a little scrubbing it was as good as new! 

The riser pipe and shower ring couldn't be saved. At some point they had been replaced with a DIY copper pipe which must have looked nice for a while but it eventually patinaed from all of the moisture and was flaking off everywhere! Gross! I got replacement hardware from Signature Hardware they seem to be the go to for online selection of claw foot tub hardware. They were pretty pricey (this ended up being the biggest investment we made in the bathroom) but the customer service was amazing - you really do get what you pay for. Here are links to the exact curtain ring and riser pipe I purchased. 

I ended up going with a brushed nickel finish instead of chrome. The faucet I saved is chrome but literally everything else in the bathroom is brushed nickel and it is so much easier to keep clean. So as much as i hate that they don't match it made sense to compromise and not spend even more to replace the perfectly good chrome faucet just so they would match and now I hardly notice anyway.  

After a few attempts Maxx got all of the parts put together and we had a shower again! Fortunately there was only really one day where we were without a shower. This was all coming together the week we moved into the new apartment. Nothing like the threat of no shower in the middle of August to motivate you to learn a little about pluming :)

After all of the hardware was installed the last project I had was to get the shower curtains hemmed to the right height. Our ceilings are particularly low upstairs because it's a half-story. We put the the curtain ring as high as we could but the interior curtain still bunched up on the inside of the tub and the exterior decorative curtain dragged along the floor. This is the first sewing project I've done since middle school so I was pleasantly surprised with how well I did. With the curtains at the right height everything looks a lot sharper. 

Shower curtain before hemming

Shower curtain before hemming

Shower curtain after hemming 

Shower curtain after hemming 

As a finishing touch we added a shower tote around the riser pipe that is actually an over door storage contain we found on Amazon. I'm hoping to make one of those cute plank tub shelves at some point when I have more time for fun DIY projects. Now the bathroom really just needs some finishing work, fresh pain on the new trim and old built cabinets. I can't believe how big of a difference we were able to make on such a tight budget. Can't wait to finish the last few tings a do a full reveal! 

If you have any questions about revamping an old claw foot tub give me a shout in the comments! 

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