Reader Query: The tiles in my kitchen splash back are dated, can I paint them?

Reader Request:

We’ve recently moved into a new house and haven’t got the money to do everything at once! The Shaker-style kitchen is in good condition and will do us another few years, so we are planning to just paint it, but the splashback tiles are so dated; can I paint them?

Breda McG

(The featured image is a project from Wesley O’Brien Design,

Hi Breda,

Yes, painting tiles is fine, especially as a short term solution; they will chip eventually, but they should stay good for a few years at least!  The secret is in the prep, the tiles need to be clean and grease-free for the paint to adhere.  There are two alternative methods for painting , but let’s start out with the cleaning!

Barbara Egan

Step One: Preparation

Start out by cleaning the tiles with a scrubby and either sugar soap or liquid detergent in hot water. Use lots of hot water and change the water frequently.  It the grout is mouldy or stained, you may need to use something like Ronseal Mould Killer or even just liquid bleach to scrub the stained areas.  Leave to dry, then rub with a cloth soaked in methylated spirits to remove any remaining grease.  Once the tiles and the grout is bone dry, you can move on to the next step.

Step Two: Primer

A good primer should kill the background colour of the old tiles and provide a good blank canvas for your new colour. You can use a brush or roller, each will give a slightly different texture in the finish. If you’re not sure about this, do a little test area of each. Before you start painting, use masking tape around edges to protect sockets, worktop and units and give a clean finished line. Fleetwood Bloxx-It is readily available,two coats are recommended. Bulls Eye® 1-2-3, a ‘bond coat’ primer that’s great for hard-to-stick surfaces, claims excellent adhesion and only requires one coat.

Step Three: Painting.

Once you have a good primed surface to work on, you can use any paint you like,  I prefer Satinwood to Gloss, but any paint suitable for exterior woodwork is fine, and the range of colours you can use is endless!    For extra protection you can add a layer of water-based clear varnish, but just make sure the paint is water-based first.  If you don’t mind a more limited colour palette, or plan to paint you tiles white anyway, there is another way to go: skip the primer step and use a specialist all-in-one Tile Paint.

Ronseal Tile Paint claims to cover in just one coat and  has a range of 13 colours, including a vibrant fuschia, bright red and lime green as well as neutrals

Click on the link to the Ronseal website above for specifications and a list of colours

Dulux have a similar Tile Paint, but it comes in just three colour choices, white, a pale green called Jade White and a pale blue.

Fleetwood Paints have a specialist Tile Paint, although it only cones in a Brilliant White.  Still, Fleetwood Paints are an Irish firm (Virginia, Co Cavan) and are stocked in all Topline Hardware Stores.  See info on Fleetwood Tile Paint on the link here.

I’m going to go a bit off-track here and tell you something that you may not necessarily want to try at home!   I painted over dated tiles in my guest shower room ten years ago with ordinary eggshell wood paint, and they’re still fine.  The shower room is not high-usage as it’s in a guest setting, but I just used some white paint I already had, and I had no problems.  So  if you are in lockdown and in possession of a can of eggshell, you may want to try it on a small area, and see what you think.

Step 4: Grout pen

Ok, this bit is quite cool. You have painted over your tiles and they look a bit flat now, because there are no grout lines, but you can add these back in with a grout pen. Grout pens are not long-term solutions to anything, they are basically just paint that freshens up the look of your grout, but in this case they are perfect.  Fiddly, yes, but easy to do too. You can get grout pens in different colours, but white is the most common. If you would like a nice dark grey, for instance, you may have to search a bit online, but grout pens are cheap, so buy a few and experiment if you like!

Barbara EganReader Query: The tiles in my kitchen splash back are dated, can I paint them?

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