Monday, August 15, 2005

Chad Asks: Should I Refinish My Old Clawfoot Tub or Get a New One?

I thought I would share an e-mail I just got from Chad in Oregon. He asks a series of questions that come up quite a bit here:

"Hi Allan,

I could really use some advice, as all the inquiries I’ve made by telephone to (your online competitors), have been met with folks that apparently don't know the products that they sell very well. I have a couple of basic questions. I've got an original clawfoot tub in my 1911 home that I've been estimated $750 - $950 to restore (i.e. sandblast and re-plate the feet, sand & coat & paint the exterior, and of course new interior) by reputable dealers in my area of Portland, OR. For a few hundred dollars more I could just buy a new tub from you folks or ??? What am I missing here. Other than the fact that I can know my tub is original, wouldn't the benefit of having a baked on porcelain-enamel finish over an acrylic enamel (car paint?) be worth it? Do the new tubs in this price range look cheaper than original? And also, what about other high dollar manufacturers? How are their products superior? When asked this question, most have answered that they are American made, as this tells me something tangible about their quality. Or they say the name costs a lot. In my experience, Brooks Brothers suits are better made than Sears suits, Sony is better than Suny, and Honda is better than Hyundai, and someone can explain to me why. To this point no one can tell me why on cast-iron tubs. If I've got to spend $2,500 to $3,500 on a tub, for superior quality, I'll just have mine refinished. If the cheaper ones are just as "good" I'll buy new. Please help a.s.a.p.



My reply:

Chad,

You bring up a lot of good concerns and questions. Let me try to answer what I think is the main issue: Should you refinish your old tub or buy a new one?

Simple answer: Unless your particular vintage clawfoot tub has some sentimental or historic value OR the original porcelain is in excellent condition, I would purchase a new tub without question.

Why? Well to start, the cost difference between a refinished tub and a brand new tub is just not that great anymore. Your estimate of $750-$950 is in the same price range ($995) as one of our new 5' classic roll rim tubs (and we include delivery):





Secondly, durability is an issue. In my experience there is no refinished surface that is anywhere near as durable as an original porcelain enamel surface. Obviously, paint is not as wear-resistant as glass. The commercial reality of this fact can be seen in that refinished surfaces generally don't have a warranty that extends beyond 5 years after the original refinishing date. New Vintage Tub and Bath brand clawfoot tubs, on the other hand, come with a lifetime limited warranty.

Thirdly, the issue of construction quality comes into play. A host of factors come into play when you talk about clawfoot tub quality (materials, manufacturing processes, acceptable tolerances, etc.). Furthermore, many different manufacturers built millions of clawfoot tubs between roughly 1890 and 1940 and their quality varied quite a bit. I just can not talk to the issue of whether an antique tub is built better than a modern tub simply because there are too many variables to make a general statement. Our real expertise is in defining affordable, higher standards for the manufacture of new claw foot tubs. I can, therefore, address your question as to quality of our tubs versus any other modern brand of tubs.

To start, your comments highlight the fact that many consumers believe that the more expensive an item is, the better quality it must be. This is just not always so, especially in the clawfoot tub market. The fact of the matter is that there are not a lot of clawfoot tub manufacturers. Of those that do make clawfoot tubs, not all of them are as single-mindedly focused on quality like we are. Examples:

-Vintage Tub brand tub feet are made from brass because, when properly prepared, brass holds a plated finish much better than the cheaper cast iron feet.
-Regardless of materials, our clawfoot tub feet are installed and checked for fit and finish at the factory. We do not send a set of feet to you in a separate box and hope that they fit well.
-Because we install the feet at the factory, we can check the tub and make certain it is level as well. This eliminates the "wobble" issue so common in other clawfoot tubs.
-the extremely high-quality porcelain we use has excellent acid/alkali resistance which creates an outstanding finish and brilliant color quality.

Why do we do it? Because we think it is better to build the tub right the first time than to have to deal with the problems that poor-quality workmanship creates later on.

So how do we keep the price so low? Simple. Vintage Tub and Bath is the only retailer we know of that manufactures as well as retails clawfoot tubs directly to the public. This is a huge advantage in that we eliminate the "middlemen" and all the costs they add to the final price of a tub. Furthermore, we can spread the fixed costs of running a business over the large quantity of tubs we sell - again reducing the price per tub. This is how we build a high-quality clawfoot tub and cost-efficiently deliver it to you.

I can say with great confidence that Vintage Tub and Bath brand tubs are built to some of the highest standards in the industry, and are still available to the public at a very reasonable price. The superiority of our manufacturing processes, the expensive, high-quality materials used, and our meticulous quality-assurance procedures combine to give our customers the best tub prices and product currently available. If we did not completely believe in our products, we would not put our name on them and offer a lifetime limited warranty. ‘nuff said.

Take a look at our clawfoot tubs and if you have any questions, give our customer service department a call (toll free: 877.868.1369 or 570.450.7925). They are very knowledgeable and are happy to talk to you.

I hope I answered your questions,

Allan