Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
How To Keep Ceramic Tile Coating & Tile Paint Looking Beautiful For Longer
In this how-to, we go over what it takes to give your ceramic floor tiles a new life with the right paint and make it last with right tile sealer.
Table of Contents
- How To Paint Over Ceramic Tile Flooring
- Preparing Your Ceramic Tile For Paint Coating
- How To Determine If Your Ceramic Tile And Grout Have Been Already Sealed
- Now It’s Time To Paint Your Ceramic Tile
- What Sealer Should You Use Over Tile Paint
- What Aren’t Standardized Tile Sealers Enough?
- What’s The Best Ceramic Tile Sealer?
- How Long Does Ceramic Tile Sealer Take To Dry?
- Tips For Sealing Ceramic Tile Walls
- What Are The Best Practices For Keeping Ceramic Tile Clean?
- A Word Of Caution Before Using Homemade Tile Cleaners
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Refinishing your ceramic tiles with a new coat of paint is a wonderful (and cost effective) alternative to replacing the tile surface entirely. However, it is imperative that this renovation be done with the right products and procedures to ensure the paint actually sticks and the fresh-looking tiles stay clean and protected.
How To Paint Over Ceramic Tile Flooring | What Paint Will Work?
The key to getting this project right is to use the right kind of paint on your ceramic tile. It’s totally possible to slosh on whatever paints and coatings you have lying around in your garage, but even if by some miracle they stick, they sure won’t last very long.
Because ceramic is such a dense, smooth tile, it is important to use a paint that will actually stick. The best type of paint for use on ceramic tile and grout is a water based polyurethane.
Polyurethane is far more durable than acrylic, and water based formulas are much safer and eco-friendly than chemical (solvent) based ones.
Using this type of paint will also set you up for success when it’s time to use a tile sealer over top.
Preparing Your Ceramic Tile For Paint Coating
To paint over ceramic or porcelain tile, you will firstly want to ensure that the paint coating will be able to bond directly to the surface. That means there mustn’t be any previous sealers or paint, or dirt, oil, and grease that might interfere with adhesion. If there are any unwelcome substances, they must be properly stripped off and the ceramic tiles must be cleaned.
So if there is an existing sealer, like a topical sealer that has started to lift and peel for example, make sure to remove or strip that from the surface. At CoverTec, we would use something like our FloorStrip HP to remove that topical acrylic sealer.
If it’s a penetrating sealer in the grout and not necessarily on the tile, that old sealer can still act as a bond breaker to a new topical sealer and needs to be stripped off as well.
The ceramic surface has got to be clean and dry before painting, and we always recommend going around one final time with an easy mop to pick up any fresh-fallen dust or dirt. The better the bond between the paint and the surface, the longer the paint will last, and the less likely it is to cause problems with the tile sealer.
If the surface has not been previously sealed, our CT 50 is a good way of deep cleaning and prepping the surface before any coating. That product is used with warm or hot water which will give your tile and grout a great clean, and can simply be rinsed off and allowed to dry.
Check to see whether that grout is porous or not. If it is non porous, then the chances are it has a penetrating sealer, which is more difficult to remove. This would need some etching to remove. Use something like our PreTreat or our Surface PrepWork.
These are acidic based cleaners that will microscopically etch and remove that penetrating sealer from the top of the tile surface.
We highly recommend performing a product test in a small, discreet area before using it over your entire floor. This is to make sure that the surface is now correctly prepared and the sealer will properly adhere to the tile.
How To Determine If Your Ceramic Tile And Grout Have Already Been Sealed
If you are dealing with an existing, but unglazed, ceramic tile surface, there is a quick and easy way to determine whether it’s been sealed or not. This is to do a water test to check the absorbency of the tiles and the grout. It’s very simple: get a small amount of water and pour or splash that onto the surface.
After five minutes, wipe that water away and observe if there is a dark spot or patch. If there is, that’s an indication that the ceramic tile and grout haven’t been sealed. If the water beads up and there’s no darkening, then that’s telling you there’s likely a sealer on the surface of the tile or grout.
If you can’t visually detect the sealer but the water still beads up on the surface, then there a penetrating or impregnating sealer has likely been used.
If the tile is a glazed tile surface then it should be nonporous and the water test will not work. In this case, you will have to do a visual inspection and see if you can detect the sheen produced by a topical sealer on top of the tiles and grout.
Follow the guidelines from the section above for cleaning and stripping the ceramic surface. Once that is done, allow your chosen area to dry completely with as much ventilation as possible. Don’t be afraid to use a plug-in fan or two, and be sure to give at least 24 hours of thorough drying.
Now It's Time To Paint Your Ceramic Tile
Now that your ceramic tiles are fully prepared, it’s time to get creative! Follow the instructions for your water-based polyurethane paint, taking into account the prep work you just completed.
Let the paint dry for as long as the manufacturer recommends, and maybe give it 12 hours more – just to be safe. The only concern at this point is to keep the ceramic surface as isolated as possible, so no dust or dirt settle in or on the paint.
Once your paint is dry, go over the tiles one more time with your trusted duster. Then you’re ready for your ceramic sealer! Keep reading to find out which tile sealer is right for this job.
What Sealer Should You Use Over Tile Paint?
There are several different types of tile sealers, and all are available at your local home improvement store. But they are not all created to do the same job for ceramic, or to be the same quality.
What Are The Typical Results Of Standardized Tile Sealers? | Why Aren’t They Enough?
The type of sealers that you will typically find in a big box or DIY home improvement store are standardized sealers. Generally, those are made with a lower concentration of active ingredients.
That is how they can produce these sealers at such a reduced cost, but of course, the trade-off is their durability and performance over time. Standardized sealers are just quick shine made for unglazed, porous tile. They only have about 12 or 15 percent active ingredients.
A low solid sealer that’s not designed for porcelain or ceramic tile will very quickly result in delamination. That means it is going to lift and peel within weeks, or maybe a couple of months at best. Very soon, you will see those products lift and peel.
When you start to clean with any kind of water-based cleaner, you’re going to see moisture sensitivity and delamination. Most of those standardized products dry very quickly, in 20 or 30 minutes, but that is not sufficient time for the sealer to bond to a ceramic or porcelain tile.
This being said, standardized sealers just aren’t up to the task of sealing over ceramic tile paint.
What's The Best Ceramic Tile Sealer?
So when you are searching for a proper tile sealer, look in the description for the right ingredients and the right places where it can be used. Remember that for our project of sealing our newly painted ceramic tiles, we need a water-based polyurethane tile sealer that will create a complete barrier over the paint. This means you will need a topical sealer.
Our GlazeGuard tile sealer is a topical sealer that is designed specifically for dense, glazed, non-porous tile. We formulated it with the highest percentage of active solids or ingredients. We’re close to 50% active solids in the GlazeGuard product, and ours contains proprietary adhesion promoters that allow us to bond better to ceramic and porcelain tile, as well as other water-based polyurethane products.
Our GlazeGuard is easily applied in a single coat with a ⅜ nap microfiber paint roller and has a drying time of 10 to 12 hours. And that is very important in terms of getting a long-term bond between sealer and surface. GlazeGuard can last three to five years on a tile compared to these standard acrylics that may last one or two months.
How Long Does Ceramic Tile Sealer Take To Dry?
Topical sealers will dry at different rates depending on the temperature, the air movement, and how thickly you apply them. Our GlazeGuard products, which are two-part polyurethanes, take about 12 hours to dry at temperatures above 70 degrees and with reasonable air movement. If the ambient temperature gets below 70 and there’s little air movement, that dry time can be extended.
Make sure they are dry before you walk on them. Waiting 12 hours is a good rule of thumb for light foot traffic, and then wait 48 hours before having any kind of heavy traffic.
Tips For Sealing Ceramic Tile Walls
So when it comes to ceiling walls or border vertical surfaces, just be aware that gravity works against us. It’s good to start at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. Watch out for runs and drips when you’re using topical sealers, so don’t get too far ahead of yourself to catch them.
You may have to put more than one coat on a wall than you do on a floor because the sealer will inevitably be applied in thinner coats as you fight gravity. This being said, you might need more coats on the wall to achieve the same protection level as you would on the floor.
For this application, you can use a ⅜” nap roller on perhaps a smaller hand-held roller like a six” or four” wide roller. Work systematically across the vertical surface, doing small sections at a time, and then coming back five minutes later to check for any runs and back rolling. With this method, you’ll end up with a very effective seal.
What Are The Best Practices For Keeping Ceramic Tile Clean?
Now that we’ve sealed our tile and grout, cleaning and maintaining the surface should be much, much easier. And you won’t need to use harsh chemicals like bleach and chlorine (what we call high pH, or aggressive, cleaners) These substances will dull the surface by breaking down the repellency of the sealer. Avoid the same results with acidic solutions. Those can break down the sealer and even burn it, affecting the overall performance and damaging your new tile paint.
You are better off using microbial cleaners. We recommend those because they will actually break down and consume oil and grease without leaving any residue or damaging the sealer. Using microbial cleaners are a great way to clean a tile surface.
If you want to use degreasers or different types of mild soapy solutions, just don’t use them at a heavy concentration. For these cleaners, we recommend only one or two ounces per gallon because the surface now is much easier to keep clean. Dirt and other substances aren’t sticking to the surface, so there is no need to use high doses of cleaning chemicals to loosen and remove them and risk damaging your sealer or the paint underneath!
The CoverClean AE is a great product for cleaning tile and grout. We have our Emerald Floor Maintainer as another microbial cleaner that comes in a concentrate – a very cost effective product for maintaining your tile and grout. These are both easy to use. We also have our neutral pH and concentrated GlossCleaner which you can use at a very low dose in order to maintain the gloss and sheen of your topical sealer.
A Word Of Caution Before Using Homemade Tile Cleaners
In regards to homemade cleaners and polish remedies, we only caution that you don’t use them too concentrated – be sure to dilute! Too concentrated, and they can likely damage the finish or the sheen of your topical tile sealer.
Or they’ll simply leave a residue on the surface. This is particularly from things like baking soda, which is an undeniable lifting and cleaning agent, but will leave a residue and dull the surface if you don’t have the right proportions.
Also be aware of the chemicals that you’re mixing together, because sometimes you can actually conduct a chemical byproduct that actually outgasses your home or building! For example, the chemical or chemical byproduct ammonia can produce more toxic fumes that would be very hazardous to breath in for you, your family and pets, your business, etc.
Cleaning the residue from your homemade cleaning products is extra work, and totally negates the ease of maintenance provided by your tile sealer. This is why manufactured chemical cleaners are better because they have already been scientifically proportioned and thus save you more labor than a diy tile cleaner.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article; we hope it serves you and your ceramic tile painting project well. Remember to use water based polyurethanes for both your paint and your tile sealer so they will stick to each other best. And gentle proactive cleaning is always the best method to keep your ceramic tile surface spotless.
Enjoy your new (to you) and beautiful painted ceramic tiles!
As always, if you have any questions about which product is the best for your unique situation, call us at: 754-253-3401
Bonus Tip: How To Make Porcelain Tile Less Slippery
Some floor tiles are slippery when wet, and this is sometimes exacerbated by a topical sealer as it forms that smooth film on the surface. Think of showers or high-traffic kitchens. Use a test area to check the slip resistance of your chosen tile sealer before applying it to your entire floor if safety is a paramount concern.
To remedy a slippery floor, our CoverGrip is an additive that can be mixed into the sealer right before you apply. Or, you can skip the work by using our GlazeGuard Plus. This sealer has already been precisely combined with CoverGrip. It provides an excellent non-slip surface and all you would have to do is mix an apply like your normal sealer.
Both of these products will leave the a rougher, more textured surface on the tile. Because they use such a clear and fine aggregate, you won’t be able to see it, but this you will definitely feel and will grip your feet rather well.
We also have non-coat treatments available for porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone tile. Our Surface GripTreat is an effective way of changing the surface characteristics so that the tile is much less slippery when wet. It’s an excellent choice for exterior tile, it’s very easy to maintain. There’s no topical coat, so there’s no lifting or peeling, especially in those high traffic and/or wet areas.
The trade off of using these products to create more textured surface area is, of course, that those extra nooks and crevices can trap dirt. The more additive you use, the more surface area you have to collect dirt. Slip-resistant floors will always need more frequent cleaning. There’s no perfect answer but the CoverGrip does provide an effective solution and we have a number of grades to make that trade off between cleanability and slip resistance much more acceptable for the end user.
About Our Expert | Charles Idowu
Charles Idowu started his career as a civil engineer in 1983 in the UK. After achieving his MBA and his Chartered Engineer qualifications, Charles quickly became the waterproofing and coatings expert for a renowned British construction company. His international work landed him in South Florida, where he combined his engineering experience and passion for business to start CoverTec Products.