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Painting Ceramic Tile Floors: How to, Best Paint, Can You Do it?

Did you think that the only way that you could revive your tile is by replacing it? Well, we’ve got good news for you!

While it’s a project that’s easily handled by a professional house painter, you probably made it to this page because you’re curious to see what the process is like. We’re still here to help you if at least you want to see what a pro would charge you for the job (and even if you get quotes, there’s no obligation for you to go with any of them). Just follow the link that we included earlier in this section to find out how to do it.

Why You Should Consider Painting in General

While you can start with a full on bathroom remodel if there are more elements that you wish to change, a simple paint job can take your tile from a nasty 80s appeal to an actual classy, elegant place that you want to spend time in. It’s much cheaper to do it like that when you’re trying to sell your home to make sure that it actually appeals to today’s home buyers.

Can You Paint Tile? What You Need to Know

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Yes, you can in fact paint ceramic tiles in your bathroom, but there are things you to know before you get started with the project. We’ll cover them below.

Most tiles have added what’s called ceramic glazing to them.  What exactly is that? It’s liquid glass that is added to the material in the firing process, and when it goes into the kiln (the oven used for firing the tiles), this glass fuses with the tile, and it creates a protective shield, which has different purposes. You probably already knew that ceramic tile is known for being pretty stain resistant and water-resistant too. Well, that’s because of the glaze that is added on top of it. Without it, ceramics is actually really quite porous, if at least you don’t go for porcelain tile.

By the way, here’s a comparison between ceramic and porcelain, just in case you feel curious. It’s a good read! So, tile without the glaze is really quite porous meaning that it will soak up liquid and spills, and which is why it will stain. While you can also get unglazed ceramic tile (which will have a protective sealant added to it every couple of years), the most traditional variation is the one that has been glazed. Since the whole point of the protective layer is to keep things from staining it, you can imagine how it wouldn’t be ideal to simply paint on top of it. The glaze needs to be removed first.

It’s also why it’s generally preferred that you don’t do it with tile that is exposed to a lot of water because you’re removing a lot of the protective coating that has been helping it with its many properties making it very easy to clean and durable, and replacing that protective coat with paint instead, and while paint does help protect it, it’s not quite as good as fused glass. You can refinish a bathtub, but you need to make sure the process is done properly and that you also choose the best paint for the purpose, one that provides good protection against water.

When you’re painting tile, you’re also painting the grout, and that will create a more uniform look, where you might’ve originally chosen the grout to add some contrast to the bathroom. In the process of painting, that will now go lost.

The success of your project comes down to mainly two different factors – making sure that you prepare the tile for the paint, and choosing the right kind that will last for a long time.

Preparing the Tile

Tile is not the only surface that needs to be prepared for painting. You probably know that a primer needs to be applied in other cases so that the paint stays there better. There are 3 steps in that process, that includes properly cleaning the area, sanding it and then removing all the particles before starting.

Cleaning it

The first thing you will want to do is make sure that the surface is completely clean before you proceed with any of the following steps. That means there should be no soap scum, mildew or dirt anywhere. To achieve this use an abrasive cleaner to get rid of all those nasty things that might have accumulated over time. When that’s been done, wipe it down so that there’s no residue from the cleaning. You will want to make sure you do a good job with this since it will make the following steps easier. When it’s been cleaned, it now needs to dry before sanding.

Sanding it

It’s now time to sand the area in preparation. Using an orbital sander is the easier way to go about it. Use 220 grit sandpaper and sand it lightly. You’re doing this because you want to scuff up the surface so that the primer can do its job. Sanding can also help with the stuff on the floor that seems impossible to remove in other manners. If you try and sand it by hand, you’ll see yourself getting tired before you get done with the process. If you insist on doing the project yourself, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle by getting an electric sander. They’re also fairly easy to operate.

Removing Dust

Now it’s once again time to actually clean the floors since it has likely left a lot of dust from the sanding, and this will only make the paint job worse if not removed. Vacuum everything that’s been left behind, and get a heavy-duty stripper in addition.

Follow the instructions on the stripper you choose and mop the floor with it. Do not be afraid to put some serious muscle behind doing this because a cleaner floor will also be one that the paint is better able to stick to, so you really can’t clean it excessively.

Is a Tile Cracked or Grout that Needs Repair?

When you’ve done the previous steps, and especially if the tile was installed a long time ago, it’s not uncommon to be in a situation where grout needs to be either repaired or replaced. You can entirely regrout it, although that will undoubtedly take you a lot of time, because it’s first a matter of removing the old grout also, but you can also go the easier route and use paintable caulk to make sure that the grout is consistent, unbroken and provide the protection against moisture between the tiles that it provides.

Applying Primer

The primer is where the paint will stick to, and that means it need to be good quality too. Since you’re often doing this job in a place where paint is having a hard time, you won’t want to go for a cheap option here, but rather one you know will actually do the job. Make sure that it’s applied according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that it covers all the areas that will be painted. That can mean you might both need to use a brush for those hard to get to places, like the grout, and then a roller for the bigger surfaces. Do it strategically. Start at the end of the bathroom, working your way towards the door so as to avoid having to step in the wet primer before it has dried. That way you don’t leave marks on the floor, and you get a better result from it.

The Actual Painting

The same way that you used to apply the primer, you will want to use for the actual painting since it can be hard to get to the grout even if it has been primed, using both a brush and a roller.

Should You Seal it?

This is usually voluntary, and might not be needed if you have gone for a really high quality paint made to withstand the abuse that the floor is going to be exposed to. If you don’t go for porch paint, you should seriously consider doing so to increase its durability. It can also be a question of how much you actually plan on using the floors. The seal is great, and probably needed, when a lot of wear is expected, but if it gets damaged, it will show more easily, whereas if the painted floor gets damaged, it’ll be a little bit easier to repair.

When you choose to seal it, you should let it cure, the same way you would let it cure if you were instead applying Polyurethane to wooden floors. You should also be aware that the curing process will lower the air quality in your home with the VOCs in the air that are being let out, and taking additional steps to improve the ventilation can be a good idea. The different sealers will also have different instructions on how long you will need to leave the floor before you can start using it, and in the beginning, it’s best if you are careful in the way you treat it, which can mean no exposure to things that would damage it, like shoes.

Use Protective Rugs

There are several reasons why you might want to put rugs on the floor in your bathroom. For one, it will make the surface less slippery, which is a good idea if you either have kids or you’re remodeling the home for seniors. It’s just a good protective measure.

The Paint You Need to Choose

Ceramic tile floors are exposed to a lot of wear, especially when installed in either the living room or kitchen, and you will want a type of paint that can add the protection that is needed. You can often go for the same type of paint that would be used on patios, since the conditions they need to be able to handle have a lot of resemblance. Again, there are instructions on the paint can on how to best go about it, but you’ll likely need to apply several layers.

You can typically either go for latex paint, which often requires two topcoats to do a good job. Alternatively, you can use epoxy for it, but this isn’t the ideal choice to go with if you’re very specific in the color that you want since the selection isn’t great.

If you have a small passion for DIY projects, it’s one that you can try doing yourself, although it can easily be done by a pro. It’s one of those projects that can completely revitalize your bathroom, if you really used to think it was just horrible.