Cheap is Expensive

Vintage Clawfoot Bathtub

It seems like for every satisfied customer that has had their tub, tile, or sink resurfaced/refinished there are at least two that have had bad experiences.  Sometimes the products that are used to resurface the fixtures are to blame, but more often than not, it is the installer or the customer.  In fact, they are usually both responsible for the outcome.  I will begin with the latter from the moment they invite resurfacing companies over for an estimate.

Usually the customer simply needs to be educated on how to properly clean and care for their fixture once the work is completed.  However, the customer often will also tell the first three people who come out for an estimate that they are on a tight budget and want it done cheaply.  But be careful for what you ask for!

I can appreciate a homeowner or a property manager wanting to save money.  Heck, that’s one of the primary reasons why the resurfacing business is so popular!  But is saving $50-$100 worth having to do the entire project over again in a few months, which usually will require the utilization of potentially harmful strippers?  It is tantalizing to go with the cheapest guy out there because it makes you feel like you’re getting a good deal.  I am speaking from experience because I too have tried to get a quality product at a cheap price.  And guess what?  I learned that “CHEAP IS EXPENSIVE” more often than not.

It is up to the homeowner to decipher who will be able to provide them with the best product in the end, especially if they plan on living at their residence for quite some time.  Now, every company out there will claim that they use the best products and have been doing it for years.  But what if they have been doing it wrong for years?  Shaquille O’Neal shot free throws for years but would you trust him to make one with the game on the line?

When it comes to resurfacing your fixtures it is imperative that the surface is meticulously prepared which necessitates more time and materials, therefore increasing your initial investment.  This brings me to the second culprit, the installer or refinisher.

It aggravates me to no end when I come in after a “professional” to address their shotty work.  Granted, the customer may have asked them for a cheap job and you gave them what they wanted, but it is up to us as resurfacers to take responsibility for the end product.  First, begin by not lowballing a price just to get the job.  Yes we all need work, and there is plenty out there for all of us, but by “blowing and going” (as I like to call it) you damage the industries’ reputation (not to mention your own) and create a mess for the customer and the resurfacer that follows you.  Second, take the time to prepare the surface properly so your topcoats, spray-on primers, wipe-on chemical bonding agents, etc. will adhere and last for years.  You simply cannot produce a high quality product in a matter of a couple hours because you are skipping steps or are relying on laborers that are untrained and/or do not take pride in their craftsmanship.

To further complicate the issue, I recently saw a short segment on HGTV highlighting what the refinishing/resurfacing industry can do for homeowners.  It immediately drew my attention because I appreciate the exposure for the industry.  However, the resurfacer featured in Los Angeles, CA made a comment stating that one can get a bathtub refinished for as little as $250.  I don’t think you can even get a half tank of gas for $250 in L.A.!  Ok, I’m kidding; sorta.  Unfortunately, what that resurfacer did was provide a very low price conditioning for all those watching.  Now, when that customer searches locally and finds most companies are $350-$400 for a standard bathtub they are sticker shocked.  How can they do it for $250 on HGTV?  Shortcuts in product and in labor (preparation) that’s how.  There is no other way around it.  What’s the difference between a $.99 cheeseburger and a $8 cheeseburger?  They are both cheeseburgers right??  The difference is in the product (mystery meat/soy vs. 95% lean Angus beef for example) and how it’s made (heat lamp vs. wood fire grill), and not to mention service (drive through vs. dining in with ambiance/table service).  The same applies for bathtub resurfacing.

To summarize, if there was a way to get the very best product at the very cheapest price there would only be one company in the U.S.A. or entire world even.  Therefore, customers be sure the resurfacer/refinisher/reglazer you hire has received professional training approved by an association (i.e. Professional Resurfacers Association (PRA), Bathtub Refinishing Association of America (BRAOA), etc.) on top of being licensed and insured.  Furthermore, ask for a written warranty, references, and have them explain the entire process in detail including the types of products they are using and who will be performing the work.   Also, don’t be hesitant to spend a little more.  Sometimes it’s OK to go the cheap route, but not with resurfacing/refinishing.

Resurfacers, get training if you are having problems with your end product such as runs, dry spray, and especially peeling.  Don’t be ashamed!  The first time I was exposed to the resurfacing business I learned it from a guy that had been in the business for 7 years and he was putting out a horrible product.  Granted, he would do an entire tub and tile surround for $325 but I’ve seen better “Home Depot” roll-on jobs than what he was doing.  When I received my professional training I met a guy that has was in the business for over 8 years and periodically he would have that “Ahh Haa” moment; and here I thought he would have known it all.  Finally, resurfacers do your job!  PREP!  Avoid the call backs!  And don’t undersell your services.  Time is money!

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