5 Best Tile Paints Reviewed

Modern Kitchen With White Subway Tile 478427147

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Of all the surfaces that need refinishing, ceramic tile is also the one that can be the most problematic. Porous materials like wood and drywall take well to acrylic-latex paint. Enamels stick to metal, and they work especially well when the metal is sanded or scuffed in advance. But ceramic tile has a couple of factors that work against it, at least in terms of painting.

Tile-Painting Limitations

First, tile used for interior applications such as showers and bathtubs is dense and is either vitreous or impervious. Vitreous tile absorbs no more than 3-percent of its weight in water; impervious tile, the densest available, absorbs less than a half-percent of its weight in water. Second, the type of tile that many homeowners wish to paint is often subject to much ordinary, everyday abuse. Tile in showers receives vast amounts of water possibly several times a day. 

Does this mean that tile cannot be painted? No. But the most vibrant and durable tile colors and designs are those that are incorporated during the firing process. After all, that is one of the key benefits to using tile as a durable material: its top surface is nearly as hard as the base material itself.

Tile-Painting Possibilities

It is possible to paint on a tile that has previously been fired. High-traffic tile or tile subjected to lots of moisture, while not meant to be painted, can be painted. It is not standard practice to take a roller to your kitchen or bathroom floor; paint on these surfaces will soon wear off. Tile paint works best on vertical surfaces that receive less abuse: backsplashes, wall tile, and wainscot tile.

More importantly, look at painting tile as a treatment that may eventually wear down. Whether six months or six years from now, tile paint will begin to flake and chip. Tile replacement is always the best option for long-term durability.

Tile-Painting Tips

Reduce the possibility of error and lengthen the potential lifespan for your painted tile with two crucial steps: reducing gloss and cleaning your tile properly.

  • Fine-grit (400 grit or higher) sandpaper is sufficient for deglossing the tile. Your aim is not to completely remove the gloss to the base material, but to bring down the gloss so that it is no longer shiny.
  • Because tile tends to be installed in areas that receive a lot of soap scum, food splatter, and other kitchen and bathroom debris, you must thoroughly clean the tile in advance. If the tile is very dirty, you may even need to clean before sanding, and then clean once more after sanding.
  • You can paint directly over tile grout. However, you never want to paint over any flexible areas such as caulking or silicone seams.
  • 01 of 05

    XIM Tile Doc Epoxy Acrylic Coating Aerosol

    It is the rare paint that actually advertises its tile-coating ability right there on the label. But Rust-oleum's XIM Tile Doc is formulated and designed just for tile, since its glossy sheen is meant to hold up to hot, soapy water. XIM Tile Doc sprays on with little effort and dries to use within three days. This epoxy-modified acrylic paint requires xylene for clean up. One downside is that it comes in only one color: white.

  • 02 of 05

    Valspar Terracotta Touch

    Valspar Terracotta Touch is made specifically for tile and glass, as well as wood, metal, and plastic. Because this is a spray paint meant for creating a suede-like or stone texture, you greatly increase your chance of achieving a consistent surface capable of hiding minor flaws. One downside is that spray paint mist can be difficult to confine indoors, even when you take precautions.

  • 03 of 05

    Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations

    Rust-Oleum leads the way in producing coatings for hard-to-coat surfaces. Tile Transformations is their most popular tile paint. Unlike XIM Tile Doc, Tile Transformations produces a lightly textured stone-like surface. With a choice of fourteen colors in the pastel-gray-blue spectrum, Tile Transformations offers up more choices than XIM. This is a two-part kit that starts with a bonding coat and finishes with a top coat that is ready to use within 24 hours. If you are hesitant about painting your tile, you may want to go with this type of complete two-step kit. 

  • 04 of 05

    Valspar Premium Enamel Spray Paint

    If you're looking for a greater range of choices than Tile Transformations can offer, you may want to consider Valspar's Premium Enamel Spray Paint. All forty-seven of these solid colors, in either flat, satin, or gloss, dry to the touch in about one hour. Valspar expressly notes that this paint can be used for ceramic tile, stone, and terracotta.

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  • 05 of 05

    Rust-Oleum Tub and Tile Refinishing Kit

    In addition to XIM and Tile Transformations, Rust-Oleum also has a little-known product that works well for ceramic tile, an epoxy acrylic tile paint. It is less expensive than Tile Transformations but only comes in three colors: white, almond, and biscuit. As a two-part paint kit, two substances need to be mixed together and then applied as one, as opposed to a two-step bonding agent plus top coat mixture of Tile Transformations.