How to refinish a tile floor

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to refinish a tile floor
Retro blue tile bathroom. (mrbill flickr#163305103 Creative Commons License)

Tile floors, particularly in the bathroom, do an excellent job of providing a water-resistant surface. Some of these floors are so well-installed and the tiles are in such good shape that it just doesn't make sense to replace them. However, the floor tile may be an ugly colour or it may have developed wear spots that have become discoloured and never look clean, even when the floor is spotless. It is possible to refinish or reglaze a tile floor. Most of the time a tile floor is reglazed along with the porcelain tubs, walls, commodes and sinks. This is a cost-effective way to produce a uniformity of colour and appearance.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Vacuum cleaner (with no beater-bar)
  • Dish soap and water
  • Scrubber
  • Scrub brush (bristle type)
  • Sponge
  • Chlorine bleach, optional
  • Rags
  • Towel
  • Eye protection
  • Rubber gloves
  • Acetone
  • Utility knife
  • Scraper (1-inch putty knife)
  • Silicone digester
  • Tile repair kit (optional)
  • Tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Hydrofluoric acid etcher (or other chemical etcher recommended by manufacturer)
  • Disposable paint brush
  • Solvent degreaser (as recommended by manufacturer)
  • Paint suit
  • Respirator
  • Rental paint sprayer (high velocity, low pressure)

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  1. 1

    Vacuum the floor with a non-beater-bar type of vacuum cleaner. Any dirt or grit left behind will create problems during reglazing.

  2. 2

    Scrub the floor thoroughly with soap and water. Use the bristle brush to get into the grout lines, crevices and corners.

  3. 3

    Wear rubber gloves and protective glasses and use 1 cup of chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water to scrub any areas that have mould and mildew or are blackened. If you use chlorine bleach, the floor must be thoroughly rinsed and completely dried before moving to other chemicals. Also discard any rags used so that they do not come into contact with other chemicals.

  4. 4

    Wipe down the tile with acetone. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

  5. 5

    Remove all traces of silicone or caulk by using the silicone digester and a scraper or putty knife. Use a utility knife to cut large sections away. Most caulk is used around tub and commode areas or to fill gaps in grout. Repair any missing grout or damage to a tile with a tile repair kit. Wipe, rinse clean and dry thoroughly.

  6. 6

    Cover all nonfloor surfaces using tape and plastic sheeting. The sprayer will produce overspray and paint mist, which will stick to anything it lands on, so be thorough.

  7. 7

    Wear safety equipment. Apply hydrofluoric acid to the floor with a disposable brush. Other chemical etchers may be used if recommended by the glazing manufacturer of the product selected.

  8. 8

    Wipe the tile floor with a solvent degreaser to neutralise the acid.

  9. 9

    Apply primer to the floor with the sprayer. This should take two to three coats to cover completely. Allow 20 to 30 minutes drying time between coats. For the paint to adhere to the floor the primer needs to be applied well as the paint sticks to the primer.

  10. 10

    Paint up to 12 coats on the floor. Build the finish slowly, allowing 20 to 30 minutes between coats for drying time.

  11. 11

    Apply a clear coat after allowing the paint to dry for 24 hours or longer (based on manufacturer's recommendation). Several coats may be necessary. Acrylic urethane coatings bring up the high gloss of the original glaze and act as a sealant over the top of the paint.

Tips and warnings

  • Good preparation and planning are the key to a long-lasting floor appearance. Be very careful to have the floor spotless and dirt-free before glazing. Ventilate the room well during painting. Remove all caulk before glazing and reapply new caulk a few days after the paint has cured.
  • Children, small animals, the elderly or persons at risk should be out of the home during the prep, painting and curing of the paint.

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