Tiles are generally long-lasting and durable. Though they have a larger lifetime, tiles tend to collect dirt and scum that makes the unpleasant over time. Replacing the tile isn’t the only option. You can simply paint on tiles.
The accumulation of soap scum and carbon residue will make them look bad over time. You might get bored with the colour of the tile over the years. Or looking for new tile options to match the colour scheme of your newly renovated bathroom or kitchen.
That can be achieved by painting over the tiles. While painting on ceramic is not a common practice, it is definitely do-able and comes with certain manageable limitations. Painting on tiles and ceramic countertops is a cheap DIY home improvement technique that can save money compared to the replacement of the same.
Can you paint on tiles?
Tiles can be painted with whatever colour and whatever finish if gone through proper preparation. It is the best alternative to re-tiling that can be done cheap. The quality of preparation matters to how long and how strong the paint will last on ceramic. Because tiles are naturally very smooth and glazy which is not ideal for painting.
The choice of paints, primer and other tools also contribute to the process. The target is to use the right choice of paint over the rightly prepared tile to get the desired results.
Benefits of tile painting
- You need not shell out a lot of money removing and laying a new tile to match the colour scheme of your house. The ceramic tile painting costs per square foot is $4 to $10 which is 4 times or lesser than the cost of re-installation.
- Give a new look to the floor/wall and eventually to the whole room.
- Unlimited choice of colour on tiles.
- Cover cracks and dings on the tiles.
- Extend the life of tiles by painting over it.
Limitations of paint on ceramic
- However high the quality of paints used in the process, it can’t withstand certain conditions like moisture and heat. The paint tends to peel off or chip when exposed to such condition.
- Even the normal friction caused by walking over painted tile is a factor of the reduced lifetime of painting over tile.
- Might decrease the value of the house when reselling.
- Shorter lifespan. Mind that, painted tiles are not going to last equal to a new tile. You are subjected to spend on the tile sooner but the cost of tile painting for two times combined is still cheaper than a professional re-tiling. Plus, you get to change the looks of the tiles now and then rather than getting bored with the tile’s baked-in colour throughout the life of it.
How to paint on tiles?
Painting over a ceramic tile though follows the same basics, requires a lot of time and attention to detail. Failing to do would result in peeling of paint from the tile sooner than expected.
So do not take any step lightly especially the preparation stage. You will need to undergo multiple stages of tile cleaning to look as new.
Clean the tiles:
Clean the tile from dirt and residue that it has accumulated over time. It will be a disturbance for the paint to stick to the ceramic if not cleaned properly. Often tiles in kitchen accumulate greasy residue and those in the bathroom and cleaning area has soapy scum. Use heavy-duty cleansers like TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). Apply the mixture of half cup of TSP to a gallon of water on the tile and let that react for a few mins. Now scrub if required and wipe off everything with a sponge. Rinse twice or more with water until no residue is left. You might want to follow a different procedure if you see grout stains left out.
Repair the tiles:
Now look deep for cracks or breaks in the tiles. You need an even surface for the best application of ceramic paint. Fill in the cracks with caulk and replace the ones that are not repairable. Make sure to take off the left-over caulk filling on the surface.
Sand the tiles:
Sanding the tile is very important for the paint to stick on it. Tiles by default have a glaze that resists any kind of liquid to be stuck to it. Sanding not only rubs of the adamant scum accumulated, but it also weathers the glazing creating a slightly rougher surface for the paint to hold. Use 220 grit or finer sandpaper by hand or use an electric sander if possible. Do not sand with force as a slight removal of glazing is enough. Making the surface rough like the sandpaper itself will ruin the finish. Sanding creates a lot of dust and left-over particles all over. Wipe them with a wet cloth or sponge.
Rinse the wall again with water and leave it to dry. Wipe a small portion of the ceramic with tack clock. If you still find it unclean repeat step 1 again. Wait for at least 48 hours before you start with the painting process.
It’s time for the primer. Apply high-quality epoxy-based acrylic primer over the tile. Start with the brush to cover edges and grout and use a good quality lint-free roller in the main area. Do two coats of primer allowing time in-between for proper drying. If you can still see the original tile colour, give it another coat.
Paint the tile:
Finally, it is the turn to paint. Paint the completely dried primer coated ceramic. Tile paints are usually thicker than usual paints. You might want to add a little thinner to get a consistency that is ideal for painting on a roller without forming bubbles. Like with primer, cover the edges with a paintbrush and rest with the roller. Paint too require a double coat. Try to cover up lines created by the roller edges and paintbrush during the final coat.
Tip: Use an artist brush to paint the grout with a contrasting or accent colour. It takes a lot of time and patience to do but will give you great results.
To finish it off give it a urethane coat after the paint dries. Apart from providing a lint-free gloss it also prevents from chipping off the paint layer to an extent.
The time taken to paint the tile might range from 3 days to one week depending on the time taken to dry between each process. You need to wait for another 2 weeks for the multiple layers of paint to settle and dry to the core. Leave it untouched till then for the best results. Also, get ready with an alternative till then if you are planning to paint your bathroom or kitchen wall tile.
What tile paint should you buy?
You can find paints that are made specifically for tiles and ceramic with almost any manufacturer. It is usually latex-based acrylic paint with a mix of epoxy. These paints are originally designed to be rolled or brushed.
You can also find advanced paints that are purposed for fibre, glass and other smoother materials that can also be used on ceramics. Some of the special paints might require spraying which will increase the cost. Valspar Terracotta Touch is a special paint which adds texture along with the colour.
- Cover the portions adjoining the tile area, be it a cabinet, door or window so that the paint does not affect any of those accidentally.
- Use high-quality gloves, apron to prevent yourself from paint. These primer and paints are a bit harder to get off your skin.
- A paint mask is recommended to safeguard from the various smells and dust during the process.
Tile painting alternatives:
Bathtub and shower area: these are highly abused with moisture and soap scum. It can wear off the paint over the tile quicker than expected. If you are looking for renewing these areas industrial-grade refinishing is a better option that goes cheaper than replacement cost. Something more than paints are used in the process which might limit the choice of colours.
Kitchen countertop: Heated vessels, water and knife cuts are common for kitchen counter which is why it is not ideal to paint it. But you can still get away with it by using a cutting board over it whenever required and not placing hot vessels directly.
New tile over the existing: You can directly lay new tiles over the existing one with or without using a backer board depending on the condition of existing ones. Though it will only save a small fraction of tile replacement cost, it is easy to do.
Painting on tile is a great alternative when you have budget constraints. It also is a great option to explore new looks all by yourself.
I would classify the painting floor and wall tile a hobby project. You can essentially do it if you have time for learning the process and doing it yourself. The budget can be as low as 1,000 dollars.
Regarding designs, you are no more limited with plain colours with contrasting lines. Your imagination is the limit. Check out some of the fancy floor tile painting ideas I found on Pinterest.
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