Worried about the ceramic tiles in the kitchen getting old – it’s time to do something about it!
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 it out and replace it with a new ceramic tile (which can be an expensive proposition), you may want to consider painting it instead.
Painting ceramic tiles in your kitchen will not only allow you to restore them to new ones but also to easily change the color you want – without getting them replaced.
You can in fact paint over existing tiles as retiling your kitchen can be troublesome and can cost you much.
The thing you need to remember is that there are only a specific variety of tiles that can be painted, provided they are not subjected to water or too much wear.
So, it’s best to get confirmation whether you can paint over them or not.
Painting Ceramic Tile in Kitchen
You can paint ceramic tile in most places and several coats will provide additional protection to help it last even longer.
All this can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost compared to replacing it.
Care that the tile that is directly exposed to moisture, such as the floors of bathrooms, the surfaces in a shower, and kitchen countertops are not good places to paint.
The moisture will cause the paint to bubble up and peel 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
You will need the following items:
- Regular & Scrub Sponge
- Abrasive Tile Cleaner, Drop Cloth, and Painter’s Tape
- Bonding Primer, Paint Tray, and Latex Paint
- 200-grit Sandpaper, Dust Mask, Paintbrush and/or 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 Tile
When you have collected all the above materials, you are now 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.
This means 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.
However, the glazed tile is easier to clean, and then the sanding process should remove the rest of 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 damp sponge after 20 minutes or so depending on product instruction
Let dry for several hours, 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 tile.
The primer will not only help the paint stick to the surface but will also help repel the moisture which may build up.
You’ll need to use a bonding primer so that it will properly stick.
Now you are ready to begin.
- Place a drop cloth on the floor and painter’s tape to cover trim on doors and windows, towel bars, etc.
- Remember to open up the windows to provide good ventilation
- Use a small amount of bonding primer and apply it to a small area of tile and grout. Let it dry.
This is an important step because if the primer starts to bubble up or simply does not adhere to the surface, then you’ll need to clean the area again.
It’s better to try a small area first then paint the whole thing and watch it peel away.
- If the primer sticks, use a brush or roller to apply it to the rest of the tile
- 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.
The steps for painting are as follows:
- 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 along with a coat of primer.
This will work to protect the tile in areas where moisture is not all that present.
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 will also protect from the black soot due to the smoke in the kitchen.
Killing the Mold Before Painting the Tiles
Tiles in your kitchen and bathroom can be susceptible to getting molds. And if that’s the case for you, cleaning them off before you paint is important.
There are several reasons why I think painting over mold should NOT be an option…
First of all, mold is not a stain or some dust that you can paint over to solve the problem.
If you decide to paint over mold, the paint will not kill the mold. And in the long run, it will not hide the mold either.
Basically, the mold will keep on growing behind the paint, and it will reappear in a short while.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if the mold covers over ten square feet of the wall, you need to get professional help.
If it’s less than that, you can undertake the DIY job yourself.
Here is what you will need for scrubbing 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 have rot.
Once that is done, you will have to fill the space with epoxy filler to seal the area.
However, if the damage is extensive, you may have to replace the wood parts in your bathroom.
After all of this is done, you are now ready to remove the mold.
- Make a solution of ten parts water for every one part of bleach
- Scrub the mold with a scrub brush or a sponge
- If there are some nooks and corners that are difficult to reach, you can use a toothbrush to scrub the molds off
Keep in mind, that fungi and dry rot love a moist environment.
They may thrive there and can cause severe damage if left uncontrolled.
So, before you plan to paint the floor tiles in your bathroom, you need to inspect for the mold/fungi and scrub them off completely.
What Color to Paint the Tiles With?
The color you choose to paint your bathroom tiles can really make an impact.
Especially if you want to remodel a small bathroom on a budget.
If your bathroom isn’t very large, it’s best to go for light hues such as cream, light grey, light green, or simply white.
While neutral colors like these can help to keep the tone calm and clean, you can still choose darker shades (like brown, black, etc) if your bathroom is big.
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 color keeping the grout lighter.
This technique can make your small bathroom look luxurious.
In my opinion, white paint and other light finishes can make space look bigger by reflecting the available light more.
And for this reason, they are especially effective for small spaces like your bathroom.
While selecting the right paint colors for floor tiles, also keep in mind that you don’t need to match the floor and wall tiles – it isn’t mandatory.
What Kind of Paint to Use On Ceramic Tiles?
Remember that a tile surface will require a gloss or semi-gloss paint which is easier to stick and clean.
So, choosing the right kind of paint to use on ceramic tiles is important.
When choosing the right paint, you have three options.
1- Latex Paint
Acrylic latex kind of paint can be found easily 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 which allows the paint to adhere properly.
2- Oil-based Paint
Unlike latex paints, oil-based alkyd paints or enamel paints will stick wonderfully to the ceramic tiles.
Make sure you put multiple coats to get the best glossy finish you desire to have.
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 recommended by the manufacturer.
Again, tiles used in the kitchen are mostly glazed and shiny, hence make sure you choose the specific tile paints that are easy to stick directly on them with very little need for priming or undercoating.
Although the available color range may be limited, make sure that you choose a good brand for getting the perfect finish and durability.
Keep in mind that you do not use any kind of water-based paints like chalk paints on tiles as it’s not stable and can chip or bubble out soon.
How Long Does the Tile Paint Last in Kitchen?
Under normal conditions, ceramic tile paint on your kitchen walls or floors can last anywhere ranging 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 it’s too much exposure to moisture or water, it may eventually wear down sooner than you may think because of mold and mildew that may thrive.
Also keep in mind, that if you spot black mold on bathroom walls or ceiling, you should remediate it first before applying any paint.
Can You Stencil on Ceramic Tile for Added Style?
YES, providing a nice stencil treatment to your kitchen tiles is a popular touch when painting ceramic tiles.
It will allow you to change the look of your bathroom or kitchen depending on the pattern that you choose.
Once the backsplash tile has been painted to the desired color, you can purchase tile stencils that match the size and shape of the tile itself.
You will need to obtain a different color for the design of the stencil.
- Apply the stencil to the tile, secure with Painter’s tape, and paint with the desired color
- Use a stencil brush for fine details. Otherwise, a standard brush or roller will work
- Stencil until the entire surface is finished and let dry
- Once fully dry, apply a polyurethane sealer that is clear. Let dry and apply several coats
Once the sealer is fully dry, you will have an attractive stencil design pattern on the tile that will really make it stand out.
Keep in mind that painting and stenciling tile costs a fraction compared to ripping out and replacing the surface with a new backsplash tile.
But the best part is that you can better customize the appearance of the ceramic tiles to your liking – get them to look like stone, brick, slate, or any other design.
Do You Need to Get Old Paint Off the Tile Floor Before Painting?
Yes, if you have old paint on your bathroom tiles it’s good to remove it and paint fresh to get the best finish.
Floor tiles for the bathroom are designed to be sturdy, and for this reason, they can easily stand up to any kind of paint remover including harsh chemical cleaners.
However, since you are working on the old backsplash tiles and not the new ones, you should consider their present condition.
Based on the condition you can either use commercial paint remover or a natural homemade solution (water and white vinegar) for stripping off the old tile paint.
For getting rid of old paint you can follow these steps:
- Rinse and clean your bathroom floor using a mop and allow it 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, take a soft dampened brush (or sandpaper) and gently rub over the paint on the tiles
Just in case you notice any rust stains on your 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 many times remove the rust stains, you may often need to use a few chemicals and other home remedies that should work better for a bit tougher ones.
The Bottom Line
Overall, priming and painting the ceramic tiles in your kitchen is an excellent way to freshen up the look of your kitchen very quickly.
Make sure that you choose the right tools & materials and follow the painting guidelines well so that you do not end up getting the messed-up look that you do not love to have.
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 more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
Just in case you want to hire pro painters in your local area, you can click here. We can instantly send you free quotes from trusted painters based on your specific requirement.