Painting Bathroom Tile: Before & After


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My downstairs bathroom has taken up too much DIY planning brainpower over the past year as I’ve pondered what to do with it. There is no budget at this time for a renovation (unless an issue arises and want turns into need), so I’ve been working on easy cosmetic upgrades.

I’ve done the basics: switched out the mirror and lighting, painted, covered the plain white floor tile, added beadboard wallpaper and a chair rail, and removed an old and grimy mirrored (and mildewed!) shower door.

But what to do about that tile?


You might be thinking to yourself, “Hey! That tile’s not so bad!” And the blue isn’t. It would not be my first choice, but it certainly would be manageable. But on closer inspection you will see that the “white” tile is not exactly white.

It’s more of an off-white and flecked with lovely goldenrod speckles. And the grout clearly leaves a lot to be desired!


Beautiful, right?! On top of the 1980s-inspired speckled tile, there was a broken tile that resulted from removing the clunky old shower door, and blue anchors that were used when the shower door was attached.


An interim solution had been to replace what was left of the old tile and use caulk to keep things in place. This was, clearly, not an ideal solution.

After much searching, I happened across a handful of blogs that used the Rustoleum Tub and Tile Refinishing Kit. Other than reports of a really strong smell, the project seemed to go over well for a lot of other bloggers. And since this tile couldn’t get any worse, combined with the fact that the shower doesn’t get a lot of use anyway since we have two other full bathrooms, I decided to go for it!

The supplies I gathered were:

Once I had everything in place, I spent an evening cleaning the tile as much as possible. I removed caulk, scrubbed the tile with the sandpaper, and cleaned with Krud Kutter. A lot of the blogs I read used more abrasive cleaners on their tile, but I went with the Krud Kutter because there is what I had on hand, and I really didn’t want to have any stronger fumes at that point since my children were home.

With the cleanup work complete, I used painters tape around the perimeter of the tile.


I painted on a day my kids were out of the house because I didn’t want them exposed to any of the fumes. Needless to say, the pressure was on for this project to go well, because I had a definite time limitation, roughly 4 hours from start to finish!

The refinishing kit comes in two parts, the base and the activator. You simply dump the activator into the base, mix everything up, and you’re ready to paint. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. I had a hard time getting the two products to mix well together, resulting in really runny paint. I ended up having to put the lid back on the base and give the can a few good shakes to full mix the products.


The first coat when on fairly evenly, but I was definitely skeptical. Not only did the blue show through quite easily, but the speckles did as well!


On even closer inspection, my initial coat of paint wasn’t very promising!


After letting the paint dry for about 30 minutes, I added the second coat. I made sure to switch to a new tray and a new roller. I had read that the paint can break down the rollers, so I wanted to make sure that I had a fresh roller that had not been exposed to the chemicals, and a clean tray to ensure there weren’t any foam particles left behind.

The second coat covered a lot better, but you can see that I still had a hard time covering some of the blue tile. I think part of this was due to the fact that I didn’t do a stellar job cleaning the tile the night before. It was challenging to get the paint to adhere to the surface in those spots.

Untitled design

Another 30 or so minutes of dry time, and then I added the third and final coat. As you can see, I was able to cover up the blue tiles that were giving me a hard time, and in general get even coverage throughout!


I let the paint dry for about 2 days before removing the tape, caulking, and putting the shower curtain rod back into place. Fortunately, we don’t use the shower so I didn’t have to worry about exposing the tile to water too soon.


Some observations after completing this project:

  • Yes, the paint smells! It’s strong. The ventilation mask helped, along with keeping windows open and fans running. Even thought I kept the bathroom door shut throughout the project, the rest of the house definition smelled like paint the rest of the day, but everything went back to normal the next day.
  • Despite my best efforts, the paint did eat away a little bit at my foam roller, which I knew was a possibility. This resulted in some of the tiles having a little bit of a bumpy texture. That personally doesn’t bother me, but you may want to experiment with different rollers.
  • Each coat went on really fast! It was a very easy project. I did have a hard time uniformly painting the grout, which was noticeable since the grout was rather…grungy. I used a foam brush to touch up the worst spots.
  • I had also debated painting the tub, especially since there are so many marks left from the old shower door and the fact that the white tile revealed a very dingy bathtub. But I think I would have a hard time evenly painting the tub. And while the paint is definitely an enamel and feels strong, I would be concerned about how well the paint would hold up long term on the tub. But never say never!

All-in-all, the project was around $75 for the paint and extra supplies, and about 2 hours of cleaning/prep and about 4 hours of actual painting. Considering how low-traffic this bathroom is, this was the perfect level of investment! The space is much brighter, and I was also able to make the broken tile and old anchor holes blend in better with a combination of paint and caulk.