This salmon-colored ceramic tile adorns the backsplash and a good portion of the walls in my kitchen. Lovely, isn’t it?
OK. It’s not really that lovely at all. In fact, this tile is probably the thing I like least about my new house. So even before I purchased the house, I started desperately searching for inexpensive options for hiding it. The best solution, of course, would be to tear every last tile out and replace it with tile I actually like. But my pocketbook can’t handle that now, and I don’t think my kitchen could handle the demolition unless the countertops and cabinets were going into the dumpster with the tile. (It’s seriously everywhere!) So that will have to wait.
Until then, I’m contemplating the possibility of painting ceramic tile. Yep, that’s right. Painting it.
I know what you’re wondering right now. And the answer is this: No, I’m not crazy. And yes, you can paint ceramic tile.
In fact, according to Tim Carter who writes “Ask the Builder,” you can paint floor, wall, or countertop tiles as long as they aren’t in areas that get wet every day. (So if you’re itching to paint the tiles in your shower or on your tub surround, you’re probably out of luck.)
Those who have undertaken this process and lived to write about it differ slightly on their recommendations, but I’ll present the basics here.
Most people agree that the secret is to deep-clean the ceramic tile and grout first using a cleaner that contains a mild abrasive. You’ll also want to repair any damaged tiles before you paint with quick-drying epoxies and caulk.
Some people, like Brian Simkins in this DoItYourself.com article also recommend using an orbital sander or even sandpaper to sand the shiny surface off the tile before priming and painting. This can be a lot of work, but according to Simkins it helps the paint adhere better.
Then, just as you do when you paint the walls, you’ll want to tape the surfaces around your tile so you don’t get paint on them too.
Like Brian Simkins, Ask The Decorator’s Meghan Carter recommends applying primer before painting. (Watch Meghan’s YouTube video, which quickly walks you through the tile painting process.)
When it comes time to paint the tiles, Tim Carter recommends using a semi-gloss or high-gloss oil-based paint for the best results. (Although I’ve read that automotive paint works too!) Once the paint has dried for a couple of days, finish with two coats of a clear water-base urethane so your paint job will resist wear.
For more ceramic tile painting pointers, head over to Be Jane. Of course, you can also hire a local professional to resurface your ceramic tile for you.
Now, a Home-Know-It-All caveat: For as many people as there are who say that you can successfully paint ceramic tile, there are probably twice as many who still react as you likely initially did, by saying: “You’re crazy!”
I’ve seen the results, and it can work. Still, the naysayers may be right. This is a time-consuming, sometimes messy process. And you aren’t guaranteed perfect results. But if it’s your only option besides living with disastrously hideous ceramic tile for years, perhaps you’ll want to give it a try.
As for me, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to tackle the tile-painting job in my kitchen. There’s a lot of tile in there, and I have a whole slew of other more manageable DIY projects I want to handle first. Besides, now that I’m moved in and have my belongings in place, that salmon tile doesn’t bother me quite as much as before. Maybe I can hold off until it’s time to remodel the whole kitchen ... But should I change my mind and decide to tackle painting those tiles, you can bet you’ll see pictures of the process right here!
Now tell me, dear readers, have you tried your hand at painting tile? Or do you know someone who has? Share your pointers as well as your success and horror stories here!
The Home Know-It-All