How To Give Your Bathroom Tiles a Makeover

Bathrooms are often the most popular room for updates and makeovers, especially when they are a retreat for so many of us.

Most of us would never dream of going out with our friends wearing the same ra-ra skirt, fluorescent tights, and frilly blouse that we were wearing in 1988. Many of us, however, are stuck with a bathroom suite that hasn't been updated for decades - and as bathroom designs change just as clothing fashions do, they can look seriously outdated.

Replacing a whole bathroom is not cheap though. If, however, you’ve decided you just can’t live with those old-fashioned bathroom tiles anymore, there are some budget-friendly and high-end options for updating your bathroom tiles.

Read on to find out how you give your bathroom a quick and cheap makeover...

Painting bathroom tiles

All of us are on a budget these days, and replacing a bathroom can be an expensive business once all the extras are taken into account.

These extras could include furniture, radiators, sanitaryware, and of course, tiles. One option is to tile over your existing tiles, to prevent the extra work and expense of removing them. Of course, this is not an ideal solution as you will just add to the depth of the wall. But if the tiles are in good condition and are in the positions you want them to be – why not just paint over them?

Can you paint bathroom tiles?

Yes, you can paint bathroom wall tiles. Most paints will only work on ceramic tiles, although natural stone should not be painted as it will sink into the surface of the tile.

Read more: How to Decorate a Bathroom

Painting your bathroom tiles used to be the definition of a bodge job, but not anymore. There are a number of specialist paints and, with the correct technique, you can end up with a stunning finish. Plus, only those in the know will realise that you turned those ugly patterned tiles into gleaming white and modern replacements.

The best thing about painting over old tiles is that you can then put your efforts and your budget towards getting the best bathroom suite possible. You can replace your bath, basin, toilet seat or toilet without changing the positions of the plumbing, saving you money and changing your bathroom with minimum fuss.

Is painting tiles a good idea?

Unless you are willing to take the step of removing and replacing the grout you need to accept that your tiles will look obviously painted. The paint is also unlikely to adhere very well to the grout and could start flaking off.

Read more: How to Remove & Replace Grout

You may feel that painting over tiles is a step too far, but these days the results can be fantastic. With tilers costing in excess of £150 a day and tiles being an expensive product, you should certainly consider saving the tiles you have if you can. Also, it is a very environmentally friendly thing to do.

What kind of paint do you use on bathroom tiles?

The best way of updating your dated bathroom wall tiles is with paint, it's durable and cheap - making a very cost-effective option as opposed to retiling.

You can’t just use any old paint for this though, you will need a specialist product. Measure your walls to work out how much paint you’ll need. Coverage is detailed on the packaging, but 250ml should be enough for 2 square metres. You can also choose between matte, satin, and gloss paints depending on the look you are trying to achieve.

Using paint is very easy. With most products, there is no need for priming the existing tiles first, and you just paint one even coat all over the surface of the tiles. Allow the tiles to dry out completely before using the bath or shower, and make sure you keep the room well ventilated as you work.

Tile paint is available in a wide range of colours, so if you want to get creative by painting a border of a different colour around the wall or doing some other sort of design, you are only limited by your imagination. Floor tiles can also be painted, but you will need to take extra care as the tiles on the floor have to stand up to much more wear and tear than those on the wall.

Important: Once you have painted the tiles on the floor – and even if you are using specialist tile paint – you will have to give it at least three coats of varnish to ensure it keeps looking good.

How to paint bathroom tiles

Follow these instructions for the best results:

  • Remove the grout from between your tiles. You can find special tools to help you do this. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but the more you can remove the better.
  • Clean the whole area very carefully paying special attention to any areas where there may be soap build-up or mould. Preparation is key when it comes to tile paint and the longer you spend scrubbing your tiles to remove all traces of dirt, dust and grease the better the final result will be.
  • Use primer paint designed for tiles on the now clean surface. This will need to be left to dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations. You won’t be able to use your shower or bath while you are waiting for this to dry.
  • Sand down the primer lightly to give the next layer of paint something to adhere to. Clean off the dust with a damp cloth.
  • Use the right specialist paint in the colour you have chosen to paint your tiles. use a synthetic brush to avoid brush marks and take your time to avoid running over the edges of each tile. Darker tiles may require multiple coats to get the finish you want.
  • Once the paint has dried you can apply new grout to the tile area.

Change the laying pattern of your tiles

Now, if you're extremely careful did you know you can remove your existing wall tiles? If you've never done this before or have any concerns we suggest contacting a professional to get them removed. The last thing you want is a pile of chipped and cracked tiles!

Once the tiles have been removed you can then lay them in a new pattern. Perhaps switch from horizontal to vertical or even switch to a diagonal laying pattern.

When re-laying your tiles you could even use different coloured grouting, maybe switch from classic white to contemporary black or grey.

Bathroom wall stickers and transfers

bathroom wall stencils

If you just want a quick fix for your dated bathroom tiles, stickers or transfers could be the perfect solution. Now, they may not be for everyone or be particularly glamorous but can eaisly hide small stains and scratches.

Not all stickers are suitable for use in bathrooms, so look for ones that are marked as suitable for rooms with high humidity. If you are trying to cover up tiles that are heavily patterned or brightly coloured with stickers, this can prove tricky. However, if you shop for stickers that are darkly coloured or which have a stronger, more modern pattern, you should be able to cover up the old tiles.

Stickers and transfers are also great for injecting a bit of personality into a bland, boring bathroom which has plain white wall to ceiling tiles. There are dozens of internet sites selling stickers and showing you how to use them, so browse around for inspiration.

Bathroom wall panels

bathroom wall panel

What are bathroom wall panels?

Waterproof bathroom wall panels are a modern innovation in the bathroom market and have many advantages, one of which is that most of them can simply be fixed over the old tiles.

Read more: How to Fit Bathroom Wall Panels

Bathroom wall panels come in large sheets and in a range of styles and colours. As they are completely waterproof they can be used in a shower enclosure or above the bath, and just need to be sealed around the edges with special strips which can be bought from the retailer.

The boards are just trimmed to size then glued on top of the existing tiles so a competent joiner or carpenter should be able to completely transform your bathroom in just a couple of hours. Wall panels are more expensive than paint or transfers, but still a lot cheaper than replacing all of your tiles.

Coloured or patterned tiles

Another way to give your bathroom tiles a makeover is to purchase new brightly coloured or patterned tiles. Yes, it's not a cheap option, so not ideal if you're on a budget, but a great way of giving your tiles and whole bathroom a refresh.

Updating your tiles to a new colour or pattern is also a great way of tying them in with the rest of your bathroom design. Matching your tiles with stand-out pieces of bathroom furniture or perhaps a beautiful bath mat or shower curtain is a great idea.

Replacing floor tiles

If your floor tiles have seen better days but you can't be bothered with the hassle of removing them, then why not consider flooring which can be installed directly over your existing tiles?

Matching wall and floor tiles

If you've chosen to go all out and replace your tiles then why not consider matching wall and floor tiles to create a real statement in your bathroom or ensuite.

You could even keep your existing wall tiles and simply replace your existing floor tiles to match your walls. While you'd still be purchasing new tiles the expense wouldn't be as much as replacing all your bathroom tiles.

For more tile inspiration, take a look at the following posts - Tiles or Bathroom Wall Panels – Which are Best? - How to Clean Bathroom Tiles - Can you tile over existing tiles?

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