I've talked about this before, but the question is popping up frequently because people want to change the look of their bathrooms without spending a lot of money.
Question: I have a question about painting ceramic tile in a bathroom. It is peach (circa 1955), and I would like to repaint it or replace it. Any suggestions?
Answer: The "on-the-cheap" design shows that proliferated during the late 1990s — Trading Spaces was the one that made me keep Pepto-Bismol at hand — made big business out of changing tile color by painting.
I used a two-part epoxy paint on some extra tiles to try out the technique. When I was done, the tiles looked as if they had been painted.
Someone once told me that you should never paint surfaces that were not designed to be painted. I believe it.
That said, you should never paint tile that is subject to high levels of moisture, especially in the shower.
Although you will see later on that one of my sources does not agree with me, I believe one should never paint floor tile because there is a great likelihood of scuffing off the covering.
If the tile surface is in good shape — 1955 is a long time ago — you can put new over the old. You'd likely have to do a lot of cutting of edge tile, but it will do just fine.
If painting is what you want to do, you might check with a company that reglazes porcelain bathtubs and tiles to give you an estimate, since they employ processes, and technicians, who have the experience to do so. They also offer warranties, especially if they are sure the job will last.
When I want a definitive answer on painting, I proceed to Dow's Paint Quality Institute in Spring House for a consultation.
First, prepare the surface: Treat mildew with a 3:1 water/household bleach mixture, leaving it on for 20 minutes and adding more as it dries; wear eye and skin protection. Rinse thoroughly.
Remove all dirt by scrubbing with detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly.
Scrape out and widen any cracks, brush out dust, and seal with 100 percent acrylic or siliconized acrylic caulk — smooth it flush while it's still wet.
Make a second application in several hours if needed.
Check grouting and repair or regrout as needed.
To prepare the tile surface: Apply a high-adhesion latex stain-blocking primer that is recommended for interior use. Allow the primer to dry overnight before painting.
For floors, use an alcohol-based or oil-based stain blocking primer that is recommended for interior use.
Do not leave a primer unpainted.
Now, the painting:
For bathroom and kitchen walls and counter backs, use a quality latex kitchen and bath paint in a satin, semigloss or gloss finish; or a top-line interior latex paint in eggshell, satin, semigloss, or gloss finish.
For floors, use a latex satin-finish floor paint that is recommended for interior use on primed tile; or a semigloss oil-based or polyurethane floor paint recommended for use on primed tile.
If lead is suspected in the paint, do not attempt to remove the paint.
Instead, contact a contractor qualified for lead paint assessment and abatement.
These procedures are not for shower and tub areas, or other applications repeatedly exposed to warm or hot water, including kitchen counters.
I would suggest thinking for a long time about painting your tile.
Although you might be getting rid of a color you don't like, you might be creating a problem — chipping — that you don't want.