How to Restore a Clawfoot Tub
LESLIE: Patrice in California is looking for some ideas on reusing an old tub.
Patrice, do you want to use it as a tub again or perhaps a planter?
PATRICE: A planter?
PATRICE: Oh, that would work, maybe. I was thinking about trying to use it indoors. I don’t know what it would take to fix it up and I’d have to remodel the bathroom and it may be way out of my price range.
LESLIE: So you want to re-function it as a continuing use as a bathtub.
PATRICE: If it’s possible. Can people do that?
LESLIE: Is it like a beautiful, clawfoot tub?
PATRICE: Yeah, it’s clawfoot.
TOM: Oh, that’s nice.
PATRICE: Yeah, it’s probably 50, 60 years old.
TOM: Yeah. Well, what you might want to do is have it re-enameled. Now where are you getting this old bathtub?
PATRICE: It was used as a horse water trough on the property of my parents. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Oh, really?
PATRICE: But it’s in …
TOM: Oh, wow. So it’s got a bit of family history to it.
TOM: Well, I would definitely try to reuse that. You know, we used to have one of those in my house growing up and I remember that when my grandmother owned her house – it’s been in our family for many, many years – that it was pulled out of the bathroom and it sat outside for many years and we used to wash the dogs in it. (chuckles) And I’m sad that that’s not around today because it would make a beautiful addition to the bathroom. I mean what’s old is new.
LESLIE: Oh, clawfoot tubs are gorgeous.
TOM: Yeah, what you’re probably going to want to do is have that completely re-enameled. There are services available that do that. You can …
LESLIE: And it’s far less expensive than purchasing a brand new clawfoot tub.
TOM: Oh, yeah.
PATRICE: Oh, good.
LESLIE: And it does need to be done by a pro.
PATRICE: OK. I didn’t think I could do it myself. OK.
TOM: No. Fortunately, those things really don’t wear out with age. I mean they’re as good today as they were the day they came off the assembly line.
PATRICE: Right, the enamel doesn’t even look that bad.
LESLIE: The only word of caution is that of course when you put in a clawfoot tub it requires special fixtures and special faucets and a whole new shower curtain hanging device, so there’s a little bit of work and refitting that needs to be done in your bathroom as well. And I know that with clawfoot tubs, because they’re so heavy in the first place because they’re cast iron, for the most part, and then with the weight of the water, you need to make sure that your floor joist – is it running perpendicular or parallel with the tub, Tom?
TOM: Well, you need to make sure that the weight is spread out. So, for example, if you had a modern house that had, say, 5/8-inch thick plywood sheathing on the floor – plywood subfloor – and that clawfoot was right in between, say, two 16-inch-apart joists, you’re going to find that it’s going to sink into the floor. So you want to make sure that the floor is properly reinforced in that area.
PATRICE: So it’s going to probably take tearing out the floor.
TOM: Well, what’s below the floor?
PATRICE: Just underneath the house.
TOM: Well, it’s easier to work from underneath the house than it is to tear out the floor on top. Understand? (ph)
PATRICE: Oh, yeah. That makes sense. (all chuckle)
TOM: You just got to flip that thinking around there, Patrice. (chuckles)
PATRICE: Yeah, really. (chuckles)
PATRICE: OK. OK, great.
TOM: Alright, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.