Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

October 30, 2013

How to Paint Over Dated Ceramic Tile

The main bathroom in the lakehouse will be the first room to be fully renovated, hopefully this summer.  Other than the size (huge to me) and layout (nothing unusual), I hate everything about its original state. The oak cabinet doors and trim were woodsy and the vanity uncomfortably low, the gold knobs just bugged me, the pink walls were criticized by everyone who came through (and they just weren't "us"), the light fixtures were utilitarian and dated, and don't even get me started on the beige tub, sink, and portal shower.

(Actually, the portal has been great for bathing Szuka, who has become a master escape artist dodging to the left or right and leaping out of the tub with surprising agility.  Unlike the townhouse tub, the space portal blocks her exits, allowing me to wash her without getting kicked in the head by her giant puppy paws). 

Even though we hope to reno soonish, I wanted to spruce up the room a little but spend very little in the process.  Every dime I spend in here takes a dime away from our dream bathroom.

How to refinish ceramic tile

There is such a small amount of tile (just between the mirror and vanity) that I contemplated just picking up some leftovers at Habitat for Humanity and redoing it.  But I've tiled before and, although it's not terribly tricky, it can be time consuming.  I really yearned for something quick and painless as well as thrifty, and thought that this bathroom would be the perfect place to experiment a little with a different kind of DIY solution, so I approached Rustoleum about trying their Tile Transformations Kit.  I opted for the Solid Colour Textured Finish, but they sent me the Natural Stone Finish also, which worked in my favour.

Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations Kit Product Review
Painting dated tile

The first few steps were easy: remove the caulking around the tile and clean it thoroughly with the magic scrubbing powder provided.  Then I taped off the area and protected the surfaces with drop cloths.

How to paint dated tile
    Easy, peasy - no sanding!  Next came mixing the two parts of the paint together.  The instructions warn that this paint dries quickly (it has a 90 minute working time), so not to take your sweet time, but to not just slop it on, either.  It's a two-person job: one paints the coating onto the grout and the other follows with a small roller (the handle isn't included).  The instructions also warn to watch for drips and sags.  Due to my own guffaw (I'll explain in a minute), every time I tried to catch a sag, I removed paint in the process and revealed the naked tile beneath.  I fussed and fussed but couldn't get a smooth finish.  It had some sags and too much texture.  Hubby proposed that the paint might tighten up as it dries, so I left it.

    Painting old tile

    The next morning I arrived at the lakehouse to see the sags had remained.  I contemplated sanding and starting over, or just ripping it out and replacing the tile after all, but I figured I had nothing to lose so I added the step for the Natural Stone finish.  It's basically a transparent, grey-tinted coating with flecks and glittery bits that is layered on top of the Solid Colour Textured Finish.  It is supposed to dry clear, but it tinted the original colour, dulling it a bit, which was a-okay by me but different than what the instructional video suggests.  I rolled that on without any trouble, hoping it would hide my goof.

    Tile transformations step by step photos
    Troubleshooting - painting tile

    Once it dried, it looked better!  The finish hides the sags a little because it has some sparkle and texture, and because it's meant to look like stone, a little irregularity actually helps the rouse along.  Crisis averted!! 

    The ONE mistake to avoid painting tile

    Here's a closer look at the finish:

    Covering tile with faux stone finish

    In real life, the flaws are much less noticeable (I tried really hard to photograph it so you could see the texture I accidentally created).  Also, although it has a textured finish, to the touch the texture is smooth, not rough, so cleaning should be a breeze.  I wouldn't use this finish in a space I'm putting money into because without the grout lines it's obviously not real stone, but at a glance it looks refreshed - it's a perfect cheap and easy, temporary fix.  The tile is now plain and simple - definitely an improvement on the 80s tile design lurking beneath, and all done for only a couple of minutes of work.  Seriously, painting this tile and the half bathroom tile, both steps, took less than half an hour total (over two days), including prep and clean up. 

    Cover dated tile
    Tile makeover

    I am confident that the problem here was a user error.  The instructions indicate the paint must be used within 7 days of tinting and I was just barely passed this timeline but didn't think a few days would make a difference.  Because this paint hardens to an amazingly durable finish (definitely NOT the same as just priming and painting, this special coating acts and feels like real ceramic), I think it started to cure in the can and by the time I applied it, it was a little too firm to use.  Lesson learned: follow the instructions to the letter.  Even with the snag, the bathroom is coming along nicely and I can't wait to show you the (problem-free) makeover of the cabinetry next.  So long yellowy oak!

    I partnered with Rustoleum for this project and although I was provided the product, I was not encouraged to provide a positive review.  Having diagnosed my error, I would happily try this product again because it was straight-forward and is a fabulous quick-fix for dated tile.  If you decide to try this product, be sure to follow the instructions carefully, and check out this video tutorial for more help.


    1. This looks so much better that what you had there before! I can't wait to see the cabinets!

      1. Thanks! As a quick fix, I'm so pleased. I just needed to not stare at what was there every morning. Cabinet reveal Friday, I promise! Hint: they're grey and they turned out so smart.

    2. great solution for a pre-reno! I may be needing this in my near future.

      1. I was happy with how smooth the final result is, even with my mistake. I thought they might feel chalky and painted, but they feel like real tile which is really great. I'm obsessed with how things will clean, and these will be easy to wipe down.

    3. Wow, what a great transformation! I love the texture of the paint, even if it's not what was intended.

      1. Thanks! I'm pretty happy with the results, especially because I didn't spend a lot of time laboring on this project.

    4. Oooh, this is brilliant. I wonder if it would work in our tiny master bath. We have a LOT more tile though.

      1. You'd have to work quickly, and as a team which might be awkward in the space, but it's doable. I've seen other bloggers do large tub/shower combos.

    5. Wow! what a difference... and it seems so easy to apply!
      Is this product okay to use in a shower? We have a hideous lilac tiled shower and I'd love to not have to stare at that purple every day for the next year while we save up to redo the whole bathroom.

      1. This is designed for use in the shower, definitely. It just isn't designed for any surface that will be submerged in water (ie. the bathtub, for which there are different coating systems). Just be sure to work quickly, and to use your product with a week of having it tinted at the store to avoid my troubles. Good luck!!

    6. That is such a great transformation especially for a DIY product! Great job!

    7. what's the aqua counter made of ?


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