Worried about the ceramic tiles getting old in your kitchen – it’s time to do some makeover!
While ceramic tiles in your kitchen are long-lasting, they are still subject to wear and tear, which can dull their appearance over time.
However, before you decide to rip them out to replace them with new ones (which can be expensive), you may want to consider painting them instead.
Painting over the existing ceramic tiles in your kitchen will allow you to restore them to new ones and easily change the color you want – without needing replacement or retiling.
Painting Ceramic Tile in the Kitchen
Before you plan to paint, remember that you can only paint ceramic tiles successfully if they are not subjected to water or too much wear.
The tiles that are directly exposed to moisture, such as the floors of bathrooms, the surfaces near the shower, and kitchen countertops are not good places to paint.
The moisture will cause the paint to bubble up and peel away quickly, usually in a matter of a few weeks.
However, other surfaces that are not directly exposed to moisture make good candidates for painting.
What follows is a simple guide to help you paint the ceramic tile so that it lasts for a long time.
Things You Will Need
- Regular & Scrub Sponge
- Abrasive Tile Cleaner, Drop Cloth, and Painter’s Tape
- Bonding Primer, Paint Tray, and Latex or Acrylic Latex Paint
- 200-grit Sandpaper, Dust Mask, Paintbrush, and Roller
You can also use an orbital sander which will help speed up the sanding process. Plus, have some water around for cleaning purposes.
Steps for Painting Over Ceramic Tiles
When you have collected all the above materials, you are ready to give a new finish to your ceramic tiles in the kitchen.
Ready to get started with the steps? Let’s dive in!
Step 1- Prepare the Tiles
While ceramic tile can be painted, it does need to be prepared – meaning having to remove the dirt, debris, and film that covers the tile.
Ceramic backsplash tiles that are glazed make it less likely that paint will stick to them, so they will need to be sanded and cleaned to remove all the dirt.
- Open the windows
- Apply abrasive cleaner to the tile
- Use a scrub sponge to remove grime from tiles and grout
- Rinse with water and a damp sponge after 20 minutes or so, depending on product instruction
Let dry for several hours, and now you are ready to sand.
- Use 200-grit sandpaper or orbital sander and put on a dust mask
- Sand entire surface
- Wipe away tiles with a damp sponge and wait until fully dry
You usually have to wait about 30 minutes or so. Check to see when the tile is dry and ready for adding the primer.
Step 2- Apply the Primer
Using a primer is very important when painting ceramic tiles because it will not only help the paint stick to the surface but will also repel the moisture which may build up.
- Open up the windows to provide good ventilation.
- Place a drop cloth on the floor and painter’s tape to cover the trim on doors and windows, towel bars, etc.
- Use a small amount of bonding primer and apply it to a small area of tile and grout. Let it dry.
I think it’s better to try a small area first, then paint the whole thing and watch it peel away.
So, if the primer starts to bubble up or does not adhere to the surface, you must clean the area again.
But if you see that the primer sticks correctly to the small test area, use a brush or roller to apply it to the rest of the tiles. And let the primer dry as per instructions on the can.
Step 3- Paint the Ceramic Tiles
With the primer fully applied and dried, you are now ready to hand-paint your ceramic backsplash tiles in the kitchen. Follow these steps:
- Stir and pour paint into a paint tray
- Roll or brush a single coat of paint on the tile surface – aim for even coverage
- Let the paint fully dry
- If paint instructions recommend, sand lightly between coats
- Use a damp cloth to wipe away residue
- Apply a new coat of paint
You should have two coats of paint with a coat of primer to protect all the tiles in the area.
In places such as near the countertops, you may want to apply several coats of a polyurethane sealer which will create a moisture-resistant surface.
This sealant layer will also protect the tiles from black soot due to the smoke in the kitchen.
How Long Does the Tile Paint Last in the Kitchen?
Under normal conditions, ceramic tile paint on your kitchen walls or floors can last anywhere from 6 months to 2-3 years.
The paint will generally begin to flake or chip, depending on your lifestyle and use.
For instance, if there’s too much exposure to moisture or water, the paint may eventually wear down sooner than you think because of mold and mildew that may thrive.
The type of paint you use also decides the life of the coating you have put. So, let’s take a look at different paints you can use for ceramic tiles kitchen.
What Kind of Paint to Use On Ceramic Tiles?
Remember that a ceramic tile surface will require a gloss or semi-gloss paint, which is easier to stick and clean.
But in general, you have three options when choosing the right paint.
1- Latex Paint
Latex or acrylic latex typically performs best on the ceramic tiles in your kitchen and can be easily found at your local hardware store.
For these to work as desired, you need to sand off the high-gloss finish of ceramic tiles before applying the paint.
If applying the paint on vertical surfaces like tiled walls and backsplashes, it’s good to apply 1-2 coats of bonding primer, allowing the paint to adhere correctly.
2- Oil-based Paint
Oil-based alkyd or enamel paints will also stick wonderfully to ceramic tiles.
Make sure you put in multiple coats to get the glossy finish you desire. And after you have applied the oil paint on the tiles, allow enough time to dry them completely.
Also, do not allow your housemates to use plumbing around the freshly painted tiles for a day.
3- Epoxy Paint
Two-part epoxy paints (like Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile) are designed for tiles and other hard surfaces that can be difficult to paint.
While following the instructions carefully, apply two coats and allow the drying time as the manufacturer recommends.
Although the available color range may be limited, these specific tile paints are easy to stick directly on with little need for priming or undercoating.
Keep in mind that you do not use any kind of water-based paints like chalk paints on tiles as it’s unstable and can chip or bubble out soon.
What Color to Paint Your Kitchen Tiles With?
The color you choose to paint your kitchen or bathroom tiles can make an impact on your overall home aesthetics.
Especially, if your bathroom isn’t very large and you need to remodel a small bathroom on a budget, it’s best to go for light hues such as cream, light grey, light green, or simply white.
Neutral colors are mostly recommended to keep the tone calm and clean in a smaller area, but you can choose darker shades (like brown, black, etc.) if your bathroom is bigger.
What you can also do is paint the tile grout with a darker shade keeping the tiles lighter and glossy. Or just vice versa, i.e., tiles with dark paint, keeping the grout lighter.
While selecting the right paint colors for tiles, remember that you don’t need to match the floor and wall tiles – it isn’t mandatory.
Stencilling Ceramic Tile for Added Style and Design
Providing a nice customized stencil treatment is a popular way to add a creative touch when painting ceramic tiles.
Once the backsplash tile has been painted to the desired color, purchase tile stencils that match the size and shape of the tile.
You can get them in designs like flowers, alphabets, fruits, etc., and apply the paint in a way to make your tiles look like stone, bricks, slate, etc.
Depending on the color or pattern you choose, it will allow you to change the look of your bathroom or kitchen completely.
- Apply the stencil to the tile, and secure it with painter’s tape
- Use a stencil brush to fill up the fine details with the paint you choose
- Once fully dry, apply a coat of clear polyurethane sealer and let it dry
Once the sealer is fully dry, you will have an attractive stencil design pattern on the tile that will make it stand out.
Do You Need to Kill the Mold Before Painting the Tiles?
Tiles in your kitchen and bathroom are susceptible to molds and mildew due to moisture. If that’s the case for you, cleaning them off before you paint is essential.
There are reasons why I think painting over mold should NOT be an option.
- The primary one is mold is not a kind of stain or dust you can paint over to solve the problem. It’s a fungal growth that keeps on spreading if not treated.
- If you decide to paint over it, the paint will not kill the mold. And in the long run, it will not hide the mold either.
- Basically, it will keep growing behind the paint, reappearing in a short while.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if the mold covers over ten square feet of the wall, you need professional help. You can undertake the DIY job yourself if it’s less than that.
Here is what you will need to scrub the mold off your bathroom floor and other wooden areas if mold exists there:
- Scrub bush
- Chisel and epoxy filler (in case of rot in wooden areas)
Once you have all your materials, it is time to inspect the wooden areas’ framing in your bathroom to make sure that it doesn’t rot.
Once that is done, fill the space with epoxy filler to seal the damaged area. Remove and replace the wood parts using a chisel if the damage is extensive.
Now, you are ready to remove the mold.
- Make a solution of ten parts water with one part of bleach
- Scrub the solution over the mold with a scrub brush or a sponge
- If some nooks and corners are difficult to reach, use a toothbrush to scrub the molds off.
Should You Get the Old Paint Off the Ceramic Tiles Before Painting?
If you have an old paint layer on your bathroom tiles (not in very good condition), remove it and paint fresh to get the best finish.
Ceramic tiles are designed to be sturdy; they can easily stand up to any paint remover.
So based on the condition, you can use a commercial paint remover or a natural homemade solution (water and white vinegar) to strip off the old tile paint.
Follow these steps to get started…
- Rinse and clean your bathroom tiles and allow them to dry
- Using a clean cloth, rub the paint remover on the spot you intend to take the paint off
- If the paint is tough, use a soft, dampened brush (or sponge) to rub over tiles gently
Just in case you notice any rust stains on your wall or floor tiles, you should get them off as well by using one of these methods:
- Pumice stone
- Lemon juice and borax
- Common salt and white vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide and ammonia
- Sodium citrate, water, glycerin, and calcium carbonate
While simply scrubbing your bathroom floor with a pumice stone can often remove the rust stains, you may need to use chemicals and other home remedies that work better for bit tougher stains.
The Bottom Line
Priming, painting, and stenciling ceramic tiles are excellent ways to freshen up the look of your space very quickly. All this can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost compared to retiling.
Make sure you choose the right tools & materials and follow the painting guidelines well to avoid getting the messed-up look you do not love to deal with later.
If you are looking forward to long-term durability, tile replacement can be the best solution, although it’s expensive.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.