Perhaps you're dying to do a remodel on your kitchen backsplash or bathroom tile, but you don't want all of the hassle involved with removing and replacing it. For these situations, it can make a lot of sense to paint your ceramic tile. It will allow you to change the color without needing to incur a lengthy demolition project.
We review the perks of painting vs replacing, along with outlining the six steps for how to paint tile.
If you plan to do it yourself, be aware of a couple of things. One, tearing out ceramic backsplash tile will have you working at a very awkward angle. Two, this may leave your kitchen with no counter space until the project is done.
If you have your heart set on a completely new tile job, you can pick up a great tile saw for your DIY project. You'll also need new tile and grout designed for the surface you're putting the tile on.
Before diving into painting, double check that you're working with ceramic tile. Chances are any tile on your kitchen or bathroom wall is ceramic. Porcelain does not handle water well and isn't used in these environments.
However, there is a chance it could be marble, which would require a different set of steps for painting
Cleaning your existing ceramic tile is probably the most important part of the entire process. If you try to paint tile that isn't perfectly clean, the paint won't afix and won't stay over the course of time.
For more tips on a detailed cleaning process, we have an entire article on how to make ceramic tile shine.
If your tile is glossy, you'll need to sand the tiles. Sanding the tiles will rough up the area and allow the paint to adhere to the glossy surface. This will also cause some mess and dust, so be prepared to wipe the tiles again with rubbing alcohol.
Repair any cracks with caulking or epoxy, and be ready for more dry time. Applying wet paint to wet grout or uncured repairs will not give you a good result.
Finally, wash the tile with bleach or a mold-killing mixture.
Pick the right primer, first and foremost. Water-based primers allow for easier clean-up, but oil and epoxy-based primers will give you better cling. Opt for an epoxy bonding primer - this will seal onto the tile really nicely, while also allowing the paint to take hold at the same time.
If possible, wear a respirator mask for ventilation and open up the doors and windows for plenty of fresh air.
This is especially critical around sinks where water exposure may damage your paint job, and is the same reason you need to prime surfaces when painting outdoor floors and surfaces.
Now, you can finally start to apply the paint. You'll more than likely opt for using a brush, as a roller doesn't do a good job with the undulations of the tile and grout.
We recommend a semi gloss or gloss finish for your paint.
Don't start using the area yet, though. One of the challenges with painting ceramic tile is how to protect it until you can apply the top coat.
You can use a water or oil-based sealer to complete your project. Again, go with a light touch and apply several coats. Depending on what you're covering, you can choose a flat, semi-gloss, or gloss finish.
If you're covering a basic tile and just want a different color, a gloss finish will give you the closest thing to a smooth tile surface.
A word about sealers: Test your sealer on a paint sample or unobtrusive area before covering the whole surface. Some sealers have a slightly yellow tone and will not look good over a cool gray or bright white surface.
If you know your painted tile update is temporary, you can try more creative options. For example, you can make your backsplash a communication tool by covering it in chalkboard paint. This backsplash actually didn't start out tiled, but it is a creative demonstration of what you can do with paint and a straight edge!
Water is hard on paint. If you're painting the tile in a bathroom, consider investing in marine paint.
Please note that most boat painting projects are done outside, so it's critical to plan for good ventilation. Don't do this project when the house is sealed up tight against the cold, or when it's too hot to open the windows.
The steps to applying a secure coat of marine paint are quite similar. Clean, repair, sand, and prime. Marine paint will protect a boat's surface from water damage, and should offer a great seal for your ceramic tile.
Ceramic tile is notoriously "slippery." As such, you are limited in options for what paint types to pick from.
The best type of paint for ceramic tile backsplashes is alkyd paint. This type of paint is great because it is oil based and provides a really high gloss sheen.
For areas that are prone to getting wet, such as a kitchen backsplash by the sink or a bathroom tile floor, ensure you are using an oil-based alkyd paint.
Avoid latex or water based paints if possible. While convenient, they just aren't as durable, and you want a durable paint when going onto tile (because of how slick it is).
Yes, you can paint your old tile flooring. You will need to take care to do a really good job, because the foot traffic puts added strain on your paint. But, it is possible provided you follow the correct added steps:
A ceramic tile application can look awfully permanent, especially if you really hate it. However, anything you can prime can be painted, and there are great primers on the market today. Clean and degrease thoroughly!
Once it's time to paint, if you can possibly work with epoxy-based paint for the prime coat, do so. If not, work lightly and build up several layers of even, primed finish. Once you've got the technique down, apply your color coat in the same way, then seal. Allow for plenty of dry time between layers!