diy, Tips & How-To

Can You Paint Bathroom Tiles?

Yes, you can paint bathroom tiles. It’s a great way to up your painting game and repurpose your existing bathroom tiles.

As with every painting task, there are special considerations to keep in mind. In this post, we’ll answer these questions:

  • Are there any special considerations when painting bathroom tile? (For example, can you paint porcelain tile, and are there any types of tile you can’t paint?)
  • What types of paint can be used on bathroom tile?
  • Can you paint shower tile or other areas that might be affected by moisture?
  • How do you need to prepare the tiling for paint?
  • Can painted tiles be repainted?
  • Are all tile surfaces (floor vs. shower vs. tub) created equal?
  • What are the benefits of painting tile, and when might it be better to replace it?

So, let’s dive into all things bathroom tile, and how paint can breathe new life into a space that you thought was — sometimes literally — set in stone.

Special considerations

So, can you paint porcelain tiles? The answer is yes. According to Bobvila.com, you can also paint most popular tile types, including ceramic, natural stone, and unglazed quarry tile). The only big exception is for glazed quarry tile, to which paint doesn’t easily stick.

It’s also important to note that this likely won’t just be a one-and-done task. At the very least, you’ll need to prep the bathroom tile surface, prime it, paint it, apply any patterns (optional!), and then seal it. This can put your bathroom out of commission for a weekend or longer, so make sure to scope this properly so you can plan accordingly.

Painting tiles in high-moisture areas

So, your want your bathroom tiles painted in all areas, including around the bathtub, in the shower, and around the sink. What do you need to know before starting? 

The good news is that yes, shower tiles and other water-risk areas can be painted. Realize, though, that areas exposed to heavy amounts of water have a higher risk of prematurely fading, blistering, or peeling. This typically would include tile inside a shower, tile directly outside the bathtub, and vanity surfaces near sinks. 

Just make sure you’re aware that these areas will likely require more maintenance than your average wall, backsplash, or floor area away from the tub. They will also likely require a stronger type of epoxy paint for high-moisture areas if you want a longer lifespan. 

Preparing the tiled surface

Before you paint, you’ll want to sand, scrub, and prime the tile.

When sanding and scrubbing, go over all areas of the tile: the face, the grout, and over any buildup or stains. Be sure to vacuum up any dust after sanding, and then give it all a heavy scrub down and rinse.

Once the tile is clean and dry, it’s time for primer. Different tile types require different types of primer: epoxy or urethane primer for ceramic or porcelain and masonry primer for natural stone or unglazed quarry tile.

Paint types to use with bathroom tile

To paint ceramic, porcelain, or unglazed quarry tile, you can use either latex or epoxy paint in one-part (pre-mixed) or two-part (ready-to-mix) varieties. Note that latex paint is usually less smelly and toxic, but unless you choose a type that’s mildew-proof, it will easily weather under heavy moisture exposure.

For areas heavily affected by water (tub surrounds, backsplashes, vanity countertops, and shower surfaces), you’ll want to consider epoxy paint. This dries into a surface that’s harder than latex paint, more durable, and more resistant to moisture, heat, and everyday wear-and-tear. Bobvila.com also recommends you look for an affordable two-part epoxy like this one that’s specifically designed for tubs and tiles.

Natural stone tiles are different. They require an acrylic latex paint intended for interior masonry or stucco. Just note that the glossier the finish, the slipperier the tile will be.  

As you can see, picking the right paint is crucial when it comes to bathroom tiling. But the options are there — you just need to find the right one!

Painting over tiling that’s already painted

Most popular types of bathroom tile can be painted and repainted. It will give you great flexibility to update your bathroom every few years.

As discussed above, high-moisture areas can require maintenance as time goes on. You may need to reprep and repaint the tiles every couple years, depending on how the paint holds up. It will help to scope this ahead of time 

The benefits of painting tile vs. replacing it

Painting your bathroom tile instead of retiling has quite a few benefits. Here are just a few things your clients can take advantage of:

  • Painting tile is far cheaper than replacing it. Material costs can run upwards of $1,500. 
  • Tub and shower surrounds are even more costly. If you’re  looking to retile the bathtub and shower areas, it can add another $400 – $1,300 to the materials cost.
  • Painted patterns are far cheaper than tiles with patterns. While basic, single-color ceramic tile is fairly affordable, more ornate tiles are typically far more expensive. Why not stencil paint your  preferred pattern instead?
  • Any look, any time. Painting bathroom tile is a perfect way to keep up with the times and redecorate without breaking the bank.  

Before and after

We thought it would be a great idea to show you just how substantially painting tile can upgrade your client’s bathroom. Check out the images below to get inspired!

As you can see, the question of “can bathroom tile be painted” is a definite yes. With proper preparation and a little bit of extra knowledge, you can make your aging bathroom look new again — and perhaps gain some new experience in the process! 

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