People use their showers daily, so your shower tile probably gets a lot of use. It may start to look old or faded, or maybe you have just gotten sick of looking at it every day. You may wonder, “Should I spend a bunch of money retiling, or can I just paint over the tile to change it up?”
Painting over shower tile is typically not recommended. Painted tiles in high moisture areas will fade and wear down within a few years, depending on how often the shower is used. Painted shower tiles require more maintenance than painted tiles in areas with lower levels of moisture.
There are some important things to know before you decide to paint your shower tiles or go with another alternative.
Pros and Cons of Painting Shower Tile
There are good and bad things about painting shower tile. Here are some of the things you should be considering:
Advantages of Painting Shower Tile
- Painting shower tile is cheaper than re-tiling.
- Re-tiling can cost from $800-$3,000, depending on the surface you need to cover and the type tiling you use.
- Painting tile includes the cost of paint, primer, and sealer. You won’t need more than a gallon of paint, which usually costs around $15-40. You can get a gallon of good primer or sealer for about $15. That gives us a total of $45-$70, which is significantly cheaper.
- It is easier to do yourself.
- Re-tiling is extremely time-consuming, and it requires a lot more materials and labor on your part. Painting a shower is still going to take a lot of time, but much of that time is waiting for the paint to dry and for the shower to cure. Re-tiling is a much longer and more tedious process.
- You can also have a bit more control over how the shower looks.
- It is easier to control the designs on your tiles if you paint them yourself instead of purchasing tiles that are already a certain design.
Disadvantages of Painting Shower Tile
- Painted shower tiles do not look good for as long as normal tiles.
- Shower tiles are exposed to a lot of moisture on a daily basis. This means that they will fade, blister, and peel after a while, which will make it look awful. You can’t expect your shower to look nice forever, and you need to be prepared to eventually have to repaint the shower.
- The tiles and the grout will all be the same color.
- You may be okay with this look, and in that case, this isn’t a con. Just keep in mind that if you want the grout to look a different color, you probably shouldn’t paint your shower tiles unless you want to painstakingly go in and cover every inch of the tiles without getting any paint on the grout.
- Painted tile is more slippery than normal tile when it gets wet.
- Tiles with a glossy finish are going to be even worse. Obviously, in a shower, this might be a bit of a problem, as that tile is going to get wet a lot. You will need to be careful when getting in and out of the shower. If the shower is going to be used by children or older people, it may not be a good idea to paint the tile on the floor.
Now that you know the pros and cons, if you’d like to go ahead and paint your shower tiles, here’s how…
Best Way to Paint Over Shower Tile
Step #1: Clean the Tile
The first thing to do when painting over shower tile is to clean the tile. This doesn’t mean give it a quick rinse. You will need to scrub at the tiles and get rid of the soap scum (the white residue that gathers over time). You will need a strong cleaner and a rough sponge.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links which will take you to online retailers that sell products and services. If you click on one and buy something, I may earn from qualifying purchases. See my Affiliate Disclosure for more details.
Step #2: Sand the Tile Down
After your tiles are gleamingly clean, sand them down to get rid of the residue you missed in the cleaning. This will also make it easier for the paint to stick to the tile.
Step #3: Cover any Areas that Won’t be Painted
Once the tile is sanded, cover the places where the tile meets areas you don’t want paint on, such as the floor, knobs and handles, and windows. Using painters tape is an excellent choice for this task as it will avoid any bleed from the paint and ensure a neat job. (It’s readily available from Amazon, you can find it here).
Don’t underestimate how important this step is. It will have a direct impact on the finished look!
Step #4: Paint the Corners & Grout Lines with Primer
Next, using a paintbrush, paint the corners and grout lines (rough spots between the tiles) with primer.
Step #5: Paint a Layer of Primer over the Tiled Area
Then, using a rolling paintbrush, paint a layer of primer over the whole shower area. Try not to get the primer on any areas that you are not going to be painting. (Hopefully you did step #3 carefully to reduce the risk of this happening!)
Step #6: Time to Begin Painting!
Once the primer is dry, you can actually begin painting. Roll one coat of paint onto the entire shower, then let it dry, which should take about 2 hours.
Once it is dry, layer on another 2 coats of paint (letting the paint dry between coats). Depending on your tile, you may need to add another layer or two. (We’ll get to which type of paint to use later in this article!)
Step #7: Add Caulk into the Grout Lines
When you have added all the layers of paint and the tile is completely dry, you may need to add some caulk into the grout lines. Look at those areas and see if there are any gaps or cracks. This will ensure that the tile is waterproofed.
Step #8: Add a Layer of Paint Sealer
If you were painting ordinary tile, you would be done. However, since your tile will be exposed to a lot of moisture, you need to add paint sealer. A sealer will ensure that your paint is waterproof and help it to last longer. Apply a layer and let it dry.
Step #9: Leave the Area to Cure
Once you’ve finished all of the above, you’ll need to let it cure for at least 3 days. Don’t use the shower and try not to touch the tile in that time period. The longer you let it cure, the better it will be for the tile.
Best Paints to Use When Painting Tiles
To paint tile, you’re going to need to use epoxy paint. Other types of paint won’t adhere to the tiles very well and will peel off even quicker in a shower. Epoxy paint is designed to stick to surfaces like tile and will stay on much longer.
Be thoughtful in choosing a paint color. Pick something that matches the color scheme of the rest of your bathroom well. Another thing to consider is that if the tiles you are painting are dark, you probably won’t be able to use light-colored paint because it will be easy to see through the paint to the original tile.
Alternatives to Painting
If you don’t like the way your tile looks anymore, you may just have to replace it. It is more expensive than painting, but you won’t have to redo it for at least a few years. You can retile a shower yourself or hire a professional to do it.