How to Refinish Outdated Tile (yes, I painted my shower)

Who here has really outdated tile in their bathroom but doesn’t want to rip it out and replace it? (I’m looking at you, mom!) Did you know that you can paint it?

Tutorial on refinishing a shower or bathtub

I wavered about doing something with the tile in our master bathroom for a long time. It’s not terrible and I don’t hate it…but by the same token I don’t love it either. I didn’t want to rip it out and re-tile…in our forever house, yes, in this house, not gonna happen. I finally decided to give painting it a whirl, mostly because I like to experiment and I thought some of y’all might be curious about the process. Plus I figured solid white would be an improvement over the blue, gray and swirlies.

So let’s get started. First off, you need supplies. Quite a few of them.

Tub & tile painting supplies

Supplies  -

You may or may not need -

  • tools to remove caulk
  • grout
  • caulk
  • dropcloth

First thing you have to do is remove all the caulk from the areas you will be painting, since you can’t paint over it. (You can go back and add it after your shower is painted and dry). We didn’t really have any caulk, but what we did have was cracked, chipping, and missing in grout in the corners and edges.

cracked grout

Adam decided to go ahead and remove all the cracked grout and replace it. He said it was for the betterment of the tub, I think he just likes destroying things.

removing grout

Notice how responsible he is being and wearing his 3M safety glasses? Let me tell you a little story…

Adam kinda sucks at wearing safety gear while DIYing. Well, he used to…but this year he has had to go to the emergency room twice for getting stuff in his eye while working on a project. I’m not even kidding…TWICEbecause once just isn’t enough. Now he always wears safety glasses, because he’s cheap and a pair of safety glasses is much more budget friendly than an emergency room visit. Trust us on that one.

new grout

Here is the official before picture, after a few hours of work.

shower before painting

The first step to painting a tub/shower is cleaning it. (Actually, the first four steps are cleaning.) This was new territory for me, I am terrible at cleaning our showers. Terrible meaning I just never do it. If I don’t make something a top priority around here it doesn’t get done, and scrubbing showers is never a top priority. In my opinion you shouldn’t even have to clean showers,  their whole existence is centered around soap and water…they should be self-cleaning. Can I get an amen?

preparing for painting tile

Here are the cleaning steps, I simply did exactly what the box told me to do.

  1. Clean with bleach water to remove mildew. Rinse.
  2. Scrub with Comet and an abrasive pad. Rinse.
  3. Clean with Lime-A-Way. Rinse.
  4. Sand with 400/600 wet/dry sandpaper. Rinse.
  5. Let dry for at least an hour.

The result? Insanely clean tiles. Literally so squeaky clean that I could have used them to do my make-up. So beautifully clean that I may just go completely crazy and scrub my shower once in a while.

Next I taped off the shower with ScotchBlue™™ Painter’s Tape.

painting a shower

Here is what I was thinking when I did this…

I wanted to paint the tiles, but I didn’t want to paint the actual tub (except for the front, because it had some discoloration).  The tub was already white and not in bad shape. No need to fix what isn’t broken, right? Also, the tub and tile paint has great reviews online (you can read them here on Amazon) but whenever I read a negative review it said something like “it’s been a couple of years and it’s holding up great except for some chipping and peeling around the drain.” If the floor was everyone’s problem area, then I wanted to avoid painting the floor.

The first step to painting is to mix the paint. It’s a two-part epoxy paint that you mix together by pouring part A (the activator) into part B (the base). You can use it on porcelain, ceramic, and fiberglass. Then use your brush to cut in the edges and corners, just like you would if you were painting  wall.

painting a bathtub

When that is done go after it with a roller…

How to refinish tile

Painting a tub may sound a little scary and intimidating, but really, it’s no different from painting anything else and it doesn’t really take any longer. (You only need to wait about an hour or two between coats).

Okay, I lied a little…there is one major difference between painting tile a painting a wall.

THE SMELL. The tile paint is so freakin ridiculously strong, it’s insane. Do not even think about doing this without a respirator. I used this mask and could smell it a bit, but it wasn’t bad. I would think that a mask like this would do a much better job. The fumes were so strong that my eyes teared up a bit and I seriously considered putting on my snorkeling mask. I thought the Waterlox we used to seal our butcher block countertops and farmhouse table was bad, but it has nothing on this tile paint. You can tell I’m a mom because the only comparison I can make is comparing Waterlox to newborn diapers and tile paint to toddler diapers. Neither are pleasant, but as soon as you graduate to solid food toddler diapers you realize those newborn diapers basically smelled terrific.

Here are a couple of things you should NOT do while painting…

Do NOT use a roller that isn’t foam. I did some research before starting this project and it was recommended that you use a low nap roller over a foam roller. That’s all fine and dandy and obviously worked for some people, but my roller left tiny raised hairs all in my paint. Literally everywhere.

tub painting problems

I ended up sanding again after the first coat with the 600 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and using a foam roller for the rest.

Also, do NOT use the same paint tray for consecutive coats. Use a liner and throw it away after each coat, even if the paint in it looks dry and safe to pour over. The new paint will re-energize the old stuff, just enough to leave tiny, bumpy, gelatinous spots all over your nice smooth paint job and make you want to hurt somebody. (I couldn’t get a good picture of this.)

With that being said, here is the final product…it looks so bright and clean! Perhaps a little too bright and clean…I think I have to paint  the tub now. I used to think it was white, but against the ultra white paint it looks gray and dingy (it looks better in pictures than in person).

painting a shower

The finish on the paint it surprising great. It’s smooth and shiny and really doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Adam was really skeptical before we started, he told me “just because you can fix things with paint doesn’t mean you should.” Now that is complete he suggested we do the guest bathroom as well.

refinishing a tub

tutorial on painting outdated tile

painting tile before and after

If y’all have any questions just leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer you!

*This post is a collaboration with 3M DIY. To keep up-to-date on projects, products and sampling visit 3MDIY.com. Don’t forget to connect with the 3M DIY Twitter Page3M DIY Facebook Page, and 3M DIY YouTube Page. Tub and tile refinishing kits were provided courtesy of RustOleum. Post contains affiliate links. Whew, I know…but as usual, all opinions, experiences, and mistakes are 100% mine.

 Want to read about our other master bathroom projects? Click the thumbnails below.




Comments

  1. THAT. That is AMAZING. It looks like brand new tile – and now the grout will be easier to clean too! Win!
    Kelly @ View Along the Way recently posted..New Picture Frame Wall + one ring to rule them allMy Profile

  2. Can’t I skip all that cleaning and just get to the good stuff? I despise shower cleaning. Hmmm.
    Love, Mom

  3. That looks AMAZING, Ashley! I can’t believe how beautiful it is now. And thank you for the tips – I will definitely keep all of this in mind should I ever decide to paint tile. We resurfaced our tub – not us, we paid someone – five years ago, and the smell! The smell was horrid! I can imagine what this paint was like.
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  4. This is fantastic!!!! We are in the process of redoing our home and what a wonderful solution for the bathroom tile! I have seen all the products, but was always a little skeptical. Glad to know it works and looks so good!
    Liz recently posted..DIY: Antique GlazingMy Profile

  5. Love this!! We recently bought our first home and I would like to do some updates. I hadn’t thought about painting the tile, but I think that it would give our bathroom a major facelift without breaking the bank. Thanks for the inspiration!
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  6. Technicolor says:

    What a great transformation. We had this done professionally about 10 years ago and my OCD husband wouldn’t give a thumbs up until a final power buff was done (he did it). Your job looks even better than a professional. One thing I see in your pics is grout between the tub and tile. These transitions should always be filled with a good caulk. The tub flexes and causes the grout to weaken leading to leaks/mold.

  7. I don’t wanna paint and I don’t wanna tear old some old tile. So I have decided my girls bathroom can stay like it is and I won’t ever go in there.

  8. WOW. I didn’t know that painting bathroom tile was even a possibility! This is fantastic to know! We’re just renters right now, so I won’t be doing this anytime soon…. but this will definitely help us plan when we finally do become homeowners! I’m so happy to have run across your blog a few months ago…. I’ve really been enjoying reading about your past projects and your newest ventures. I’m such a home/DIY person…. but I’ve never tackled the big projects like you have! So fun to watch!
    Stacey recently posted..a fall afternoon with some of my favorite girls.My Profile

  9. Amazing! Astounding! AWESOME! And you say it works on fiberglass as well? Hmmmm. We may be renting, but we have the awesomest landlords ever, and they split any DIY that stays with the house with us, usually 75/25 (since they get the long-term benefit).

    We moved in and the fiberglass showers were pristine white. After a week, during which a window-cleaner came, there were horrible BLACK drips and brown shoe prints in the tub and on the walls. They. Don’t. Scrub. Off. Seriously, they don’t. I’ve tried everything from Bleach to Vinegar, both regular strength and the stuff you can only get with a contractor’s license (it’s good to know people!). There just might be a light at the end of this tunnel!
    Julie W recently posted..Bits & Bobs from Here and ThereMy Profile

  10. Much mo betta! Looks great!

  11. just doucle checking– You can use that rustoleum paint to paint the actual, used everyday covered in water, inside part of your tub?because that would be freaking awesome. we are installing a new vanity this weekend, and then I was planning on painting the tile as well (with a slightly differrent process), but I didn’t think I’d be able to cover up my grossly stained tub too.

    • Yes, you can! I’m going to ahead and do mine too. Kristi over at Addicted 2 Decorating did hers and has a post about it. I’d give you the link but I’m on my phone.

  12. Susan mcbrine says:

    Love your site , its so real and how tos are great including what not to do .. Funny !
    We are thinking of using restoleum deck painf to resurface our wooden deck we just made into a fpglassed in sunroom , diy using recycled glass doors , 14 . After removing all deck rails and putting screws instead of nails , Room looks fantastic but need to do floor. Anyone used rustoleum on deck and can tell us how it looks or works . ????
    We want to fill in gouges from removing nails and replacing with deck screws . almost done except for paint and wood trim and floor. Our deck runs entire lengthnof house in back and now we have full lenth glass panels to enjoy deck in rain in oregon

  13. I didn’t know there was such a product on the market! I’d be happy to have walls that look like your before, let alone your after. It looks great.

  14. Little hint for not having hairy walls when using a roller; Get a roll of wide sticky tape and lay it all over the nap and pull them all off. Then wash your roller, let it dry then do the sticking tape trick all over again. Believe me it works! I love what you did with your shower/tub recess. Bit of a pain I am sure, but much easier than ripping out old tiles and re-doing them!

    • Thats a great tip! I would have done something like that, but no one else seemed to have that problem (or if they did then they just didn’t mention it). Next time I’m going to prepare for the worst though!

  15. You are my new personal hero… we have terrible terra cotta colored tiles in our master bathroom and every time I looked into painting them, the results were iffy in areas that would get wet… but clearly I didn’t look hard enough!! Doing this in a big way. So questions: 1) caulk is a problem, but obviously not grout, right? Just paint right over? 2) Obviously these hold up to water, but any reason to think this wouldn’t work on tile floors that will get a little more wear and tear than the shower walls? Love it!!!!!

    • Thanks Charlotte! The box says not to paint over caulk, but you can caulk AFTER you paint. As far as doing floors (that aren’t in your tub) I asked rustoleum and they said it won’t work for that. But hey, if it’s something you are planning on ripping up anyway then it can’t hurt to experiment, right? It might be slick though, just FYI.

  16. I can hardly believe how epic this outcome is. I might need to “accidentally” forward this post to my landlord and see if he’d be up for me painting his dingy gray bathroom tile. Crisp bright white just looks so clean and refreshing! Sigh. I could get into that!

    Well done, Ashley!
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  17. fantastic!

  18. WOW! Now THAT Is a transformation. I have to tell you that I rarely pay for any professionals to do renovation work for me, but in my last house, I broke down and paid a professional to “reglaze” the outdated tile in our guest bathroom. It was $500 and didn’t look one bit better than your results!
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  19. Do you know if this can be used on floors? Your tub looks great!
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    • Thanks! I wondered the same thing myself about doing floors (like in my kitchen) so I asked rustoleum and they said no, it wouldn’t work for that. Too bad!

  20. Thanks for finding that out. Too bad, I was already redecorating my whole bathroom in my head!
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  21. AMEN to showers being self-cleaning! The other day I came across a big, detailed pin on how to clean your washing machine. o.O What’s up with that??
    This turned out great, Ashley. Lovely and clean-looking. I respect how you always go back and redo things that aren’t to your liking, like the hairy walls. I do stuff like that, too. I wonder why the recommendations never mention it, or what to do to avoid it?
    Where I work they refinished their tub a few years ago, and the area around the drain now looks absolutely horrible. Just saying. Your tub doesn’t look bad, the colour looks like a different shade of white rather than a dingy or dirty surface. However your method of prepping may be more thorough than what was done for them. I’ll be interested to see what you decide and how it all holds up. Cheers!

    • Anonymous says:

      I did this to a mid century BRiGHT yellow tub and surround. Fantastic results and 4 years later it still looks great.

    • Yes, washing machines should be self cleaning too! Although I do actually clean mine from time to time…lots of poop goes in there, and that rags I use to clean it come out gag-worthy. Eww…

      I really don’t want to paint the tub, but I when I was prepping the shower for painting I was on autopilot, jamming out to some Pandora…and I sanded some of the tub without thinking. I did all the cleaning steps to the tub (just cause it needed cleaning) and caught myself partly through sanding. It looks kinda scratched up, but its bot terrible. So I’m not sure what to do.

  22. Love this! Did the smell stay around for long after you were done painting?

    • Yes, it lingered. It wasn’t crazy super intense for too long, but it was uncomfortable enough that Adam and I slept in the guest room for two nights.

  23. Love it, Ashley! Looks so great! From one tile-painter to another….great job! Looks so updated and fresh!! :)
    Virginia @livelovediy recently posted..How To Build a MantelMy Profile

  24. Wow! That is very impressive – I’ve been planning my own bathroom tile makeover and you’ve shown exactly how to do it. Yay! On my way to the first 4 steps.. cleaning!
    Thanks!
    christine from decorated life recently posted..7 Painted Furniture Trends: Trending Painting TechniquesMy Profile

  25. A-mazing! If you only knew how many times I’ve stood in our spare bathroom looking at the grey-blue tile with (wait for it….) dolphins on them, wishing for a solution that didn’t involve demolition. (I would be thrilled to demo, but my wallet, not so much.) You have set the dolphins free! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  26. This is awesome! I’ve been debating on how to take care of jade and mint green in the kids bath, and gray and maroon in mine without breaking the bank. Hubby will likely say no initially to my painting it rather than hiring it out, he’s already mentioned having a pro reglaze. But I’m all for DIY and save a dime if I can.

    How long did this have to dry before it was cured enough to take a shower? Our tile is the whole bathroom, not just tub surround, so I need to calculate the out of order time.

  27. Never knew one could paint tile!! This would be perfect for a few of our clients who don’t want a whole gut job!! Great work looks absolutely fantastic!

    Stay Fabulous, Ashley!

    P.S. we too fail to clean our shower on a regular basis haha.
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  28. Wow! That looks amazing. I would never have thought that you could paint tile.

  29. Katie Bonomini says:

    Um not only does your shower look amazing but most important (to me) was your hilarious commentary…. We could be sisters. Good to hear there are others out there like us… Scuba mask comment took the cake. You rock!! I want to decoupage my walls with some wrapping paper…. But I’m scared it’ll be epic fail… Any suggestions? Will I need to get my scuba tank and flippers out? Tia!!!!!

  30. call me crazy but i liked the old look, but thanks for telling me how to really give the tiles a good clean!

  31. How’s the paint holding up after all the showering?

    • I just saw this comment, sorry it took me so long to respond! It’s only been about three months since I painted the shower, but it looks perfect. No chipping, peeling, or discoloration at all.
      Ashley recently posted..Simple Industrial Pipe Shelving, Bathroom EditionMy Profile

      • I’m just curious what Rustoleum says about longterm. We are about to put our home on the market and would love to update our master shower tile, but I don’t want to make a mess for future owners either. Seems like I read somewhere that painting was not for areas that get wet, but hey if Rustoleum stands by there product and I can transform a god awful black shower to a wonder crisp and clean white shower, I am willing to give it a try!

  32. I love how your new bathroom looks! I have the same tile design as you do and have been itching to refinish these outdated tiles for the past two months. Just one question: what kind of bathroom cleaning products have you used to clean your painted tiles?

    • So far I’ve just cleaned it with that spray shower cleaner by Scrubbing Bubbles. It’s cleaned up great and looks just like it did the day I finished it. (BTW, I have no idea if it’s okay to clean it with that, the box doesn’t have any cleaning instructions. It just says “washable”.)

  33. Do you think this would work for refinishing a kitchen counter? I have the ugliest yellow tiled kitchen countertops and this makes me wonder… What do you think?

    • I have had readers tell me that they very successfully did this in furniture and tabletops, but I’m not sure about counters. I know it would work, but I don’t know how long it would last or how sanitary it would be. I have some areas on the floor where the poly has started flaking (plan to write an update post soon) and if it did that on a kitchen counter things might get ugly quickly. You might try something like this though… http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com/2013/07/diy-concrete-countertops.html

      It would be a little more difficult to get smooth because yours is tile, but it would be just as budget friendly (and I personally thing it looks great).

  34. Love the look of the tile/bath! You did a great job, very handy! Thought I’d ask you this question ;) We’re redoing our bathroom, hubby is currently working on the tile/shower while I’m “working” We have wainescoating (?) halfway up in our bathroom. We have a large mirror above the sink that I’d like to replace with a tri view medicine cabinet. Those don’t run as large as our mirror. So if we put one in, there will be nice gaps below and along side of the miror. Any ideas / thoughts on how to go about that? I don’t want to buy little pieces of wainescoating to fill in (especially on the bottom when you would see the seam. Just thought I’d see if anyone had any creative ideas! THank you!!

    • Hmmm, it’s hard to say without actually seeing the space. Would adding a frame around it work? Like with tile, wood, or maybe some painted metallic moulding? That would give it some interest, define it a bit, and be an easy DIY.

  35. Lisa Lindberg says:
  36. Thanks for the step-by-step demonstration you posted.
    It looks like a lot of work, but the end result turned out real nice. So I think it was worth it.
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  37. Thanks for your tutorial. I have dark grout in my shower. Will I have to regrout it white or will the paint cover the grout and make it white as well?

  38. Amy Long says:

    Hi there!
    I want to do this! I’m a little unclear on the whole grout/caulk stuff. Your hubby replaced the grout before you painted, right? And you just painted right over the grout? And then recaulked?

    Thanks!

    • Yup, he replaced the grout before I painted, then I painted right over it. BUT, we also made a mistake…we grouted between the tiles and tub instead of caulking. Tubs move slightly (water is heavy) and the grout line where the tub meets the tile has cracked. What we should have done is replaced all the grout except along the tub, painted, and then caulked along the tub (don’t paint over it). Other than that it is holding up perfectly though!

  39. Ashely, I loved your DIY bathroom tile painting guide…. Pictures and true explanations really help! And your humor kept me reading haha. Thank you for the tips and please post how things are holding up…l as we will be starting a bathroom makeover on a budget very soon-

  40. Someone painted over our pink shower, before we bought our home. The walls are 3 huge pieces of fake pink marble, plus the one on the floor. It looked really good at first, but, now, it chipping and peeling. The wall soap dish is almost pink again and the floor is peeling in different spots. It looks so bad. What can I do to repair it at this point. Would your epoxy paint cover it, if I sand it down and clean it up. Help!
    Yours looks great.

  41. How long did you wait to sand the “hairs”?

Thank you for your comments!

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