How to paint tiles

Outdated tiles can be a major drawback in a kitchen or bathroom, so follow this step-by-step guide for an affordable solution that can transform a space in a matter of hours

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Need advice on painting your whole house, inside and out? Why not start small, with ugly or outdated ceramic tiles you've inherited (or have to live with because you rent). 

Painting over those eye-sore tiles rather than replacing or putting up with them is this a much quicker (and cheaper) solution. So, whether you have inherited a dated bathroom you're doing up on a budget or need to cut the cost of a new-look kitchen, follow our step-by-step guide to transform your space in a matter of hours.

What you will need

1. Choose the right tiles to paint

Painting over well-worn tiles may be a quick, affordable way to update a room, however it is not the most durable solution; if anything, it's more of a stop-gap. To avoid the paint peeling quickly, opt for areas that aren’t subject to much drenching - avoid showers or areas directly behind the sink, for example. A faded kitchen splashback would work best. 

2. Clean the tiles thoroughly

Making sure the tiles are clean before you even pick up a brush is key. Dirt, dust and grease can stop the paint adhering properly so spend some time cleaning the tiles with sugar soap or a detergent solution and a scourer. If there are any mould stains on the grouting or sealant, use a fungicidal spray to kill it off before applying any paint. A steam cleaner is also very effective for cleaning grout and tiles. Ensure the tiles are completely dry before starting to paint (we recommend waiting 24 hours.) 

Top tip: If the grout is in poor condition, scrape it out and re-grout before painting. Same goes for any hairline cracks. Use an epoxy glue on smaller cracks to create an even surface. Taking the time to do this will give the best finish. 

3. Sand the tiles

When painting a high-gloss tile, lightly sand the area to give the paint something to adhere to, just be sure to clean off any dust before you start painting. 

4. Shop for the right paint for tiles

Successful results rely on choosing the right, high-quality, paint, with specific tile paints the best choice. Try Ronseal One Coat Tile Paint and Dulux Tile Paint; the majority of these specialist paints won’t need a primer but always follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

Tile paint colour options can be limited, so if you are want a particular shade, prime tiles with a high-quality, solvent-based primer and use a high-gloss or semi-gloss paint for your top coats. 

5. Prime your tiles (if necessary)

If you are using a primer, a small brush is the best choice for the job as it’s hard to get into the grouting with a roller. Be aware that painting tiles is unforgiving and brush strokes will show easily so keep your coats thin. Let the primer dry completely and then lightly sand to ensure the paint adheres to the surface. Remove any dust before starting on your topcoat. 

6. Paint the tiles

After the primer is completely dry use a similar sized brush to start painting on your colour. Apply several thin coats to avoid heavy brush marks showing through and to ensure the paint doesn’t peel after just a few weeks. Two coats will usually be required, but if you are painting over a dark coloured or patterned tile you may require more. Be aware that if you are painting tiles with a raised pattern this will still show. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly between each layer.

7. Let the paint dry

Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours – or for the time stated by your chosen paint's manufacturer.

Tips for painting bathroom tiles

  • Try to remove any silicone sealant from around showers, baths and sinks before painting and re-seal when the painting is complete. If you can’t remove the sealant, make sure it is properly masked off as paint will never properly adhere to it.
  • Once you have painted your tiles do not attempt to re-grout, do this step before, as anything abrasive will remove the paint. 
  • Avoid abrasive cleaning products after painting your tiles as it will remove the paint. 

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