Can Tile be painted? How do you paint tile?
I had originally posted this topic about a year ago and it is so incredibly important that I honestly think it needs revisited!
The honest answer would be Yes. Yes tile can be painted. However, when I read into the question as meaning can tile be painted and become a usable surface I have to say no. In theory it sounds great doesn't it! I mean let's discuss my answer just a little bit because this will probably change as you venture into states and areas other than Texas. I say that because of the following short story I met this man after my original post last year. This gentleman was 76 years old and was a house painter and finish carpenter and said he had been a carpenter and house painter since 1979. I take every possible opportunity to learn from my elders and show them my undivided attention when they are willing to share an experience with me because I sincerely appreciate that experience and I will bet money I can apply it to my life and my business! We were working on a vacant home in Richardson,TX. he pointed up at the ceiling and asked you see those little cracks in the sheet rock? He explained those are caused by the shifting soil and most of Texas will get them 2 to three times a year. I explained I was familiar with that and had heard it most of my life. I can remember being a kid and dad came home from work to find I had the water hose pushed into the dry cracked dirt out back and the water turned on full blast! He said I bet your father asked how long has that been running? I immediately started laughing!! Yes sir, that was his very first question to me actually and I proudly told him almost an hour and a half! LOL. This man explained that when our Texas soil does that around the foundation it causes these stress cracks. Some people think the foundation is gone, he explained but as the land is watered and the cracks disappear the cracks will usually go back together and become very hard to see until everything dries out again. He showed me a pretty good tip I used on my house. He filled in the crack with latex caulking and then using a straight razor blade smoothed it flat with the surface. He explained that if he used tape and mud that it would just crack again, but the caulking stays flexible allowing some movement without additional cracking! He said he was doing painting work back in the 1980's in Kansas and although he was only there for a couple of years he very rarely seen stress cracks in sheet rock.
How does this tie in with tile being painted?
When I refinish tile surrounds I am always spending about an hour fixing cracks grout and sometimes replacing missing grout. Some of this is due to the shifting of the home and grout being a dry brittle substance It cracks and falls out. I'm sure some of this is also caused by the moisture levels that change in a bathroom during the shower use and the bathtub use which could vary from the time of use and the temperature of the water and even the temperature of the room before use. It would sure seem reasonable that all of these factors have to be taken into account when answering what sounds like the simple question of "Can bathroom tile be painted?"
I too have seen the youtube videos of people using paint cans and bragging about painting their bathroom tile for under $20.00. However, I know from real world experience that within as little time as the very first use it is going to bubble and peel away. I think we can agree that when paint is being talked about the toughest paint our there would be Epoxy. I see the brittle epoxy chipping off tile and bathtub that had been painted on a monthly and sometimes daily basis. It has to be the factors that I outlined above.
The professional refinishing techniques of today are a far cry from the quick fix solution of the 1990's. I have outlined the procedures I use (HERE)
I also would like to offer this short video of a Bathtub refinishing project I completed a short while back that had been painted with epoxy before.
With all the Epoxy kits found at home improvement stores bathtub painting is a popular way to make your bathtub look descent for a short period of time.