How To Paint Ceramic Tile
DEAR TIM: Can you instruct me how to paint ceramic tile? Money is very tight now, and applying paint to my ceramic tile is the only thing I can afford. Can you paint old ceramic tile, so it will not peel? Is there a special ceramic-tile paint? What is an easy way to paint ceramic floor tile, and should I paint the grout? Leslie S., Belleville, IL
DEAR LESLIE: I will gladly help you discover how to paint ceramic tile. If you have painted walls and even flooring before, you can do this job. The best part is you can really transform the look and feel of a room when you paint ceramic tile.
Any ceramic tile can be painted no matter if it is old or new. The most important thing is to make sure the tile is perfectly clean. Many people ignore the instructions on paint cans. If you take a few moments to read these instructions, you will discover that they tell you to apply the paint to clean, dry surfaces that are free of grease, wax, dirt and dust.
You can clean ceramic tile with just about any soap, but the more powerful ones often give you a better job. I urge you to use a scrub brush to aggressively clean the tile and the grout. The best tile and grout cleaner I have ever used is oxygen bleach. This is a powder that you mix with water. You apply a generous amount of the solution and let it soak into the grout. Millions of oxygen bubbles attack the dirt. After a 10-minute wait, scrub the grout with excess oxygen-bleach solution and the grout looks like new. If you plan to also paint the grout, you must let the grout dry for at least 48 hours.
To ensure that the new paint will not peel, you need to use the right paint. In the past, I have had great success with oil-based paint. Pollution laws that address volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint make it harder and harder to find oil paints. Many people also do not like the clean-up process where you need to use mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean the brushes, rollers and other tools.
Water-based paints that contain a urethane resin are good paints to use as well. Urethane is a very sticky glue, and after all, that is what paint really is - a liquid glue that contains color. You really need a sticky paint to adhere to the glossy surface of most ceramic tile.
There are places where I would not apply paint to ceramic tile or other glazed surfaces. Do not apply it to ceramic tile that gets wet on a regular basis. Examples of this are tile surfaces inside a tub or shower area. I would also not paint the inside glazed surface of a toilet bowl. You can successfully paint a ceramic-tile backsplash that gets occasional water on it. The ceramic-tile floor in a bathroom can also be painted so long as the water sports in the bathroom do not get totally out of control.
To keep the paint on the tile looking like new, you need to protect it. This is especially true if you decide to paint ceramic floor tile. Painted floors of any type work well, and proof of that is any basketball court. Painted basketball courts are created by painting the patterns on the floor, let the paint cure for two days and then coat the entire floor with several coats of clear floor finish. I have found that the water-based urethanes stay clear for a long time, never yellowing.
As for painting the grout, that is a personal decision. There is no doubt it will make the job easier if you paint the grout the same color as the tile. If you do want a contrast in color, then you will be painstakingly taping off the grout lines with the special acrylic masking tape that will not stick to fresh paint.
If you want natural grout and need to regrout, do so before you paint. The regrouting process will damage the freshly-painted tile. Keeping paint out of grout requires great skill and patience.
You can use a roller to paint a ceramic-tile floor. I suggest a roller with a low nap to keep bubbles and texture to a minimum. You can also add products to the paint that allow them to flow well and attain a finish as if they had been sprayed. If you have a sprayer, you absolutely can spray the tile. Be sure to protect adjacent surfaces from overspray.
Make sure the urethane you use to protect the paint is applied to a clean dust-free surface. Read the paint-can label to see how soon you can apply the urethane. It is best to let the paint cure as long as possible so it gets nice and hard. This will make it more durable.
Author's Note: We've received other questions with similar problems or questions. Here's one from E.J. Vincent of California regarding her ceramic tile painting project.
"I want to paint my own design onto ceramic tile, like the ones you would buy at Home Depot. Is there a special ceramic tile paint and sealer I need to use? The ceramic tiles will be incorporated in with the same unpainted tiles on the kitchen cabinet top and back splash."
|Message from Tim:
Years ago while researching a column about cleaning decks, I discovered the wonders of Oxygen Bleach. It is perhaps the 'greenest' cleaner I know of as it uses oxygen ions to break apart stains, dirt and odor molecules. There are no harsh chemicals, and it works on just about anything that is water washable.
I decided to create my own special blend using ingredients made in the USA. In fact, the raw materials in the active ingredient are food-grade quality registered with the FDA. I call my product Stain Solver. I urge you to use it to help with cleaning your tile grout. You will be amazed at the results!