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The History of Bathtub Refinishing

With customers throughout the world more often seeking the pleasures, relaxation, and luxury of modern bathrooms, it should come as no surprise that there is a lot of romance inherent to the bathroom restoration business. Recognizing how important the bath area is to both women and men alike, has given the major manufactures of plumbing-ware products (Kohler, Moen, American Standard, etc…) the platform on which they base their growing industry. Their products and fixtures are enhanced with vibrant color selections harkening back to past generations, as well as smooth earth tone accents of the modern day styles that enrich the young at heart.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were some of the first to take advantage of water therapy and esthetic ambiance to provide relaxation to both body and mind. Since the late 1800’s the manufactures of plumbing-ware products have tried to reproduce many of the early ceramic fixture creations of the old world. That being said, much of what was produced was of the very highest quality; ranging from plumbing’s classic symbol of cast iron claw foot tubs, to the elegance and beauty of ceramic pedestal sinks. The designs, styles, and porcelain ceramic finishes of the past will forever be the standard by which the bath industry is measured.

Much of the plumbing-ware fixtures that were produced through the mid 1960’s had remained virtually unchanged from the turn of the century raw materials and processes; such as vitreous china, ceramic, cast iron, and porcelain plumbing fixtures. However, in the 1960’s new companies were innovating and modernizing the bath industry with the introduction of plastics, and many of the terrazzo shower bases and shower pans were being replaced with plastic resin and fiberglass substitutes. Additionally, fiberglass tub and shower modules began to replace the old cast iron and pressed steel tubs and tile methods of bathroom construction.

In just a matter of 50 years numerous new manufactured materials have been added to bathroom fixtures throughout the world; many of which are located in American and Canadian homes. There are literally thousands of old colors, shapes, designs, and finishes that are aging and in need of new modern color changes and finishes that will match the remodeling designs of today’s most popular bathroom updates. Many national remodeling contractors and architects recognize the importance of preserving the old world charm of antique bath fixtures, and as such, seek out quality bathtub and sink refinishing or tile refinishing applications for use on older bathroom fixtures during remodeling.

In the early 60’s porcelain refinishing companies like Ark®, PermaCeram®, Lik-Nu Porcelain®, and Electro-Glaze® entered into the bathtub refinishing business, becoming successful in their own right. These companies were purported as franchise and business opportunities, selling the rights to their name and the products that they would recommend to their refinishing dealers.

In 1972 the ShurBond® bathtub refinishing and tile refinishing system was manufactured by Munro Products, a division of Tub Refinishing, Inc., a New York corporation. They began selling ShurBond® as a high quality bathtub and tile refinishing product line and system, to independent dealers and franchise companies. Most of the companies were anxious to leave their lower quality franchise systems for the much improved ShurBond® refinishing system.

It was roughly 1976 when another company, Napco®, owned at the time by Frank Miore of Electro-Glaze®, began to sell refinishing products to the independent dealer market. Since that time a number of companies have sprouted up across the industry.  This wave of change ushered in the beginning of the distribution of bathtub refinishing and tile refinishing products throughout the United States and Canada, to commercial independent and franchise dealers without boundaries or royalty costs.   

Currently there are about 3500 bathtub and tile refinishing or repair companies within the USA and Canada. About one-third of these companies are still affiliated with franchise groups, but some of these franchises including the independent suppliers unfortunately have given a poor reputation to what was once a very fine industry. Often the new suppliers conjure up clever marketing for inferior products, making unsubstantiated claims that are strategically designed to get existing bathtub and tile refinishing companies to switch to their products. Additionally, these suppliers prey on the newer, less experienced companies that are trying to make their way in the bathtub and tile refinishing industry. In many cases, their claims of improved products and techniques for the bath-ware refinishing industry are false. The claims of inexpensive products and shortcuts in the refinishing process should be the buyer’s first indication that something is not right.  If it appears too good to be true, it probably is. In order to avoid common mistakes, be sure to read our guide to “Choosing the Right Bathtub and Tile Refinishing Products.”  Also, you may want to read our posting on “Bathtub Liner Systems versus Bathtub Refinishing,” in order to better understand the advantages that tub and tile refinishing offers.