Should You Paint Tile Floors? [ORC Week 5]

The painted tile floors in my primary bathroom

This week, I tackled the next step in our no-demo bathroom reno, painting porcelain tile floors.

This was the project I was most anxious about, after the faux-marble countertops, because the tile was fine. It wasn’t great. It had blue tile accents and the grout was in bad shape, but it was probably the least offensive part of the entire space. Basically, I was just afraid to ruin it if painting the tile didn’t work.

The tile floor before .You can see the blue detail and the gross grout, but it’s not the worst, right?

Spoiler alert, it turned out OK. Buuut I’m not sure I’d do it again.

Let’s discuss.

Painting ceramic tile floors – should you do it?

It seems like internet is in general agreement that painting ceramic tile floor can be done. And it can be. My floor looks pretty good right now.

But I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term solution. I knew that as soon as I started the project.

The thing with painting ceramic tile flooring, specifically, is that ceramic tile is SO smooth. Which means that it’s hard for paint and primer to grip the surface, even if you use the best primer out there that’s designed to stick to all surfaces.

The “Big guns” of primer. Zinsser Cover Stain generally sticks to all the things.

Because I’d already had my hesitations about how well paint would stick to tile flooring, I skipped water-based primers and went straight for the big guns. I used an oil-based primer that’s designed to literally stick to anything, Zinsser Cover Stain.

After cleaning the floors, I rolled on the primer and waited until the next day to check it out. After 12 hours of drying, the adhesion was good, but not great. If I pushed down hard wit my fingernail, I was able to scratch the primer off. Not exactly what you want.

(Note: I’ve used this primer on other surfaces, so I know it works really well in different applications. I still think it’s probably your best bet for this project, or Stixx).

Midway through my priming job

Even thought the primer wasn’t sticking 100%, I kept going. I was hoping that the combination of primer plus a paint that’s made for high-traffic areas would create a durable surface.

So, I layered on two coats of Benjamin Moore Porch & Patio paint in a low sheen. (Another note: if you’re painting a surface that’ll be getting wet, go for a low-sheen paint. I wouldn’t go higher than a satin sheen because otherwise things can get slippery)..

The painting process was actually incredibly easy. I just poured the paint directly onto the floor and spread it around with a small roller. It took less than 30 minutes for each coat.

Once the paint dried, I was not thrilled to figure out that I was still able to scratch through it with my fingernail if I pushed really hard.

My well-loved can of Benjamin Moore Porch & Patio paint on my freshly-painted bathroom floor

It was at this point that I actually considered just scraping all of the paint off the floor and bringing it back to its ugly, but functional state. So, I scraped off one tile, and It was actually pretty difficult to do in some spots, which made me think that after some more cure time, the paint would become more durable.

Still, I wanted some extra assurance, so my next step was to follow up the paint with three coats of polyurethane. This ended up being the difference maker. Once the polyurethane was dry, the surface finally felt hard and durable, and I wasn’t able to easily scratch it. Though, I’m sure if I scratched it with something sharper the paint would still come off.

It’s been about three weeks now (I’m late writing this post in my One Room Challenge timeline), and so far the paint is in good shape. But, I’m pretty sure that in a year from now it’ll have its share of dings.

Why I didn’t try a tile floor painting kit

There are lots of all-in-one kits for refinishing and painting tile floors, and there were a few reasons I didn’t try them.

The first is that I’ve heard that some of these product have such a bad smell/fumes that you need to leave your house for a day or two. I didn’t want to do that.

Yes, oil-based primer stinks. I hate it. But, I was able to stay in my house after using it, I just opened the windows in the room, closed the doors to the rest of the house, and put a fan on.

The second reason I because I already had pretty much everything I needed to paint the tile floors on hand. I had the Zinsser primer, and I had polyurethane. The only thing I didn’t have was the porch/patio paint.

I have heard good things about floor tile refinishing kits, though, so if you’re up for the fumes and you’re starting from scratch with your supplies anyways, consider an all-in-one tile painting kit, like Rustoleum Tub & Tile, or Rustoluem Floor Coating kit, which comes in a whole bunch of colors.

So, what’s my verdict on painting porcelain tile floors?

Would I paint my primary floors again, knowing what I know now?

Honestly, probably not. Instead, I probably would have tried a grout restorer and dealt with the blue accents, even though they didn’t really match my overall look. It’s not a huge deal because, like I said, the painted tile looks good for now and we are planning to eventually give this bathroom a proper renovation.

But, I’m just worried that if the paint starts to peel, the floors will look worse than what I started with.

I plan to update this post in six months to a year with details of how things have held up, and if they’re good, I may change my tune.

I will also say that I might paint tile floors again under different circumstances. Including:

  • If I had really, horrible, awful tile that I couldn’t live with, that just totally ruined the look of the room
  • If I had a different kind of tile that was rougher or more porous, like ceramic tile or an unsealed natural stone

Also, I will say that I did this same process on my walls to cover a floral detail, and I feel great about that, since no one really touches the walls. I feel like those will look great for a long time.


What type of primer should you use to paint tile floors?

Without a doubt, if you’re going to try this project, you’ll need an oil-based primer like Zinsser Cover Stain or Stixx. Water-based won’t cut it.

What type of paint should you use to paint tile floors?

You’ll definitely want to use a paint that’s designed for floors. I used Benjamin Moore Porch & Patio paint, which is an outdoor paint and designed to withstand moisture.

How long does it take to paint tile floors?

Really, not that long. I spend about four hours working on this project over the course of three days, mostly because I had to let things dry between coatings.

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