Can you paint a tiled floor? Tips and advice from experts in-the-know

Painting your floor tiles could be a easier and cheaper option than installing new ones, but is it safe to do so? These experts weigh in

a living room with a yellow tiled floor
(Image credit: German Sáiz. Design: Sierra + de la Higuera)

If you're anything like us, painting your floor tiles is probably a thought that's crossed your mind at least once. Whether you want to elevate your existing bathroom or kitchen tiles or you just fancy injecting a bit of color into your space, painting your tiles seems like a far easier, cheaper and more convenient option than having your floor completely resurfaced. 

But is it safe to paint over a tiled floor? As a floor type, we know tiles are an excellent choice. There's a reason why we use them in high traffic areas of the home - they're hardy, durable, and easily washable - but how easy is it to paint them, and would painted tiles even last?

In short, it certainly is possible, but there are a few things your ought to know before you do. To answer these questions, we've reached out to a few DIY and flooring experts so they can tell us more about the steps involved in painting a tiled floor, from prepping and sanding to choosing the right paint type.

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to helping readers make the best choices in their homes through sharing practical tips and guides. For this piece she asked DIY experts for their advice on whether it's safe to paint a tiled floor, as well as their tips on how to do it

 Can you paint a tiled floor? 

Bathroom with roll top bath and dormer window with turquoise floor tiles and white metro wall tiles.

(Image credit: Future)

Painting over floor tiles is certainly possible, but whether or not you should is a different question entirely. We say this because there's a lot more to the process than just rolling any old paint over your bathroom floor tiles and hoping for the best. 

'Painting a tile floor is a good idea if you want to refresh your house on a budget,' says Sean Chapman, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Tools'n'Goods. However, he's quick to note the importance of choosing the right paint for a job. 'There are now modern tile paints available which provide pretty even application.' 

Still, before we jump in to explain how it's done, it should be said that painting over floor tiles will never have the same effect as real tiles. The surface of your tile will have imperfections no matter how good your paint job, and you might have to consider re-grouting afterwards. 

Sometimes though it seems impossible to find the perfect tile shade to match your color scheme, in which case, painting over your tiles might be the only way to achieve that harmonious feel that pulls your whole room together.

 What kind of paint should you use?

Marbled white and grey handbasin above multi-colored tiled floor and wall, tiled mirror above.

(Image credit: Future)

So, you've decided to go ahead with painting your kitchen floor tiles, but how do you know which paint to use? You certainly don't want to be using a regular water-based paint for your walls. 

'You’ll want to use a high-quality tile paint that is specifically designed for use on floors,' says Jon Christensen, owner of home improvement company, Bidmii. 'These paints are typically made from durable ingredients that can withstand foot traffic and are resistant to chipping and fading.'

As Jon mentions, some brands now manufacture paints specifically for floor tiles, like this best-seller from Rust-Oleum on Amazon. 'These tile paints also tend to have a higher level of pigmentation than other types of paint, which means they will provide better coverage and produce fewer streaks,' he explains.  

You might find that the price of tile paint is out of your budget, or that the color options available are far more limited, in which case, your best bet is using a solvent based paint. 'Latex, acrylic latex, and enamel paints will all perform well on the ceramic tile if you have used a quality high-adhesion primer to prepare the surface,' explains Thomas Vibe, Interior Designer and founder of StoneWizards

It's a good idea to identify the type of floor tile you have, too. Typically, tiles are porcelain or ceramic, either of which should be compatible with the paints mentioned above. You should think carefully before painting over more expensive tile materials like granite or marble.

What's the best way to paint over floor tiles?

Circular dining table with wooden pew chairs and a large display cabinet in a dining room with green wallpaper.

(Image credit: Future)

When it's finally time to paint your tiles, just as is the case with your walls, you'll need to spend plenty of time preparing the tiles to help with the adhesion of the paint.

'The key to achieving a pristine paint finish is starting with a canvas of smooth, undamaged tile,' says Thomas. 'Sand and vacuum the tile you want to paint, then get rid of dirt, grime, and mold by scrubbing the tile and grout lines with a homemade solution of equal parts bleach and warm water.' 

If you have any broken tiles or chips, he suggest repairing them with caulk or a two-part epoxy, ensuring you have plenty of ventilation and leave enough time to dry. 'Once the floor is prepped, protect nearby baseboards from paint splatter by applying painter’s tape where the baseboards meet the tile floor,' Thomas adds. 'If you don’t want to paint the grout lines, cover them with acrylic masking tape.'

If you're using a special tile floor paint, it's unlikely you'll need to use a primer. However, you should keep in mind that latex and oil-based paints adhere best to a primed tile. As Thomas suggests, 'apply an epoxy or urethane bonding primer by brush or roller before painting tile with these options.' Apply two to three even coats, as needed, until you achieve full coverage.

 How long does tile paint last, and should it be sealed? 

 Probably the most important question of all - how long will painted tiles last? There's  little point in dedicating a day of DIY to painting over your floor if it's going to be chipped, scuffed, or washed off completely in six months time. 

Fortunately, that's unlikely to be the case. 'Most kinds of tile paint will look great for three years or even up to five years in low-traffic areas,' says Sean. 'However, paint isn’t as long-lasting as real tiles, so you will need to refresh your floor paint every three to five years to keep your room looking fresh.

You should definitely finish the job with a seal to maximize the longevity of your painted tiles. 'For the longest tile paint lifespan, apply two to three coats of a water-based urethane sealer over the paint around 20 hours after painting,' Sean says. We like this sealant from Amazon, just make sure the one you choose is compatible with the type of paint you are using.

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.