How to Paint Your Tile!

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When we moved into our new house all of the bathrooms had builder grade tile. I’m sure 20 years ago that was totally in style. In fact, I think for many builders it still is. The last house we lived in also had a lot of tan tile, and it was remodeled right before we moved in. But for the modern, updated look we were going for it wasn’t going to fly. The problem was we just bought a house and were house-poor. We’d have to find a temporary solution until we can afford to tear out the tile and replace it. Time for a creative bathroom makeover!

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Supply List:

A good floor or tile cleaner that leaves no residue

Sander with a rough grit sandpaper

Painters tape

Smooth foam roller

Paint brush

Stix Primer

Porch and floor paint

Water-Based Polyurethane

This bathroom has no windows so I wanted a lot of the bathroom to look bright and clean. We decided to try painting the tile white. I got a lot of mixed reactions from people when I told them I was going to paint the bathtub tile. Most people were shocked. In fact, I think my brother who is a contractor was the only one who thought it was a good idea.

My biggest concern was that the paint would chip. If I was going to go to all the work to paint the tile I wanted it done right. Spoiler alert, it’s been two years since I did this project and it looks the same today as it did when we finished! Here’s how we did it:

Step 1- Prep your tile

I cannot stress enough how important this step is! I know it’s the least exciting, but if you don’t get this part right your paint may not last. It’s like sanding for me. I hate the prep work but it’s probably the most important step. And the prep work for painting tile is pretty time consuming so mentally prepare for that!

You want to start by cleaning your tile really well. Give it a quick once over with the vacuum and mop. Then you’ll want to grab a good cleaner that doesn’t leave a residue. Something like simple green should work nicely. As an extra precaution I wiped it down again with warm water. Air dry or dry with a towel. If you have a smooth ceramic tile you’ll want to get it a little roughed up if you can to give the primer a better chance of sticking. Then give it a good wipe down with a wet rag to get any dust off. Once the tiles is dry you need to tape the edges really well. This process is meant to make the paint stick and you don’t want that over your tub, faucet handle and shower head. Trust me. *Tip: It will take more work, but if I did this project again I would re-tape after each layer. I waited until all the painting was done and the paint did such a great job sticking it was a struggle to get the tape to come off clean.

Step 2- Priming

After you painstakingly prep it’s finally time to prime! I used this Stix primer. It is seriously AMAZING. It’s a little pricey, but I don’t think I personally would risk using a different primer on tile, just because I already know how well this primer sticks to tile.

When applying the paint and primer you’ll need a brush and a smooth foam roller (the cabinet rollers are perfect). focus on one wall at a time. Quickly use your brush to paint the grout lines and then use your roller to apply over the tile and grout lines. If you don’t work quickly enough you may find you end up with brush lines around the grout. You could also try to use just the roller and really push the primer and paint into the grout lines. Figure out what works best for you.

When you prime and paint make sure to follow the manufacturers instructions for dry times between coats. Keep in mind that the coats will not give full coverage. That’s okay. You don’t want really thick coats. This is what first and second coats of primer looks like:

After the first coat of primer
After the second coat of primer

Step 3- Painting

I recommend using a porch and floor paint for the main coat of paint. I used Ace Hardware’s Royal brand of porch and floor paint tinted to match Behr’s Swiss Coffee. Use the same method of applying the paint that you used for the primer. I used two coats of paint before it felt fully covered.

Step 4- Sealing

This step is as important as the prep work. This is what is going to protect your paint from chipping and peeling. I applied three coats of this water-based polyurethane. It’s a strong sealer without the fumes of the the oil based polyurethane. From the research I’ve done most people agree that the oil-based polyurethanes tend to yellow over time. In the two years that we’ve had this painted tile I haven’t noticed any yellowing with the water-based version. After it’s sealed you can enjoy your beautiful new tile!!

I know what the real question is, though. WILL IT ACTUALLY LAST?? I was shocked to find that the answer has been YES! I have exactly one chip in the paint that I stupidly made while doing the project and before I had sealed it. The rest of the tile is perfectly preserved. Now, full disclosure: This is a bathroom that is used by kids who take more baths than showers. They slosh the water around quite a bit, but it hasn’t had a harsh beating. I have cleaned it with mild cleaner and it really has been so good.

I’m hoping to do this project soon in my bathroom but the prep work has prevented me from tackling that project (We have a lot of tile in the master bath). But when I do I will let you know how the most abused bathroom in the house holds up! I think I want to try to add a stencil this time to break up all of the white. What do you think?! I hope you feel inspired to get out there and try painting some tile!!

And don’t forget to check out these other projects!

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