InDIY, My Home Decorating Projects, Tutorials

How to Paint Over Ugly Splashback Tiles

The biggest eyesore in many older homes is outdated tiles in late 70’s/early 80’s, baby poo neutral colors and busy prints that have long since gone out of fashion. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest things to transform without spending a lot of money–it just takes one weekend and a bit of diligence to do it right.

I love my little rental unit but I hated these kitchen splashback tiles, some of which were loose or had fallen off, and all of which were butt-ugly.

They would never work with my black, white, and red goth-cabaret-lounge decorating style, so they had to go. So one of the first things I got permission to do from my landlord was to paint them white. But how to paint over tiles? You can’t use normal paint in areas that have to defend the plaster against food and water splatters, grease, steam, and whatnot.

Special tile paint is the answer, and I’ll show you how to use it here.

1My quaint old little kitchen before. Everything could use fresh paint, but those tiles were simply hideous. My strategy with decorating is to attack the ugliest things first.

2The laundry room also had a cluster of ugly around the sink.

Close-up of the ugly.

6These are the supplies you’ll need, in addition to your usual cleaning products, in this order:

  • liquid nails
  • masking tape
  • a small foam roller and pan (it needs to be foam to get a smooth finish)
  • masking tape
  • face mask (because this stuff stinks!)
  • tile paint primer
  • tile paint in whatever color you like (I went with white)
  • acrylic gap filler caulk

All up, these supplies cost me just under $100.

7Step 1. CLEAN then CLEAN again! The first step should take a good while–surface preparation is key to a good, smooth finish. Scrub off all the years of grease, caked food, grime, and mould, and get those ugly tiles as clean as they have been since the day they were glued on. This step is really important, so don’t be lazy about it!

I found I also needed to rip out a lot of the mouldy old caulking around the sink. This came out like slimy, stinky, hard rubberized snot and was really gross!

Step 2. SAND and SAND again! To make sure the paint adheres to the tiles and that they are smooth as possible in order to get a nice, glossy finish, use the sanding paper and give all the tiles a really good sand to take the glaze off the tiles. I found this part perplexing because you really can’t tell how much you’ve sanded; the abrasions are very fine and hard to see. But keep at it. Once finished, clean the tiles again to remove the dust.

Step 3. Now remove plug outlet covers and mask off all the edges around the splashbacks, taps, countertops,  and cover the countertops with newspaper to prepare for painting.

Step 4. Next, open all the windows and put on the face mask. This paint is seriously strong! Using the wee foam rollers, apply the first coat of paint primer. This will appear yellowish and you’ll still faintly see the ugly tiles beneath the first coat. Allow to dry and apply a second coat to cover as much of the ugly as possible. I also used a small paint brush to get in around the trickier areas and edges.
4Step 5. When the second coat of primer is fully dried, apply the first coat of tile paint. I worried about the many tiny bubbles I saw as the paint went on, but all of these seemed to have dissolved smoothly by the time I applied the second coat.
3Step 6. The final step is to fill in all the gaps and re-caulk the edges with bright white acrylic caulking. I found using a wet-wipe helpful to tidy up all the edges.

And now, look at this beautiful and bright kitchen splashback tiles! Now the rest of the kitchen looks ugly by comparison. *sighs*

The tiles have a bright, smooth, super-glossy finish just like brand new tiles. They should last for many years under however much water, grease, and grubbiness the kitchen throws at them.

The landlord will be happy. What a good tenant you are!


It has now been about 4 months since I did this and the tiles still look as glossy as they do here. Though I am only renting, I think it was well worth one weekend of work to make the kitchen look this much better!

The only downside to this project was the strong chemical stink that lasted for about 4-5 days. I kept the windows and doors open as much as possible until it diminished.

How to Paint Kitchen Splashback Tiles

Next on my list for this kitchen is the next biggest eyesore–the bare window in need of curtains. That’s for a future post!

Let me know if you have any questions, I am happy to help you.




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