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A Guide to Painting Over Tile: Do’s and Don’ts

Replacing tile can be a huge project, so if you want to refresh a room, you may consider painting over old tile rather than pulling it up. Painting over tile needs to be done with great care; otherwise, the paint job won’t last very long – especially in a bathroom or kitchen. In rooms such as these, you will have a lot of steam, heat, and water, which can all be very hard on paint.

We will break down the do’s and don’ts of painting over tile so you can have a job you are proud of. Like most do-it-yourself projects, prep work will be key to a satisfactory job. Painted-over tile will not last as long as new tile, of course, but it can last several years if you take your time and do the job properly.

Using a roller for painting over tile

Paint Over Tile: Do’s

Follow the below steps when painting over tile to ensure that your project not only comes out great but also lasts for years to come.

Prepare the Tile Correctly

The first step in painting over tile is to clean it thoroughly. You must remove all dust, oil, and residue. We recommend using Goo Gone Tile Cleaner, which will not only clean the oil and debris off but will also remove any sticky material or residue that may have developed.

Make sure you go over the tile a few times to ensure it is truly cleaned, and there is nothing left that will damage your paint job. Make sure you also wipe the tile completely dry after cleaning it.

Once the tile is clean, the next step in painting over tile is to repair any old grout that may be damaged. In order for your new paint job to look right, the grout is going to have to be even and in good shape.

We suggest using PentaUSA Tile Grout Repair if your grout is in pretty good shape, but if it is very damaged, you might have to regrout the entire area.

When painting over tile, any flaw in the grout will show, so make sure to take care with this step and ensure that it is even. If you take time on this step, you will be much happier with the finished product. Once the grout is replaced or repaired, you will need to leave it until it fully cures.

After the grout has fully cured and been repaired, the next step in painting over tile is to sand it down. Using a palm sander such as the Dewalt Sander you will want to use light pressure and high grit sandpaper, such as 240 or 320, to create small scrapes across the tile finish. This will greatly improve the paint adhesion and lead to a longer-lasting finished product.

When sanding, make sure to be even in your approach. You want to apply pressure the same way across each tile; otherwise, you may dig into one more than the others and create an uneven surface. The sanding will also help clean up any stray grout from your repair work.

The last step in preparing your tile for paint is to wash it again, this time just with a damp cloth and rags. You will want to use rags rather than paper towels to ensure you don’t leave any fibers behind. Wipe it clean and let it fully dry before you proceed to the next steps.

Paint with Primer and the Right Paint

Now that you have prepared the tile, you are ready to start applying primer and paint. The paint you use is extremely important, as normal paint will not be sufficient for sticking to the tile. When painting over tile, always use epoxy paint.

You will want to use a paint roller for application, as this will ensure a nice, even coat and lends itself well to covering both the tile and grout. Because the paint and primer you are going to use are especially sticky, you’ll want a roller for each coat as it is very hard to wash off.

Before you can start actually painting over tile, you’ll want to use a primer. We suggest Kilz Primer, which will stick to your tile well and does a great job of sealing the surface from water and humidity penetration. This primer can easily be rolled on, and you’ll likely only need one coat if you get good coverage. Wait until the primer fully dries and cures before moving on to paint.

You will want to use epoxy paint, which you can purchase in a kit. Epoxy paint is especially good for tile because it sticks very well to most surfaces and is very durable in higher heat and moisture locations such as a bathroom or kitchen. This comes at the cost of being harder to work with than normal paint.

Epoxy paint is very sticky, so you will use more to cover less space. When rolling it on, make sure to not overload your roller as you will have drips form, and roll it slowly and evenly.

Keep paint thinner or other removal chemicals nearby in case you mistakenly spill or have imperfections form, as you won’t want to wait until it dries to clean up.

When painting over tile you’ll need to apply multiple coats to ensure that the paint job lasts a long time. With most epoxy paints, you’ll have a 24 – 48 hour wait period in between coats to let it fully cure. Make sure it isn’t tacky to the touch before starting your next coat.

Generally, you need 2 or 3 coats when painting over tile. After you’ve finished the core color, apply a clear coat made for epoxy paint if you want a shiny finish, or move on to a pattern if that is what you decide.

Apply a Pattern if Wanted

If you want a fancier look when painting over tile, you can apply a pattern once your first color is finished. You’ll need a stencil and another color epoxy paint. You’ll also likely want to use a very small roller or paintbrush for this to ensure you only paint where your stencil is located.

Using a stencil to paint patterns on tile

To use a stencil, you will want to tape it to the tile with painters tape. Make sure to get it very flat and tight on the tile to ensure the paint only goes where you want. This is key to having a pattern that looks exactly like the stencil with no drips.

If you use multiple stencils at once and can tape them together to make a bigger pattern square, it will make your life much easier and mean less tape and stencil removal.

Applying a pattern can take a very long time, as you will need to tape the stencil on, paint, remove the stencil, and put it on the next tile. You can do this one after the other, just make sure to not tape on your recently painted design.

Just like with the tile you painted, use an epoxy paint and carefully brush it over your stencil. You will likely need only one coat, but it’s a good idea to keep the stencil around in case any tiles don’t turn out how you want.

Paint Over Tile: Don’ts

Painting over tile is an inexpensive way to breathe new life into a room, but if you don’t take care when doing it the project won’t last. There are a number of things to keep in mind when painting over tile, which make up our list of “don’ts” for this project.

Don’t apply paint or primer directly onto the tile without preparing it. This one should be at the top of your list as preparation is key to success. If you cut corners when it comes to the prep work and just try to jump right into the project, you will have a result that will peel off in under a year.

Don’t remove the old grout, just repair it. Unless your grout is already mostly destroyed, there is no reason to remove it. It opens up pores in the tile and creates way more work. Repairing grout spots is way easier and will result in a better-finished product when you are painting over tile.

Don’t paint without primer, and don’t use a non-epoxy paint. Primer is a necessary step when you are painting any surface that naturally doesn’t accept paint, and tile is no exception. You need the primer to help create a better bonding surface. Similarly, using regular household paint is sure to create a headache down the road as they are not designed for the type of surface material you are painting on. Use only an epoxy-based paint.

The last “don’t” on our list for painting over tile is to use a roller and not a brush. A roller is going to create a much more even coat and help with better application. A paintbrush can have its fibers pulled out by epoxy paint, given how sticky it is, and will not apply as easily as a roller will.

Using a roller with white paint to paint over tiles

Wrapping up Painting Over Tile

Painting over tile can be a pretty quick job, other than the curing times, and make a room look new. While it is not as long-lasting as replacing the tile, it is a cheap alternative that most people can do with just a few household tools. Like most projects, the preparation work is key to success, and skipping any steps can result in a finished product that doesn’t last or look how you had imagined.

For more great DIY projects, check out DIY Painting Tips!