Gone are the days when your only option for refreshing dingy, dated, or plain-Jane bathroom tile was to rip it out and replace it. Today, commercial paints formulated for use on tile make it possible to restore the look of your tile floors, walls, and other bathroom surfaces—or lend them a new one altogether—with little more than a can! Simple as it sounds, painting bathroom tile shouldn’t start without first evaluating key project considerations and constraints. Below, we’ve outlined the six things to know before you even pick out a paint color.
Painting bathroom tile is much cheaper than retiling.
You’ve heard it before: Paint is an economical material. Unsurprisingly, then, it’s the most budget-friendly way to refresh bathroom tile that isn’t cracked, crumbling, or otherwise structurally compromised. Frugal do-it-yourselfers can spend as little as $100 to paint 100 square feet. Meanwhile, depending on the tile material, a DIY retiling can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,500 for a typical bathroom floor measuring 35 to 100 square feet. Retiling a tub surround or walls of a shower stall between 9 and 13 square feet, too? That’d be another $400 to $1,300, according to the online planning tool, CostHelper.com. Solid-colored tile in bargain materials like ceramic falls at the lower end of these price ranges, while patterned tile in premium materials like marble falls at the higher end—as much as 15 times the cost! Patterns in painted tile floors, on the other hand, would only cost you double or triple the expenses for materials (depending on how many colors) and time.
It affords endless looks.
Popular bathroom tile materials—ceramic, porcelain (a subset of ceramic tile), natural stone (marble, travertine, slate, granite, or limestone), and quarry tile—are sold in a number of solid colors or patterns. Still, those preset styles might not suit the design of your bathroom, go out of fashion after you’ve installed them, or, be simply too cost-prohibitive to install. With paint, you can lighten, darken, or apply a pattern of your own design to your tile to fit any bathroom aesthetic, from a retro checkerboard pattern to a cool and contemporary geometric design. And, should your style change in three years, you can easily repaint.
Keep in mind that brighter paint colors are a better option for space-limited bathrooms; darker paint absorbs light and can have the effect of making a small bath look more constricted.
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It’s not practical to paint tile on all bathroom surfaces.
With the exception of glazed quarry tile (which doesn’t bond well with paint), you can apply paint to most popular types of tile: ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, or even un-glazed quarry tile. But your paint job will last the longest on tiled bathroom surfaces that receive low to moderate exposure to moisture—think bathroom floors (outside the immediate vicinity of the tub), walls, and backsplashes. Tiled countertops, tub surrounds, or shower surfaces, while paintable, aren’t as practical surfaces for this treatment