Frequently asked questions about vitreous enamel
Q. My enamelled cast iron bath is worn, damaged or I want to change to the colour. Where and how can I get my cast iron bath re-enamelled or are there any other options?
A. There are two options if your bath is just worn. The enamel feels rough to the touch and this tends to occur in the base of the bath.
You can have it re-enamelled. For this it must be removed and transported to a specialist re-enameller
OR You can have it re-polished. This can be done in situ and is a specialist operation.
If your bath is chipped or you would like to change the colour, the only option which is available to you is to remove the bath and send it to a specialist company who will carry out the re-enamelling of your bath with genuine vitreous enamel.
Please be aware that there are many companies advertising and offering re-enamelling in-situ. This is not genuine vitreous enamel - it is a type of paint. The more reputable companies carrying out this service will describe it as "bath re-surfacing". It is a shorter-term solution, but cannot be as hard or durable as genuine vitreous enamel. These companies may also be able to carry out a cosmetic repair of chips.
Genuine Vitreous Enamel is a type of glass, which is fused at high temperatures to achieve its unique combination of hardness and durability, which is unmatched by other finishes.
Re-enamelling will involve grit blasting to remove the existing enamel, followed by specialist welding if there is any damage or heavy rusting, for example around the plug hole. It will then be coated with multiple layers of vitreous enamel. Each layer will be fused to the surface by heating in a furnace to a temperature above 750 degrees Centigrade. It is this genuine vitreous enamel finish which will give the durability and long life that your bath has given you until now.
Q. My cast iron enamelled bath is dull, rough, stained or scratched - can it be restored?
A. If your bath is made of cast iron, yes it can. A specialist operation can be carried out involving grinding away the damaged surface and then polishing the enamel to restore the original shine and colour. This process is most successful on white, pastel and light colours. The stronger colours such as burgundy, dark blue and dark brown will not re-polish successfully. Even if you have minor chips in the enamel, these can be patched using a specialist colour matched filler. (NOTE – this filler is NOT vitreous enamel).
Q. Are there any books about vitreous enamelling?
A. We have obtained all the stock of a book published by Borax Europe. This is available free of charge – all we ask you to do is to cover our postage and handling costs. Wratil, Dr J (1984) Vitreous Enamels. Borax Europe Ltd, Guildford. Details of how to order will be available in the near future.
Other information books on vitreous enamel are available and some popular literature is shown below:
Andrews, A.I. (1961) Porcelain Enamels. The Garrard Press, Champaign, Illinois, USA.
Vargin, A.H. (1967) Technology of Enamels. Translated by Kenneth Shaw, McLaren & Sons Ltd, London.
Maskall, K.A. (1986) Vitreous Enamelling: a guide to modern enamelling practice. Pergamon materials engineering practice series, Pergamon Press, London. ISBN 0-08-0334288 Hardcover ISBN 0-08-0334296 Flexicover
Warnke, H (2002) Electro Dip Enamelling - Basic and Industrial Applications, Heinrich Warnke, Wedekindring 67, D-33428 Marienfeld, Germany (Privately published)
IVE: The Vitreous Enamellers' Society will also be publishing a regular journal. Details on this publication will be available in the near future.
Q. How can I get a piece of metal enamelled or re-enamelled?
A. If you are thinking that you will be able to re-enamel your bath or cooker then simply it isn’t possible. The application of vitreous enamel requires specialist equipment and must be fused at a temperature above 750 degrees Centigrade. Normal ‘industrial’ size industrial enamelling is thus outside the scope of home application. However, if you wish to try your hand at some DIY enamelling for copper jewellery there are some very simple kits available from craft shops or from W. G. Ball Ltd, Stoke on Trent. (Tel. 01782 312286 Fax. 01782 598148). Visit www.wgball.com for more details.
A list of companies who provide vitreous enamelling services is available on the IOM3 Marketplace.