Paint Ceramic Tile
If you've grown tired of the look of your ceramic tile or you're changing your decor, painting can save the expense of tiling over the existing tile or replacing it. While you should certainly leave painting ceramic tile shower and tub walls to the specialists (see your telephone directory under "Bathtub Refinishing" or "Appliance Refinishing"), you can repaint ceramic wall tile yourself in a half bath, kitchen, or other room provided that the tile is not directly exposed to water and is still in good condition. The key to success is very careful preparation and using the right primer and paint.
Tools & Materials
1. Clean Tile and Grout: Use a good commercial bathroom tile and grout cleaner to remove all grease, dirt, and grime. If there is mildew present be sure to use a product designed to kill the mildew and remove any stains. Use a nonmetallic abrasive pad (e.g., green scrubber pad) to clean. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of detergent/cleaner.
- Caution: Wear rubber gloves and goggles.
2. Sand Tile:
- Tip: If grout repairs are required they must be completed at least 48 hours prior to painting so the new grout will have adequate time to cure.
To assure a proper bond you must sand the tile very well. Use a very fine (220-grit) aluminum oxide paper, which will remove the gloss without leaving telltale scratches that would telegraph through the new finish. For all but the smallest areas, use a power pad (finishing) or random-orbit type sander. (One manufacturer, Zinsser, claims that sanding is unnecessary when using its well-known bonding primers, such as its water-based product Bullseye 1-2-3. Of course, you can still sand as an extra precaution if you use this product.)
- Caution: Wear goggles, a dust mask, a hat, and other protective clothing when sanding.
- Tip: Put a window fan (set to "exhaust") in the work area and open a nearby window outside the room. This keeps dust from entering other areas and exhausts much of it outdoors. If your sander is equipped for it, attach a vacuum or dust bag, too.
- Wipe off sanding dust with a damp cloth to reveal any areas that you missed, which will be indicated by glossy patches.
3. Remove Dust: Clean the tile thoroughly with a vacuum, brush, and slightly damp lint-free cloth to remove all sanding dust.
4. Apply Primer:
4a. In low-humidity area: Use a high-adhesion interior latex bonding primer, such as Zinsser's 000. Because the prime coat is critical to success, two coats may be warranted. Generally you can achieve very similar results with a paint pad or a short-nap roller. Experiment with both if you wish but my vote is a pad.
4b. In high-humidity area:
- Caution: Always read safety warnings and instructions on the label, and follow the manufacturer's equipment and application instructions.
In very high-humidity areas, you'll need the extra bonding strength of a two-component epoxy primer or paint (the paint does not require a primer). This paint generally requires care and skill to apply and is best applied with a brush, so only use it for more demanding applications.
5. Apply Topcoat:
- Tip: Improper measuring or mixing of the components can result in paint that won't cure or that dries too fast. Either way you would be in for a very big mess. Follow instructions to the letter!
Apply a 100% acrylic latex semigloss or gloss paint over the prime coat. Cut in around windows, doors, corners, ceilings, and floors with a brush or pad applicator, and apply paint to the remaining area with a pad (or short-nap roller). Recoat after the proper drying time specified on the label. Latex primers and paints may take a full 14 days to become scratch- and abrasion-resistant. So prime and paint as directed above but make every effort to avoid unnecessary contact with the painted tiles for two weeks.
- Tip: Cut in a limited area at a time so the paint won't begin to set up before you paint the rest of the wall. Go over as much of the cut-in area as possible to minimize any visible changes in texture.
- A wide variety of decorative painting techniques such as sponging, rag-rolling, and stippling can add a creative touch to your project.