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Help with updating/painting 40& year old bathroom ceramic tile!!

I want to update my bathroom as inexpensively as possible.  (I am planning on selling)  I have that 70's ceramic that is about 5 feet high and surrounds the walls, tub and sink.  I thought about taking it out, but that would require me to put in a new tub surround, shower doors etc. and probably refinishing the tub.  Not to mention the space that it would create around the floor, door frames, etc. so what I wanttoknow is whether painting ceramic tile in the bathroom can be more than just sanding and changing the color. 


1.  Can I do more than 1 color?

2.  Can I do a random faux finish on a few tiles to update the style?

3.  What does the tile look like when it is painted?  Glossy? Satin?

4. Could I make it look marbled?


I am not as concerned about time as I am about cost.


Thank you!

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Posted 2011-07-23T19:29:38+0000  by irishlam irishlam

Hello irishlam!


Welcome to the community!


I worked in the tile and paint areas of my store for a lot of years, let's talk about updating your bathroom!


Painting over your tiles is definitely one of the best ways to inexpensively update your bathroom. Your faux finish ideas sound really creative:smileyhappy: but you do have an option of taking out the tiles...but if it is too much of rearranging, $$$,  and demolition work as you say, let's jump in the saddle for painting your tiles...this includes your grout too! 


Painting ceramic tiles or any hard non-porous surface can be done without the use of sanding, even with high gloss surfaces. In our paint department, we sell primers that can stick to high sheen surfaces without sanding. And without a primer, you run the risk of multiple coats and worse, the paint not sticking to the tile at all, even if you sanded. We sell a few primers that will work, but the best for your application would be Cover-Stain by Zinsser. It's an oil-based formula, which means that it once dried, it will create a sort of moisture barrier for your tile and grout underneath, something that will be needed in a wet location area such as a bathroom. It dries within an hour, can be tinted to match your top coats color, and you can paint a latex acrylic based paint on top of it! Below is a picture of this product:



After applying your primer, you are set to go with a top coat of paint. I would suggest using at minimum at semi-gloss or even high-gloss sheen for your bathroom walls. Lower sheens won't hold up to the moisture and traffic day in and day out like the higher glosses do. With that said, I will answers your questions in the order in which you asked them:


1.  Can I do more than 1 color?

You sure can! Depending on what sort of mood or style you prefer, you can even go with slightly subtle changes in hues for certain tiles. You can make a checkerboard pattern. Or you can paint every 3rd tile a complimentary color to the ones around them. In other words, the sky is the limit for how you want the final look to be on your tiles. Remember, we sell small 8 ounce paint testers in our paint department in a semi/high gloss sheen that can be tinted, so you aren't stuck with buying bigger quart sizes of colors you just may need on a few tiles. They are usually found at the paint counter and can be mixed to whatever color you like! To get inspired, start by picking out things you know or see around you that you would want to update your room. You can find this in magazines, movies, or just a simple trip down to the paint department for finding what you prefer.


2.  Can I do a random faux finish on a few tiles to update the style?

Most definitely! While you can choose a technique on certain tiles, you want those tiles to not have the paint chip off eventually. This is where faux glaze comes in handy. It is typically done with 4 parts glaze to one part paint. Glaze does not thin out the paint, it's an extender, which makes it better for faux finishes. It slows down the drying time, allowing for brush strokes, swipes, or other finishes to look their best.  To choose a style that is best for you, our partner in Faux finish know-how, BEHR Paints, has an amazing website that shows all sorts of contemporary and traditional faux finishes, to view them click here!


3.  What does the tile look like when it is painted?  Glossy? Satin?

Like I stated previously, you would need to use a semi-gloss or high gloss paint due to the water and everyday usage. You can use a satin (some paint places have sheens called Sateen, which is a bit glossier than satin) but I would recommend using an exterior grade if you do. Those are sold in small quart sizes and you can still mix faux glaze with them. Exterior grade is the way to go there, but you can use an interior grade semi or high gloss for anything else. In fact, most all latex high gloss paints are rated for indoor or outdoor use! You do run the risk of seeing brush strokes and roller marks when using any higher sheen paints, so adding a little bit of glaze alongside using a high-quality brush and high density foam rollers can give your base coat a nice professional smooth look without the cost of hiring a pro.


4. Could I make it look marbled?

Yes you can! The trick to giving the tile a marble look is adding another color on top of the existing base color, resulting in 3 or 4 colors including the marble veins. Put your glaze coats on with a sponging method, then you can add the veins with...a turkey feather. For some reason, turkey feathers work great for allowing that natural look of stone when you are putting the vein on. It also helps at this step to drink an excessive amount of caffeine to allow for a natural jagged edge, seriously :smileyvery-happy:

As an example, In our faux painting book we sell at our store, a green marble look was achieved by using a black base coat, a green glaze put over, so as to allow the final light white vein to be applied. You can go light to dark or vice versa, but don't dive into the project and expect exact results. The key here is to experiment and try a tile first to see if you like it. The worst that can happen is that you have wet paint on the walls that be painted over or wiped off!


Hope this helps you out, and let us know if you have any further questions,



Posted 2011-07-23T21:02:35+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Good morning Rosalie.:smileyvery-happy:


   You may install wainscot throughout the bathroom – except directly in a shower.  The key to the installation is to not allow any moisture to enter in behind the materials used.  Using a high quality construction adhesive (like liquid nails) and nailing with finish nails will secure all the edges. 



Use a high quality caulking that is paintable (like DAP 230 or 3.0) to seal all joints and seams will protect against any water intrusion. 


230.jpg       831762d2-d4e8-4405-9d4f-fd2b4be888c7_300.jpg

   Next, prime every square inch of what you installed with a “top of the line” primer like Glidden’s GRIPPER.



Lastly, apply a  latex semi-gloss paint that has a mildew-side (resists mildew) additive in it – like the BEHR ULTRA Paint.  You may want to consider applying two top coats for extra protection and wear resistance.

 berh ultra semigloss.jpg


Hope this helps.



Posted 2011-07-24T13:27:11+0000  by Kevin_HD_ATL
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