Home Remodeling Advice: Painting Bathroom Tile

Painting bathroom tile is generally not recommended. With hard work and a little know how, it can be done, but there are other options.

In the past painting tile was all but unheard of, unless there was a horror story to tell. These days there are some products that promise better results and there are other options besides paint that can be used to improve tile surfaces.

No matter what treatment you choose for your tile, the very first step is to clean the surface thoroughly. If there is mold or mildew, bleach is usually the best agent to use. If no mold or mildew exists, proceed with cleaning using a standard bathroom cleanser and rinse thoroughly with clean water. Allow the surface to dry completely.

If you have decided to try painting, the next step will be to sand the tiles. Be sure to sand tiles until the surface is no longer glossy. You should wear a mask to avoid breathing in residue or dust. Eye protection is a good idea, too. Wipe down the surface after sanding to remove all dust.



Coat the clean, dry surface with a "bonding primer" or a sealer that resists mold and mildew. Primers and sealers must be completely dry before applying paint. It is best to wait at least twenty four hours before painting.

Choose a high quality latex paint, preferably one that is made especially for kitchens or baths. These paints are formulated to resist moisture, mold, and mildew.

The best quality latexes have acrylic "binding agents." These agents help the paint adhere well. Good adhesion and good coverage are the keys to durability. Apply two coats, allowing the first coat to dry before applying the second. Check the label for the manufacturer's suggested drying time, but the paint must be at least dry to the touch.

Pay special attention to the grout work. If the grout is deteriorating scrape away any crumbling material. If the grout is in really bad shape or if it does not come clean, you may want to re-grout after painting. Be sure the paint has had plenty of time to "cure," at least one week, before attempting this option. Changing the color of the grout is also another alternative to painting the actual tiles.

Another idea is to cover the tiles with vinyl wallpaper squares. Home center stores also offer a new product that is much like a decal but can be applied permanently to update your tile, or there is a brand of paint that offers new product lines that claim they will stick to surfaces on which painting was previously never recommended.

You will want to want to use a clear protective top coat over any of the mentioned products. Look for high quality clear, waterproof polyurethane, like the type that is used to protect boats from exposure to water. Be sure the product is compatible with whichever covering you choose. You can ask a customer service person at the home center store for assistance in choosing a top coat, and always follow the manufacturer's safety instructions when working with a new product.

If you decide you really don't want to risk painting tile or don't want to go to the trouble, you can try painting the walls the same or a similar shade as the tile to blend them. You can then design the room around this color so it looks like it was meant to be that way.

If all else fails try using large pieces of artwork or fabric to hide as much of the tile as possible.

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