Introduction: The Tubble

Every December, we, as an agency, throw money into a hat to give our founding partners a gift to thank them for a great year. Over the years, these gifts have included a neon sign shaped like our logo, a phone booth, an entry rug (featuring our logo), a table set (again, logo), a fishtank, an old exercise machine, and a disco ball. This year, we decided to tear a page out of our agency equity "Good. Clean. Fun." and our website, which features a clawfoot tub, and create The Tubble.

What's a tubble, you ask? Simple, it's a tub, filled with bubbles, that we turned into a coffee table.

Tub + Bubbles + Table = Tubble.

It all started with a rusty tub on a neighbor's porch.

He was gutting his house and graciously gave us this old clawfoot tub. While the structural integrity of the tub was sound, it needed some work. The porcelain inside had some rust spots, the feet and fixture were rusted, and the outside of the tub had about 12 coats of paint on it.

So how did we get from rusty old tub to Tubble?

You'd be surprised at how easy (and relatively inexpensive) it was.

Step 1: The Cost

First things, first. Before you begin, you probably wanna know how much this little baby is gonna set you back. Before you wince at the cost, however, remember that this is a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture (currently) and you're not likely to find another one within a 2000-mile radius of your home. Having a unique piece of furniture sometimes comes with a cost. That said...

We were fortunate in that we got an old tub for free, but you may be able to pick one up from a local junkyard or find one on Craigslist or Freecycle for next to nothing. A quick perusal of eBay turns up vintage clawfoot tubs in much better shape than ours for as little as $20. So we'll just assume you already have a tub.

The major expenses are the glass table top (custom cut glass, especially tempered safety glass can be expensive), a new fixture, and the stuff to fill the tub with (to create the illusion that it is filled with a soothing bubble bath). We splurged on a nice fixture from Signature Hardware for $120, but you can find a fixture for a clawfoot tub at your local big box hardware store for around $50 or find a good deal on Craigslist or eBay. We had some extra bubblewrap lying around from packing Christmas presents, but you can get a couple of sheets at a local shipping store for minimal cost or buy a whole 602 roll for around $12. The Christmas lights were $3.99 a box or $8+tax for two. The rubber ducky was on sale at Bath & Body Works for $1 (normally $4). The Christmas ornaments were also on sale at Michaels we bought $50 worth, which was about 10 boxes of large (6 in each box, ornaments about the size of a tangerine) and 10 boxes of small (9-12 in each box, ornaments about the size of a ping pong ball). We had the glass tabletop cut at Oakley Paint & Glass here in Cincinnati and it was about $180. The cost of the glass is largely dependent on what kind of glass you elect to get, but we opted for tempered safety glass because we have some clumsy people walking around the office.

Additional costs for this project include tools, cleaning supplies, and paint. Depending on the state of your tub and what you already have around the house/office, this may be a little or a lot.

We already had all of the tools, so we were just left to purchase the paint and cleaning supplies (prices listed next to each item).

So, the total cost for the Tubble? If you had absolutely nothing in the house, including the tub, and had to go out and buy all of your tools and supplies, you could end up spending as much as $600.

Because we splurged on the fixture and table top (and we already had a tub), it cost us about $400.

But, assuming your tub was in better shape and you already had some of this stuff around the house, you might be able to do it for the price of the glass, fixture, and bubbles, or around $200.

Step 2: What You’ll Need

  • (1) Tub -- FREE
  • (1) Brass fixture (make sure to choose a fixture with a faucet and handles that don't extend above the edge of the tub, otherwise you won't be able to put the tabletop on) -- $120.95
  • (2) 70-light strands Christmas lights (we recommend white cords) -- $3.99/pack
  • (1) Rubber ducky -- $1
  • Iridescent/translucent glass ball Christmas ornaments -- $50 worth
  • Bubble wrap (larger, 5/163 bubbles) -- $11.99
  • Safety tempered glass -- $180

  • Tape measure -- $2.99
  • Paint scraper -- $4.99
  • Electric palm sander -- $29.99
  • Adjustable wrench -- $2.39
  • Wire brush -- $1.99
  • Paint brush -- $2.99
  • Scrub sponge with scouring pad side (we used Scotch Brite heavy duty) -- $1.69
  • Tarp/dropcloth -- $15.49 for canvas dropcloth
  • Plastic sheeting -- $24.99 for 1002 roll of sheeting
  • Sanding-Drywall Mask/Respirator -- 69�
  • Safety goggles -- $2.79
  • A friend (like with many projects involving heavy items, having a friend to help will save a trip to the hospital) -- priceless
Supplies and paint

  • Rust remover (we used CLR) -- $4.99
  • Scratch-free cleanser (we used Comet) -- $1.49
  • White primer (we used KILZ Original) -- $4.99 for 1 qt
  • Mineral spirits -- $3.49 for 1 qt
  • 60 grit/heavy sandpaper -- $2.19 for 4 sheets
  • 220 grit/extra fine sandpaper -- $2.19 for 4 sheets
  • Autobody primer (we used Evercoat) -- $5.49
  • 1 can gold gloss protective enamel spray paint (we used Rust-Oleum) -- $5.49
  • 1/2 pint white enamel paint (we used Rust-Oleum) -- $5.49
  • Car wax (we used Turtlewax super hard shell) -- $8.49
  • Therm O Web Clear Adhesive Zots -- $4.99 (pack of 250)
  • Cloth duct tape -- $3.49
  • Parchment paper -- $6.99 roll
  • Magic marker -- $1.19 for a Sharpie
It may seem like a lot of stuff, but our tub needed some love and we wanted to make sure the end product looked professionally done. You may need to just clean your tub and then fill it with bubbles before adding the glass top.

Step 3: Before You Begin -- Prepping Your Workspace

You'll need: tarp/dropcloth, plastic sheeting, duct tape.

If your tub is in the same shape as ours was, you're going to make a mess. So it's best to work work in a place you don't mind getting dirty -- like a garage, a basement, or your backyard -- and a place with a lot of ventilation. It was <30 degrees F when we began this project, so outside was not an option and we decided to set up in the basement.

To minimize cleanup later, lay down a tarp or dropcloth where you plan on setting the tub.

If your tub has a lot of coats of paint and rust on the outside, you will be generating a lot of dust with the scraper and sander, so seal off your work area with the plastic sheeting. Use the duct tape to affix the sheeting to the ceiling and hang it with enough to fold under your dropcloth or tarp. Make sure to leave a slit in the sheeting for you to be able to get into your work area.

Store your supplies outside of the work bubble you've created so they don't get covered in dust.

Step 4: Creating a Template for Your Tabletop

You'll need: tape measure, parchment paper, tape, magic marker.

In addition to the kind of glass, the person creating your tabletop will need to know the shape and size. Custom glass orders generally take 10-14 days, so by doing this first, our tabletop will be ready shortly after we're done with the rest of the project.

Measure the width and the length of the tub with your tape measure and note the dimensions.

Tear off a piece of parchment paper that is several inches longer than the length of your tub. Most parchment paper isn't wide enough to cover the width of your tub, so tear off a few more pieces, equal in length to first piece. Tape your pieces together on the long sides so you have one big piece that covers the entire top of the tub.

Cover the top of the tub with your new big piece of parchment paper and tape it in place. With your magic marker, trace the edge of the tub on the parchment paper. Depending on how far out you want to glass to go, you may want to add another 1/2" for overhang.

When you are done, take your template and measurements to your local glass place and place your order.

Step 5: Removing the Hardware

You'll need: adjustable wrench, CLR, and a friend.

  • Using the wrench, remove the old fixture and drain.
  • With the help of a friend, flip the tub over, and remove the feet. If the bolts and nuts are rusty, follow the instructions on the CLR.

Step 6: Cleaning the Outside of the Tub and the Feet

You'll need: paint scraper, palm sander, 60 grit sandpaper, wire brush, drywall mask, CLR, and safety googles.

As we mentioned above, our tub had several coats of paint on it. If yours is in similar condition, use your paint scraper to strip away all of the old paint. Depending on what kind of tub you have, you may want to don your mask and goggles before you begin. After you finish stripping away most of the paint, go over the exterior with the electric palm sander until all of the paint is gone and your surface is fairly uniform. If the tub exterior looks like the surface of Mars when you're done, don't fret. This doesn't need to be baby's butt smooth--it's the outside of the tub. Use the wire brush to and a wet paper towel to wipe away any excess dust.

Use the wire brush to remove the rust from the feet--you may need to prep them with CLR beforehand, depending on their condition. You can also try soaking them in a bucket of Coca Cola, which has been known to remove rust.

Step 7: Painting the Tub

You'll need: primer, white enamel paint, 220 grit sandpaper, paint brush, and mineral spirits.

Using your paint brush, give the tub a 2-3 coats of primer, allowing to dry each time following the directions on the can. After each coat, lightly sand with extra fine sandpaper. Be careful around the edges, we don't want to paint the inside (porcelain part) of the tub. Primer dries fairly quickly, so you should be able to do this over the course of a couple of hours. In our case, 2 coats of primer was sufficient.

Once the primer is dry, give the tub 2-3 coats of white enamel paint. Paint takes a little longer to dry, so you may need to apply a coat and work on the feet (Next Step) while you're waiting for the tub to dry.

Remember that a lot of the tub (specifically the underside, the part you are painting) will never be seen, so you don't need to be too detailed with your painting. Our tub took two coats before it looked good.

Step 8: Painting the Feet

You'll need: autobody primer, 220 grit sandpaper, and gold spray paint.

Spray prime the feet and let dry according to the instructions on the can. Lightly sand in between each coat. Two coats should be sufficient.

When the primer is dry, spray paint the legs with the gold gloss protective enamel. Again, two coats is probably plenty.

Step 9: Reattaching the Feet

You'll need: adjustable wrench and a friend.

Reattach the feet to the exterior of the tub and once they are firmly affixed, have a friend help you flip the tub back over.

Step 10: Cleaning the Inside of the Tub

You'll need: sponge, CLR, scratch-free cleanser, auto wax, and paint scraper.

You may need to scrape off any paint that dripped into the basin from Step 4. If not, follow the instructions on the CLR to clean any rust stains and lime deposits. Otherwise, clean the tub like you would your own bathtub. Use the Comet and the sponge to thoroughly scrub the inside of the tub. Rinse out the inside with a wet towel or a hose.

After it's dry, wax the tub basin with the auto wax to give it a nice shine.

Step 11: Attach the Hardware

You'll need: new fixture and adjustable wrench.

Attach the new hardware using the adjustable wrench. Keep in mind that this is for show and doesn't need to be water-tight.

Step 12: “Fill” the Tub

You'll need: bubble wrap, christmas lights, ornaments, and rubber ducky.

  • Connect the two strands of Christmas lights. From the inside of the tub, thread the the plug of one of the strands through the drain.
  • Add the first layer of bubbles by covering the bottom of the tub with a layer of bubble wrap.
  • Place the lights atop the bubble wraparound the inside of the tub.
  • Add a second layer of bubbles by covering the lights with another layer of bubble wrap.
  • Remove all of the hooks from the glass ornaments.
  • Carefully fill the tub with our last layer of bubbles--our translucent ornaments. Position them so there is a nice mix of large and small ornaments.
  • Place your rubby ducky on top of the bubbles.

Step 13: Add the Tabletop

You'll need: glass tabletop, clear adhesive Zots, and a friend.

Space zots at 12-16" intervals around the lip of the tub. These will serve to secure the tabletop and prevent it from sliding onto the floor.

With a friend, carefully place the tabletop on the top. Push down gently on the zots to affix the glass.

Step 14: Enjoy Your Tubble

Plug the lights in and enjoy your new tubble. It's one (er, two) of a kind!