New Porcelain Tubs are BETTER than the Antique Ones

By Kerry Knight

A question I am often asked, “Is it better to buy a new cast iron and porcelain tub or to restore it to like new condition?” This is a great question, however the answer I often give is not the one people are expecting, especially if the old tub has been in the family a long time.

We've all seen the old cast iron and porcelain tubs from yesteryear, lying around gardens, farms and ranches. Many have been turned into watering troughs for cows and horses. They are rusting on the outside and pretty beat up on the inside. Good luck in finding the cast iron legs that were original to the tub. You might be able to buy a set of antique legs that fit the tub from someone that handles this for about $50 per leg. These old tubs can date back as far as the late 1880s, often with the date stamped right on the bottom of it, so the condition of the tub can be pretty rough.

Are you an Antique Lover?

Many antique lovers have gone out in search of them. A purchase of a discarded antique claw foot tub could range from $200-400. If they are fortunate enough to locate one in decent shape, they are looking at a number of refurbishment stages to bring it to an acceptable, finished condition. First, the outside of the tub, (cast iron) is no doubt, rusted or has several coats of lead paint from many years of use. The tub will have to be sandblasted to bring the cast iron back to its original form. This can be expensive, sometimes $100 or more. Then the outside must be primed and painted again so that the cast iron doesn't rust again. Left unfinished, it will rust quickly, when exposed to the elements.

The porcelain will then be the center of attention. What shape is it in? Most old tubs will have chips, missing porcelain, scratches, and deep stains, all which require professional refinishing. Most refinishers who work on this type of tub will charge $700 or more to repair the porcelain and paint the inside of the tub. 

Let's add up the cost so far. 

Cost of the old tub -   $400
Sandblasting -            $100
Refinishing -               $700
Replacing Legs -       $200
Total                         $1,400

Keep in mind, the total listed above does not include the cost of searching for a person that does sandblasting or refinishing, the hauling expense (these tubs can weigh over 400 lbs.), the agony of lifting the tub time and again, the wear and tear on your tools and the long wait in getting the project completed.

What if You Don’t Like the finished Product?

Moreover, what if, after everything has been done, you are not satisfied with the finished product?  After all, we are talking about painting the tub to look like porcelain.  Not all refinishers are great at what they do.

Nevertheless, let's be positive.  If everything goes well, and you are happy with the result after spending quite a sum of money, what does the future hold for your antique tub?  Special care for the surface will be required since we are dealing with a painted tub.  Certain cleaners cannot be used.  It will need to be polished from time to time.  Then, after a few years (if you're lucky), you'll have to have it refinished again.  Why? Because the paint will peel over time.  That's what paint does.  Now you're looking at spending money all over again.

Is There a Better Way?

Yes!  Purchase a NEW cast iron and porcelain claw foot tub.  The surface will be brand new.  New porcelain.  New cast iron.  The legs on the new tub are not cast iron, they come in chrome, brushed nickel, even oil rubbed bronze.    They even come in unique shapes; not just the traditional roll top, but also the slipper tub, dual ended, pedestal and double slipper.  And most importantly, the price is comparable to the cost of refinishing an old tub, sometimes even lower.  This is a no brainer. It’s one thing if you’re refinishing an old tub for a museum because you’re trying to preserve a special piece of history. It’s a whole other matter is you’re doing this for yourself. Don't waste time, your hard-earned money and your labor on that old discarded tub when you can have a perfectly designed NEW CLAW FOOT TUB for the same or less money.

In this article, I have outlined the steps it takes to restore and refinish an old claw foot bathtub. I spell out the advantages and considerable disadvantages that come with the restoration/refinishing process. I also compare the cost of this process with that of purchasing a new claw foot tub. I have provided the process that can be used to restore a historic claw foot tub so that it looks like new. I have also shown why I believe replacing the old claw foot tub with a new one is the better way to go.  

If you have found this article to be useful, please pass it on to your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, please leave it in the comment section below. If you have a question, feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article. It’s been my pleasure telling about how we restore old claw foot tub for our clients. Thanks again for sharing this journey with us.  Until next time.

Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc., and in Jacksonville Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the best of Jacksonville Chamber Award three years running. If you would like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231 or email them at
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  1. After reading this, its obvious that new beats refinishing hands down! :D

  2. If it looks just as good and lasts ten times as long, what's there to think about?