Installing a kitchen backsplash can instantly transform the look and feel of your kitchen. While many homeowners opt for traditional materials like ceramic tile or natural stone, painting your existing backsplash is an affordable DIY project that allows you to customize the color and pattern. With proper preparation and technique, you can paint over ceramic tile, porcelain, glass tile, and even some natural stone backsplashes.
Should You Paint Your Kitchen Tile Backsplash?
Painting over an existing backsplash is often a cost-effective alternative to a full tear-out and replacement. There are a few factors to consider when deciding if painting is right for your space:
Type of Tile
Paint adheres best to smooth, non-porous surfaces like ceramic and porcelain. It does not bond well to textured stone tiles or grout. If your existing tile has a shiny glazed surface, the paint is less likely to chip or peel.
Condition of Existing Tile
If your tile is heavily soiled, damaged, or has existing paint or sealant, it will require intensive prep work to create an adequate surface for painting. Cracks, missing grout, and uneven surfaces will still be visible after painting.
Paint allows you to completely change the color and look of your backsplash tile. It will not have the same glossy finish as new ceramic or glass tile. Paint also does not allow for intricate multicolor designs like mosaic tiles.
While durable epoxy paints exist, a painted backsplash will likely need touch-ups every few years. The paint can chip or fade over time. Proper prep and using quality materials can extend the life of a painted backsplash.
If your tile is in good shape and you want an affordable way to update the look of your kitchen, painting the backsplash is a valid option. Be sure you are comfortable with the more matte finish of painted tile vs. a glossy new backsplash.
How to Prepare the Surface
Proper prep before painting tile is crucial for good adhesion and longevity of the paint. Follow these steps:
Clean the Tile and Grout
Use an ammonia-based cleaner or degreaser to remove any dirt, grease or soap scum. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.
Remove Existing Paint or Sealant
If you are repainting an already painted backsplash, you must remove the existing coating so the new paint can properly adhere. Use a paint stripper formulated for tile.
Lightly Sand Glossy Surfaces
For very shiny or glossy tile, lightly sanding with 220 grit sandpaper will help the paint stick. Avoid sanding natural stone. Wipe away all sanding dust.
Fill Any Gaps or Cracks
Use a silicone sealant formulated for kitchens and bathrooms to fill any missing grout between tiles or cracks/chips in individual tiles. Allow sealant to fully cure before painting.
Clean and Dry
Wipe the entire surface with denatured alcohol to remove any remaining dirt or residue. Allow the tile to fully dry before proceeding.
Priming is an optional additional step that can improve paint adhesion and create a smoother finished surface. Use an interior latex primer meant for tile and masonry.
Choosing the Right Paint
Not all paints will adhere properly or be durable enough for a backsplash. Choose quality chemicals and tools to ensure great results:
A two-part epoxy paint is the best choice for painting tile and can withstand heat, grease and moisture. The epoxy ingredient causes a chemical reaction that cures and hardens the paint. Polyurethane paints offer similar durability.
An additive like Behr Adhesion Primer can be mixed into your topcoat paint to improve its ability to stick to the tile surface.
Angled Mini Paint Roller
Look for a foam mini roller (4 inch width or less) with an angled edging tip which lets you roll up to the edges of your tile. Avoid thick nap roller covers.
High Quality Paintbrush
In addition to a small roller, you will need an angled sash brush to paint grout lines and cut-in corners. Look for soft, tapered bristles.
Use tape to mask off any adjacent surfaces you don’t want painted like cabinets or walls. Remove tape immediately after painting before the paint dries.
How to Paint Tile Backsplash
Once you have prepped the surface and gathered quality painting materials, follow these key steps:
1. Apply Primer Coat
If desired, apply a thin coat of tile primer evenly across the surface using a mini foam roller. Let the primer fully dry.
2. Apply Base Coat of Paint
Using an angled paintbrush, cut-in along all the edges, corners and grout lines. Then roll on an even base coat using the mini roller. Allow the base coat to dry fully.
3. Apply Second Coat of Paint
For best coverage, apply a second finish coat of paint in the same manner as the first coat. Work systematically so you don’t miss any spots.
4. Remove Tape and Clean Up
Once the final coat has dried, carefully remove any painters tape you have applied. Clean rollers and brushes thoroughly.
5. Seal and Protect the Surface
Using a clean paintbrush, apply 1-2 thin, even coats of acrylic sealant meant for kitchen and bathroom tile. Avoid sealer sprays which can clog grout. Let sealer fully cure.
Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Epoxy paints especially can have strong fumes during application. Avoid painting the tile if temperatures are below 55°F which can impact how the paint dries. Maintain safety by wearing gloves and eye protection.
Tips for Achieving an Even Finish
Getting an attractive, uniform finish when painting tile backsplash can be tricky. Here are some top tips:
- Work in small sections so paint doesn’t dry before you complete an area.
- Apply paint in long, straight overlapping strokes avoiding drips and splotches.
- When cutting-in corners and edges, hold the brush at 45° angle pressing firmly.
- Roll firmly but don’t overwork the paint or it can start to lift off the tile surface.
- Feather out edges as you finish strokes to blend paint seamlessly.
- Work from the bottom up to avoid drips running through freshly painted areas.
- Use a spray bottle with clean water to smooth out any strokes or bumps in the wet paint.
- Don’t rinse rollers in the paint tray – this leads to inconsistent paint coverage.
Patience and attention to detail leads to the best finish. The prep work is the most important step for success. If your first coat looks streaky or uneven, adding a second coat almost always improves the look.
Common Problems Painting Tile Backsplash
Even if you follow all the proper steps, you may encounter some issues while painting tile:
Paint Not Adhering
Make sure to properly prep the surface and use a high-quality tile paint or adhesion primer. If paint continues to peel or flake, you likely have a bond issue – sand the surface more aggressively and clean with denatured alcohol before repainting.
Brush Strokes Showing
Applying the paint too thickly and overworking it can leave obvious brush strokes. Use less paint on the brush and feather out the edges as you paint. Rolling on a thin final coat can help give a smooth uniform finish.
Paint Chipping or Scratching Off
If the paint is chipping or scratching easily, the tile likely wasn’t sanded enough prior to painting. Fully remove any prior sealants or coatings for the new paint to properly bond. Make sure grout lines are smoothed and flush.
Tile Absorbing Paint Unevenly
Unsealed porous tile can cause the paint to soak in unevenly and look splotchy. Use a primer coat and allow proper drying time between each coat – this helps prevent absorption issues.
Grout Paint Wearing Away
Paint adheres less well to textured grout compared to smooth tile. Be sure to apply paint thoroughly inside grout lines. Add extra coats along grout if needed allowing proper cure time between coats.
Painting Shower Tile vs. Kitchen Backsplash
Paint can work well for both kitchen backsplashes and shower tile walls. In shower applications:
- Use 100% silicone caulk for grout lines instead of porcelain-based grout that can crack.
- Allow new silicone caulk several days to fully cure before painting.
- Use an alkyd-based bath and tile enamel paint for moisture resistance.
- Apply three coats of paint for adequate protection in a shower.
- Maintain humidity levels less than 50% as moisture slows paint cure time.
- Add an extra layer of marine epoxy sealer for maximum waterproofing.
In the kitchen:
- An epoxy backsplash paint works great over existing ceramic tile near a stove or sink.
- Allow at least 2-3 days curing time before exposing painted area to moisture or grease.
- Matte finish epoxy paints hide oil splatters better than glossy paints.
- Re-seal painted backsplash every 1-2 years for best stain resistance.
No matter which room you are painting, be sure to use high quality adhesive paints designed specifically for tile and properly prep the surface. Allowing adequate dry time between paint coats leads to maximum durability.
Cost of Painting a Tile Backsplash
Painting a tile backsplash costs significantly less than a full tile tear out or re-tile. Here are typical price ranges:
- Tile paint – $30 to $50 per gallon
- Adhesion primer – $10 to $20
- Mini paint rollers and brushes – $10 to $20
- Additional supplies – $30 – $50 (caulk, sandpaper, cleaner, gloves, tape)
- Total paint cost for a standard 5×5 ft backsplash – $100 to $200
A contractor may charge a minimum fee of $500 to professionally prep and paint a tile backsplash. The price increases for larger kitchens or intricate tile designs. Painting tile yourself can save $300 to $400 in labor costs compared to pro installation.
While not an exact substitute for the look of brand new tile, painting an existing backsplash is an affordable and customizable option. With careful preparation and application, a painted tile backsplash can give a kitchen or bath a fresh updated look for a fraction of the cost of a full replacement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use regular acrylic paint on a tile backsplash?
No, regular wall paints do not adhere well to slick nonporous surfaces like ceramic tile. Specialty epoxy tile paints or urethane paints are formulated to properly bond to tile and resist moisture.
Does painting a tile backsplash make it look matte?
Painting tile does result in a flatter, matte finish vs. the shiny surface of a glazed ceramic tile. Some homeowners prefer this more muted look. Gloss and semi-gloss epoxy paints are also available for a shinier finish.
Can you paint over crackled grout?
Paint adheres poorly to textured and uneven surfaces like weathered grout. For best results, smooth and fill cracked grout before painting. Alternatively, apply extra coats of paint over grout lines to build up coverage.
How do you paint behind a stove?
Use painters tape to mask off adjacent areas. Remove knobs and burners if possible. Use a roller extension pole and small angled brush to reach behind. Go slowly and wait for each coat to dry before continuing.
Can you paint quartz backsplash?
Quartz has a glossy finish that requires etching or sanding for paint to properly adhere. An epoxy paint formulated for smooth surfaces works best. Take extra care prepping the surface before painting quartz.
What sheen is best for backsplash paint?
A lower sheen flat or matte finish paint does the best job masking different tile textures. Higher gloss paint tends to show imperfections. Semi-gloss provides a compromise sheen level. Personal preference dictates the best finish.
Painting over existing tile backsplash offers homeowners an inexpensive, customizable option to update their kitchen. With proper surface preparation using quality tile paint and application techniques, even ceramic, porcelain or stone tile can be painted effectively. While not as durable as brand new tile, painted backsplashes provide years of service with periodic touch up. Approach the project with patience, gather the right tools, and your freshly painted backsplash can give your kitchen just the facelift you desire.