Can You Paint Slate Backsplash? The Complete Guide

Slate backsplashes can add an elegant and timeless look to any kitchen. While the dark gray tones and unique texture of natural slate provides visual interest, some homeowners may wish to freshen up their backsplash with a new color. Painting a slate backsplash is possible with the right supplies and techniques. In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about painting a slate backsplash, from proper preparation to choosing the right paint.

An Introduction to Slate Backsplashes

Slate is a metamorphic rock known for its durability, texture, and dark charcoal color. It has been used as a building material for centuries on roofing and flooring applications. More recently, slate tiles have become a popular backsplash choice to bring a touch of Old World charm to kitchens.

Compared to ceramic tile or stainless steel, slate backsplashes have some unique characteristics:

  • Texture – Slate has a natural cleft texture with layers and grooves that add visual interest. The uneven surface can make cleaning a bit more difficult compared to smooth tiles.
  • Dark color – Slate ranges in color from dark gray to black. The subtle variations in shade provide a sophisticated look.
  • Durability – Slate is extremely strong and durable. It does not easily chip or crack. Slate backsplashes can last for decades with proper care.
  • Moisture resistance – Slate is impervious to water and ideal for the high moisture environment of a kitchen backsplash.
  • Heat resistance – Slate holds up well to heat and is safe to install behind stoves or ovens.

While a slate backsplash has many advantages, some homeowners eventually wish to update the dark gray color for a brighter, lighter kitchen aesthetic. Painting over slate provides a cost-effective facelift to transform the space.

Can You Successfully Paint Over Slate?

The short answer is yes – it is possible to paint a slate backsplash, but it requires some special considerations. Slate has a low porosity, which means paint has a difficult time adhering directly to the stone surface.

Additionally, the uneven texture of slate can cause paint to peel or flake off easily. However, using the proper prep work, primer, paint, and sealant designed for natural stone will allow you to paint your slate backsplash and achieve long-lasting results.

Proper surface prep is the most important step when painting slate. The goal is to thoroughly clean and roughen up the surface to help the primer and paint bond securely.

Be sure to choose paint products specifically formulated for tile and masonry. These will have extra adhesion properties to grip onto the non-porous slate surface.

Applying a compatible sealant at the end is also crucial to protect the finish and prevent cracking or peeling over time.

When done correctly, a painted slate backsplash can hold up to the high traffic, moisture and heat of the busiest kitchens. The paint job can last for many years before needing touch-ups.

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Slate Backsplash Tile

Follow these steps to successfully paint a slate backsplash in your kitchen:

Supplies Needed

  • Drop cloths
  • Painters tape
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags and scrub brush
  • Primer – Select an acrylic bonding primer made for tile/masonry
  • Slate paint – Choose an interior slate paint in your desired color
  • Angled paint brush
  • Paint roller
  • Sealer – Use a sealant designed for stone and tile

Step 1: Prepare the Slate Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for the paint to properly bond to the slate. Start by protecting nearby surfaces with drop cloths and removing any mounted accessories or hardware on the backsplash.

Wash down the slate using a degreasing cleaner like Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) applied with a scrub brush. This removes any dirt, oil or grease from the surface.

Next, sand the surface of the slate tiles using 100-150 grit sandpaper. This roughens up the stone so the paint can grip better.

Finally, wipe away all dust with a dry rag. The slate should now have a scratched up surface texture ready for painting.

Step 2: Apply Primer

After prepping the surface, apply a coat of bonding primer specially formulated for tile and masonry. Using a paintbrush, apply a thin even layer across all of the slate tiles, getting into the grout lines.

Allow the primer to fully dry for at least 12 hours. Then inspect for any rough patches and apply a second coat of primer if needed. Proper priming is essential for the paint to adhere properly.

Step 3: Paint the Slate Backsplash

Once the primer has dried, you can apply your topcoat slate paint using a small angled brush for the grout lines and a mini roller for large surfaces. Use long, even brush strokes and a light touch.

Apply two coats of slate paint, allowing each coat to dry fully before adding another. The paint should have a smooth, even finish across the entire backsplash. Avoid excessively thick or globby paint.

Step 4: Seal the Painted Slate

After the paint has dried completely, apply a stone and tile sealant, using a paintbrush to evenly coat across the surface. This is important to protect the finish and prevent cracking or peeling of the paint.

Re-apply sealer once per year as needed to maintain the paint job. With proper sealing, a painted slate backsplash can look vibrant for many years before needing touch-ups.

And that’s it! Follow these steps carefully and allow adequate drying time between each stage. Properly painted slate tile can withstand the heat, moisture and activity of the kitchen for a fresh new look.

Choosing the Right Slate Paint Color

One of the biggest advantages of painting over slate tile is being able to transform the color scheme of your kitchen. Here are some popular paint color options to consider for your slate backsplash:


Crisp white is a timeless choice that creates a bright, airy feel. White paint makes the textured slate surface even more striking.

Light Grays

For a subtle update, soft light grays like dove, taupe or silver complement the natural slate tones. This enhances the backsplash without overpowering it.

Neutral Tones

Earthy beige, cream and brown hues bring warmth while still allowing the slate personality to show through.

Navy Blue

For a bold accent wall, navy blue contrasts beautifully with the dark slate for a dramatic two-tone effect.


Mossy sage greens connect the backsplash to natural elements and provide a tranquil vibe.

Brick Red

Reds in brick, terracotta or rust orange give the slate a warmer, cozier look.


Glossy black paint turns up the elegance and makes the slate pattern pop.

Distressed Finish

A hand-painted distressed or antiqued finish leaves some slate peeking through for added charm.

Consider your overall kitchen decor style, cabinets, countertops and flooring when selecting a slate paint color. Samples chips and test swatches can help you find the perfect shade.

Tips for Successfully Painting Slate Tile

Follow these tips for getting the best results from your slate backsplash painting project:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly with TSP before priming. Any dirt or grease will prevent proper adhesion.
  • Always use paint products specifically designed for stone and tile. General wall paints will not bond correctly.
  • Apply thin coats and allow adequate drying time between layers. Rushing the process can lead to peeling or cracks.
  • Use an angled paintbrush to get full coverage inside the slate grout lines.
  • Asecond coat of primer and paint helps ensure an even color across the uneven slate.
  • Seal the painted slate with a clear tile and stone sealer to protect the finish. Reapply yearly.
  • Avoid excessive water, steam or heat on the backsplash for 72 hours after painting to allow complete curing.
  • Expect to use more paint than you would on drywall. The porous nature of slate requires more product.
  • Wipe up spills and drips immediately before they dry to avoid leaving paint ridges that peel easily.

With the right supplies and techniques, it is possible to achieve a long-lasting painted finish on slate backsplash tile that transforms the look of your kitchen.

Painting Slate Backsplash Tile vs. Replacing

Before deciding to paint your existing slate backsplash, you may be wondering if simply replacing it with new tile is the better option. Here is a look at the pros and cons of painting vs installing a new backsplash:

Painting the Backsplash


  • More affordable – Costs a fraction compared to new tile
  • Quicker – Can be completed over a weekend vs remodeling timeline
  • Less messy – No need to demolish the existing slate
  • No damage to countertops – Sink and stove stay in place
  • Match other finishes – Easier to match your cabinet paint color


  • Effects are temporary – Paint will need periodic touch ups
  • Covering natural material – You lose the natural cleft slate texture
  • Sealant required – Needs annual reapplication to protect paint
  • Not heat resistant – Paint can discolor under direct heat exposure

New Slate Tile


  • Permanent new look – Real tile upgrade that lasts decades
  • Can modify area – Opportunity to expand backsplash space
  • More design options – Can mix slate with other tiles
  • Heat resistant – Can safely install around stoves/ovens


  • More expensive – Tile, labor, new materials add up fast
  • Long renovation – Demolition, installation, countertop refinishing
  • Mess and dust – Major project involving tile removal
  • Risk of installation damages – To surrounding countertops, drywall etc.

Ultimately, painting the existing slate backsplash is the easier and more affordable route to freshen up the space. But for a complete kitchen remodel, replacing the slate with all new tile can better achieve a permanent new look.

Maintaining a Painted Slate Backsplash

Once your slate backsplash has been prepped, painted and sealed, there are simple maintenance steps to take in order to keep it looking like new:

  • Use mild soap and water for routine cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers.
  • Immediately wipe up any food, grease or water spills on the backsplash. Don’t allow moisture to soak into the paint.
  • Re-apply a fresh coat of clear tile and stone sealant once yearly, or whenever the paint finish begins looking dull.
  • Hand wash only using soft sponges. Avoid direct high-pressure sprayers against the painted surface.
  • Watch for signs of paint wear, cracking or peeling and touch up these areas as needed.
  • Limit exposure to direct high heat, such as allowing pans to touch the surface. Heat can damage the paint over time.
  • Consider lightly sanding and re-painting the entire backsplash every 2-3 years to keep the color and sheen vibrant.

Proper prep, paint selection and ongoing maintenance will determine the longevity of your painted slate backsplash. Follow these tips and you can enjoy your fresh painted slate for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What type of primer should I use on slate tile?

A: Use an acrylic-based primer specifically engineered for painting over tile, stone, and masonry. The label should indicate it bonds well to slick, non-porous surfaces. Avoid general drywall primers.

Q: Do I need to use a certain paint brush to paint slate backsplash tiles?

A: Yes, choose a high-quality angled sash brush. The angle allows you to easily get the brush into the grooves. Look for tapered bristles and a sharp edge for maneuvering around corners.

Q: How long does it take for paint on a slate backsplash to fully cure?

A: Expect the paint to take 72 full hours to completely set and cure. Avoid getting the surface wet or exposing it to steam during this time. The paint will continue to harden and become more durable over the following week.

Q: Can I use latex or acrylic paint on a slate backsplash?

A: Latex and acrylic paints are not formulated to properly bond and adhere to stone and tile surfaces. Be sure to choose a specific masonry slate paint for best results.

Q: What sheen of paint works best on slate backsplash tiles?

A: A satin or semi-gloss finish offers the best combination of aesthetic appeal and durability for a high-traffic kitchen backsplash area. Avoid flat paints which can show dirt and stains more easily.

Q: Will painting a slate backsplash make it lose its heat resistance?

A: Painting slate does degrade its heat tolerance compared to the natural raw stone. Avoid direct high heat exposure like pans touching the surface after painting. Temperatures above 150°F can damage the paint over time.

Q: How long can I expect a painted slate backsplash to last before needing touch-ups?

A: With proper prep, paint materials, and sealing, a painted slate backsplash can look great for 3-5 years before requiring minor touch up. Plan on repainting the entire backsplash every 5-7 years to keep the color fresh.


Painting over an existing slate backsplash offers a relatively quick, affordable way to transform the look of your kitchen. With the right combination of specialty paint, primers and sealants, slate tile can be coated in beautiful new colors for an updated aesthetic.

Pay close attention to proper prep and application for long-lasting results. And be sure to maintain the painted slate by promptly cleaning spills, limiting moisture exposure, and re-applying protective sealer every year.

With a little time and effort, you can paint a dated slate backsplash and make it look like new again while avoiding the cost and mess of a full remodeling. So try your hand at this easy DIY upgrade for stylish kitchen refresh.