A decorative tile floor can add an element of elegance to your space, but this can be an expensive project to have someone come in and do for you. This is why paint tile floor projects can be DIY, and it can help you avoid the hassle, time, and money that comes with ripping out your existing flooring with brand new ones. Additionally, the patterned, commercial tiles are very expensive, and you can replicate this look when you paint tile floor using a stencil. It just takes a little more time on your part, and both beginners and experts alike can tackle this project around their homes.
The best DIY solution allows you to create a variety of different finishes when you paint tile floors, from a playful pattern to a matte monochrome. If you’re ready to transform the whole look and feel of your space on a dime, this is for you. Put on your painting clothes, roll up your sleeves, and learn how to paint tile floors in this quick step-by-step guide.
Painting your tile flooring is a fast and effective way to update your room without having to spend the money and time ripping out the current floor and replacing it. What’s even better; it’s a fun DIY project that you can tackle by yourself. Epoxy Tile Flooring – Sullivan IL by Decorative Concrete Kingdom / CC BY 2.0
Which Tiles You Can Paint
You can paint tile floors if they’re ceramic tile in any room in your home. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t hold up equally well under every condition. Having prolonged exposure to moisture like it would get in the bathroom can cause your paint to peel away from the tile over time.
If you do want to paint tile floors in areas with higher moisture and humidity like the bathroom or laundry room, you’ll want to keep your paint to a section of floor that is further away from the immediate splash zone around the bathtub, shower, or washing machine. You can also pick out a paint that comes specifically labeled for use in bathrooms or laundry rooms. Just be aware that you will most likely notice bubbling or peeling much sooner than in other areas of your home.
How to Prepare the Tile
You want to prepare the tile before you even consider painting it. Doing so will give you a clean and neat surface to work out of, and it’ll increase the chances that you get a professional-grade finish that will withstand a lot of wear and tear.
Step One – Sand the Tile
The first thing you want to do when it comes time to paint tile floors is to sand the floor. This will help the premiere adhere much better to the surface, and this can make the paint withstand heavy use over a longer period of time. Get a handheld electric sander to make the project go much faster. You don’t want to try and sand the whole floor by hand with a piece of sandpaper and elbow grease.
You’ll switch your electric sander on and start in one corner of the room. Hold it firmly in place before you switch it on. Once you have it on, make sure you move it back and forth over the floor in consistent, smooth strokes to get an even finish.
You can purchase one of these sanders online or in your local home improvement store. If you insist on sanding your floor by hand, get 180 to 220 grit synthetic sandpaper like aluminum oxide or silicon carbide for the best results. This will take days longer to accomplish, but you get excellent control over the whole process.
Step Two – Vacuum and Wash the Floor
Once you finish sanding the floor, get out your vacuum. Ideally, a shop vac will work better than your run-of-the-mill vacuum because you’ll want it to suck up all of the debris and dust left over from sanding. A normal vacuum can clog. Take your time and get as much debris and dust up as possible so you have a clean surface to mop before you paint tile floors.
Get a heavy-duty floor stripper and cleaner next. You can scrub the floor with a mop or by hand. Apply the cleaner to your tile floor and leave it alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Once it sits, you can scrub the entire floor using a nylon scrub brush. Pay special attention to any grout lines you have because they’re a magnet for dust, dirt, and debris. Take your mop and mop away any excess cleaner using warm water. Repeat this process once more to ensure the floor is clean and let it dry before you paint tile floors.
Make sure you check the instructions on your cleaning product to see if you should apply it straight on the floor or dilute it with water first. You can DIY a cleaning solution using equal parts warm water and bleach, but this won’t be as effective as a commercial-grade floor stripper or cleaner.
Step Three – Repair Any Cracks
Do you see any visible cracks in your grout lines or tile? If so, the next step is to repair them using a caulk and a caulking gun before you paint tile floors. This can be a messy project if you’ve never used one before. Squeeze your caulk out of the gun and onto the cracks or any areas that have missing pieces of tile and grout. Get a plastic spoon to smooth the caulk out or use your finger once you wet it. You’ll leave it sit for 48 hours to cure.
Once the caulk cures, you’ll apply painter’s tape to your baseboards to make cleanup easy. This will protect the baseboards from paint splatter. Apply it everywhere the baseboards and floor meet. You’ll want to get this painter’s tape as close to the tile floor as possible without covering any part of the tiles. If you don’t want to paint the grout lines, you’ll want to cover them with an acrylic masking tape. Most painter’s tape is too wide for your grout. If you want to paint the grout lines, leave them bare.
Broken or cracked tiles look unsightly, and they can also present a very real tripping hazard. If you don’t fill them in with caulk, they’ll show right through your paint. They could also create areas where the paint peels or chips away very easily. More Broken Tiles by Jill / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Step Four – Picking Your Paint
There are a few types of paint you can pick out when you paint tile floors. The type of paint you choose will impact your final look. The most popular options available on the current market to paint tile floors include:
Although many people use chalk paint on furniture, it’s possible to use it to paint tile floors too. This type of paint is a decorative water-based paint that will give you chalk-white undertones with a matte white finish. It will lend your floor a shabby-chic, distressed, antiqued look. Additionally, you can use chalk paint as a base coat for a patterned design or for one solid color.
Anyone who wants a colorfast and fast-drying way to paint tile floors should consider using latex paint. This is the most popular type of paint commonly used in home improvement projects. It cleans up very quickly, and they’re relatively budget-friendly. You can use this paint for patterned designs or for a solid floor color. Ideally, you’ll use a high-gloss or semi-gloss for solid colors. For patterns, you want a high-gloss latex paint to make it more durable.
If you’re worried about chipping after you paint tile floors, consider using an oil-based paint. This type of paint is more resistant to damage and chips than latex. However, this paint isn’t environmentally-friendly, takes much longer to dry out, and it’s more expensive. You should avoid this type of paint unless you have a very small room. It’s not popular for large projects because they release volatile organic compounds that can harm your health and it’s expensive.
Start Painting Tile Floors
The next phase of this project is to actually start paint tile flooring. There are a few steps to this project, depending on whether or not you want to use chalk paint or not.
Step One – Apply Primer
If you’re not planning on using chalk paint, apply primer as your first step. Get a paint brush to prime the tile edges and grout lines first. You’ll need a roller brush to roll primer over the tiles. Start at the far end of the room and work towards the door. This will prevent you from getting trapped in a corner and messing up your tiles as you try to get out.
Allow your primer to dry and apply a second coat using the same techniques. Most primers will dry to the touch in 30 minutes to an hour. Ideally, you’ll want to wait a minimum of three hours for the primer to dry 100% to paint over it. Your drying process can be prolonged if you’re in a planting zone with high humidity levels or temperatures colder than 77°.
Step Two – Paint the Floor
Get a roller brush and a paint brush to paint tile floors. A roller brush will allow you to cover large swaths of flooring in one go, and you’ll use the brush to paint the grout lines and edges of the tile. You should roll the paint on in a continuous, smooth motion to get even coverage.
Double-check the instructions on your paint to see how long you should let it dry between coats. Apply as many coats as you need to get the color you want. This is usually two or three, depending on the color.
Step Three – Let it Dry
You’ll have to let the paint dry for two or three days after you get all of your coats on. You shouldn’t walk on the floor during this time to avoid smudging it or creating an even finish. Don’t put any mats, carpets, furniture, rugs, or other objects on it while the paint is drying.
Step Four – Seal the Floor
If you don’t want to add a pattern, you’ll now seal the floor with polyurethane. You’ll want to stir it before you apply it. If you have a consistency that is too thick, you’ll need mineral spirits to thin it out. Apply a very thin coat with a bristle brush, and you’ll want to use broad, long strokes. Make sure you take the time to spread your sealant out evenly across your floor. There should be no drips or pools. Once you apply the first coat, allow it to dry for four to six hours. You’ll apply two or three coats to finish it out.
Ideally, you’ll get a water-based polyurethane instead of an oil-based polyurethane. The oil-based one can create a yellow sheen on your tiles as it dries and ages. Never shake the can before you use it because this can create air bubbles that leave very small bumps on the floor’s surface. Skip this step for right now if you’re going to put a pattern on your floor.
You will have to be patient once you enter the stage of actually painting tile floors. If you try to rush it, it won’t dry 100% between coats. This can lead to longevity issues later down the line, and it can take days longer for the floor to dry enough to put sealant on. Black Paint & Roller by urbanartcore.eu / CC BY-NC 2.0
Applying a Pattern (Optional)
There are two main ways you can apply a pattern when you paint tile floors. The first one is using a stencil. You can create everything from Moroccan themed, a quilt-like pattern, or a sharp geometric pattern when you paint tile floors. The stencil should fit your existing tile’s dimensions to make the whole process easier. This means that the outer edges of your graphics should hit the outer edges of your tiles.
For a stencil, you’ll secure it to the floor using painter’s tape. Make sure that you don’t accidentally cover up any portion of the stencil with the tape. Get a roller with a foam roller cover to apply chalk or latex paint directly to your stencil. Roll over a single section of the stencil at one time instead of rolling across the entire stencil in one go. This can help avoid the roller marks that a lot of people have trouble with. Move the stencil to another tile and repeat the process across your entire floor. Make sure you don’t accidentally mar any freshly painted surfaces with your stencil when you continue to paint tile floors.
If you have partial tiles at the edge of the floor, it’s possible to paint over partial sections of your stencil. You’ll get an artist’s paintbrush and make any necessary touch ups for the pattern. Let the paint dry completely before you add a clear water-based sealant to the floor.
The second way you can apply a pattern is to skip the stencil and apply painter’s tape directly to the tile in a pattern. You will want to apply a base coat of paint first before you apply the tape. This way, once you roll over the stenciled area and pull up the painter’s tape, you’ll get neat and clean lines in your desired colors. Repeat the painting steps with a foam roller just like you would if you wanted to paint tile floors using a stencil. Once you finish, allow it to dry, peel off the tape, touch up any edges, and apply a sealant.
Painted Tile Longevity and Care
Adding a high-quality sealing to your floor at the end of painting it can protect it from moisture, grime, and mold. It also helps prevent scratches and scuff marks in high traffic areas like the kitchen or hallways. However, you’ll need to make a point to perform regular vacuuming, sweeping, and damp-mopping up debris from the floor to help the floor keep its sheen or pattern if you chose to apply one. Setting mats in high-traffic areas is another way to help protect your floor from everyday wear and tear, and it’s a good idea to put foot pads below furnishings to protect the paint.
When you have to clean your painted tile, you’ll want to use neutral pH solvents. Get a non-abrasive mop and very lightly rub at the area when you clean it. Don’t use scouring pads, steel wool, or chemical cleaners when you paint tile floors. These agents can cause the paint to erode or discolor.
Also, don’t allow water or cleaners to sit for long periods of time on the floor. This leads to excessive moisture that can make the paint peel or bubble faster. Making a paste using warm water and baking soda works for a gentle DIY cleaner that is safe for your floors. It can help turn your grout lines white while getting rid of surface grime. Once you use this homemade cleaner, you’ll wipe the clean tile until it dries with a lint-free cloth.
It’s not unusual for your paint to last for several years after you paint tile floors. However, the longevity will depend on the steps you take to protect it, how much traffic the floor sees, and how much time you dedicated to cleaning it. Not taking care of it will lead to a shorter lifespan.
Removing Paint From a Tile Floor
If you come to a point where you don’t want to see your paint tile flooring anymore and you want to remove all or part of it, you’ll have to get your hands on a commercial-grade paint remover. Make sure that it’s made specifically for your type of flooring or it can cause damage. Apply it to the surface of your painted tile using a soft cloth. Get a second damp, clean cloth and remove everything by wiping it away. You could also try a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water, but this may take several tries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Thinking this project through and understanding what you’re about to take on can make you more prepared. Don’t be afraid to call up local companies or home improvement stores and ask them to give you advice on how to paint your tile floors. “Well Earl Should Go Get Us a Roller.” by Emily Poisel / CC BY 2.0
1. Why would people paint tile floors?
If you’ve updated your interior paint or design style, one easy way to update your flooring is painting it. Many people choose to paint it instead of tearing it up and replacing it to help save time and money.
2. What causes painted tiles to peel or chip?
There are a few things that can cause your flooring to peel or chip, including high traffic. However, the biggest culprits are higher humidity and moisture levels. This is why your painted tile may not last as long in the bathroom as in other areas of your home.
3. Why do you sand the tiles before painting them?
Sanding the tiles can help get rid of any surface grime or imperfections. However, it’s also a very fast way to add texture to the surface for the primer to adhere to. Doing so can help prevent issues with bubbling, peeling, or chipping in the long run.
If you want to paint tile floors, this quick guide walks you through the process step-by-step. You can take it and use it to refresh your own tile floors over the course of a few days without having to rip out the old tile and put new flooring in. Take your time, pick out good paint, and follow the directions to get professional-grade results that you can’t wait to show off.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.