A journey with Rustoleum Tub & Tile Paint
I’ve gotten a lot of requests for more information about our shower tile makeover. When we decided to makeover our bathroom, we went back and forth on what we would do with the shower tile. It looked like unicorn barf, and I really hated it, but I didn't want to spend the money or the time in removing the tile and replacing it. So I took to Pinterest to see what options were out there, and came across quite a few blog posts of people who used Rustoleum Tub & Tile Paint. It’s much cheaper in the states than it is here ($25 vs $50) but even with using two cans, a $100 fix was much cheaper than redoing the entire thing. So I decided to take a leap of faith and try it.
There is a decent amount of prep when it comes to using this product. The first step is to remove all the caulking around the tub and in any corners. You then need to scrub the walls with an strong cleaner (Comet, Vim, etc) and an abrasive scrub brush, and then thoroughly rinse the tiles. Once the tiles are dry, sand the tile with 220 grit sandpaper. This helps remove the shine from the tiles and allow the paint to stick better. After sanding, clean the tiles with bleach and water, and then rinse with water. You’ll want the tiles to be the cleanest they’ve ever been. Anything on the tile will cause the paint not to stick. Ensure the tiles are completely dry before painting.
You'll want to tape off anything you don't want the paint to get on. I would recommend covering your entire tub with garbage bags or some sort of plastic so you can protect it from any drips. The paint is quite thin so it's easy for it to drip everywhere. You may even want to cover your floor as well (we were replacing our floor, so I wasn't concerned about getting it on our floor tile).
A respirator is a must! The epoxy is very strong smelling, and you'll even want to wear some sort of goggles or glasses to protect your eyes just in case. AND RUBBER GLOVES - Hard lesson learned here. It doesn't not come off your hands. Gloves are key. I'd also recommend using a fan and having some windows open to create some ventilation.
The First Brush Stroke
One of the posts I read, said to just close your eyes and do that first brush stroke, and I almost felt like that’s what I needed to do. The paint is an epoxy and comes in two parts, and once you mix those two together, you have a total of 10 hours to complete the job. This timeline definitely added some stress, and I was crazy enough to start painting at 9pm at night once my daughter went to bed.
The first paint stroke went on fine. The paint is VERY thin, it almost feels like water. At first this was concerning, but once I got the first stroke on, it definitely felt thicker than it appeared. At first I used a paint brush to go down the grout for the entire wall, and then went back and painted the actual tile. This was not a good decision. The paint dries quick enough (or becomes tacky) that by the time you go back to paint the full tile, the paint either gums up, or it becomes very obvious of where you previously painted (and didn't blend together). I also tried using a roller for my first coat. The box says not to use a roller, but many of the posts I read online, people used rollers. I think the formula must be different in the states, as their box actually recommends a roller. Because the paint is so thin, even when I went slowly, the roller made little tiny bubbles everywhere, so I ended up smoothing them out with my brush.
Once the first coat went on, I was definitely nervous of how it was going to turn out. There were certain spots where the paint didn’t seem to stick. It looked to be where the caulking was previously. The second coat could be applied anytime from 2 to 6 hours after the first coat, so after two hours, I went back and did a second one. For the second coat I decided to only use a brush, as the roller didn’t seem to work, and just caused me more work. The box recommends when using a brush to only go in one direction, rather than going up and down, as it will make the brush strokes less obvious. After two coats, it definitely looked better than the first, but there were still spots where it wasn’t sticking. We decided to leave it and let it cure for the three days it recommended on the box, and then do a third and fourth coat.
Of course I didn't take a picture of what it looked like after the first two coats. I think I wanted to block it all from my memory.
Third and Fourth Coats
To apply more coats after the product cured, the box recommended sanding the surface with 400 grit sandpaper, and then washing everything to ensure the surface was clean (we used bleach and water, and then rinsed with water). The third coat definitely felt like it went on better, we painted each tile and worked our way down and across the shower. This coat definitely seemed to stick better than the first two. The spots where it previously didn't stick at all, was covering quite well. I now went from mini-vomiting to excited about how it was all going to look. After two hours, we went back and did the fourth coat.
The tile definitely doesn't look perfect. It has more of a "glazed" tile look. There is the odd spot that looks like an air pocket, and you can see brush strokes, but overall we are happy with how it looks. The instructions said you could take a brush dipped in lacquer thinner over the walls after 3 hours to help feather out the brush strokes, but I was too scared to do that. I was worried that if I kept playing around with the paint, that it would only make things worse, so I let it be.
To paint or not to paint...
After doing this process, I questioned whether I would do it again, and I think the answer is yes. For $100 I got to say goodbye to the ugly unicorn tile, and it feels durable. The paint dries really hard, and I feel like it will withstand the test of time, especially because the shower walls don't take much wear and tear. I feel like I gave the bathroom at least 3-5 years before I'll feel like I'll want to rip it all out and start over. Before this paint, I wanted to do that tomorrow.
Here are the pros & cons of the paint:
A cheap fix to make ugly tile disappear
It doesn’t take that long to apply compared to redo the tile completely
The paint hardens nicely, and feels durable on the walls
$100 fix vs $400+ to get it professionally reglazed or $1000+ to get it retiled
There is a lot of prep – Cleaning, sanding, and more cleaning. You want the walls to be the cleanest they’ve ever been. You don’t want anything to stop the paint from sticking
I definitely wouldn't use it on a tub. I think for the shower walls it worked well, but I am not sure it could stand up to constantly being stood on, if you were to use it in the tub
Brush strokes and air bubbles are visible. It won't look perfect, if that's what you're hoping for
If you are planning to use this outside the bathroom, in a kitchen for example, it says it should not be used anywhere where it will be exposed to extreme heat (ie. backsplash behind a stove).
I hope this helps you and gives you the courage to paint your tile too. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out.