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We bought our house about 6 months ago, and there was already a reasonable hole in the enamel (?) of the bathtub. It looks like this:

hole in bathtub

[Edge to edge, the whole thing is about 3cm]

I'm afraid I don't know what material the bath is made of, so I'm hoping this picture helps. My guess would be some kind of metal (since I can see what looks like rust in there), covered with enamel. If so, I've read that enamel repair kits are a thing, but I'm open to suggestions / advice for how to fix it.

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    With the DIY kits, preparation is the most important job. Removing of all loose enamel plus removing of the rust. They should last, but probably need to be redone every couple of years. They probably will not make it like new, you will notice the spot, buy with upkeep the bathtub should last many more years.
    – crip659
    Apr 17 at 10:06

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Steel or cast iron with enamel coating. Steel is thinner and more flexible, also more prone to rusting out, cast iron is thicker, inflexible, and would take a lot longer to rust out.

Which is which is rather obvious if you know the two types, but hard to describe an accurate way to tell if you don't know in text, unless you can feel it move when you push on it (steel.) They sound different when you knock them. Steel is more "hollow and tinny" sounding, while cast iron is not.

Anyway, epoxy-type enamel repair kits are indeed a thing. As with any other "paint" job the preparation is key, as @crip659 has said in a comment. Anything loose, rusted, delaminated must be removed, and the surface prepared as the instructions of the kit require. Otherwise some little pocket of rust behind will tend to peel the patch off from below. I'd also suggest not only respecting, but perhaps as much as doubling the "time to cure after repair before use."

If the tub is steel, the flexibility of the steel works against the patch lasting well, but you can certainly patch it and see how long it lasts before hitting the "rip out & replace the tub" stage of repair. That's the ultimate solution (and if you are doing your own work, considerably cheaper than the "bathtub liner" option, which are horrid thin plastic at an absurd price, and apparently much of that price goes to paying for saturation advertising...)

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  • Thanks folks! I've found some enamel repair in the local DIY place, so we'll see how it goes with this. Now you mention it, I'm pretty sure it's steel as it doesn't have that solid, cast iron sound to it.
    – Andy
    Apr 18 at 11:12
  • Not sure if this deserves a new thread, but does anyone have some advice on how to clean the rust from the hole? Realised I was missing a key step in our plan... Thanks!
    – Andy
    Apr 24 at 9:35
  • Ask a new question. Link to this one for the background/why? info.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 24 at 15:23

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