It's a budget-friendly option, but is it a good idea?

By Nancy Mattia
February 13, 2020
Getty / Alyssa Stasiukonis / EyeEm

If replacing the tile in your bathroom or kitchen isn't in your renovation budget, you may be considering painting over what is already there, instead. Full disclosure: While it's more affordable, it's still a short-term fix. As for how long your paint job will last? "It depends on use, abuse, and the entire process of painting it," explains Rick Watson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams. Inadequate surface prep might compromise the existing tile in the long run, he says, and the paint might ultimately start flaking off. But if you're committed to the project, you'll want to do it right. Here's how to paint well-worn tiles correctly, according to Watson.

Related: Your Guide to Choosing the Right Tile for Your Space

Make sure your tile can take paint.

You can't just paint over any tile—the material matters. Ceramic is probably the best contender, but it must be prepped correctly, says Watson. As for the surfaces to avoid? Stone, including marble, does not hold paint well even when bonding primers are used.

Only paint in low-moisture areas.

To avoid paint flaking, fading, peeling, or blistering prematurely, choose surfaces where there isn't an excessive amount of moisture; kitchens (except for the area right behind the sink) and laundry room walls do well, says Watson. Avoid bathroom showers, the interior of tubs, floors, and countertops, which frequently get drenched. High-traffic areas are also off-limits—wear and tear shows too soon.

Give tiles a good scrubbing.

Your tiles may look clean, but they are likely full of grease, dirt, or even mold. "Cleaning them is the most important step," says Watson. "Thoroughly wash all areas that you plan to prime and paint with a good cleaner, degreaser, or an emulsifying dish soap. Rinse with clean water, and let it dry."

Related: Six Gorgeous Tile Design Ideas

Scuff and repair any damaged tiles.

Next, lightly scuff the tiles with sandpaper, which will help the paint adhere better, before wiping the tiles down with a clean, damp sponge. At this point, assess the state of your tile, and then make repairs on cracks and chips as needed. "The most durable way to fix broken tile is to use a two-part epoxy filler that is paintable," explains Watson.

Thoroughly prime the surface.

Don't skip the priming step: A primer helps the paint adhere to the surface. After letting the primer dry, you're ready to paint.

Let everything dry completely.

While it's inconvenient to have parts of your home off-limits for 24 hours (or however long your paint manufacturer advises), having beautifully painted tiles that won't peel too quickly will be worth the wait. You won't regret giving the area the time it needs.

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