How to Paint Terra-cotta Floor Tiles

Updated February 21, 2017

Terra-cotta tiles, like ceramic tiles, are created by firing clay in a kiln. However, terra cotta is left its natural colour, while ceramic is typically treated with a glaze coat that makes it impervious to soil and liquids. Terra-cotta tiles, usually 6 inches square, are reddish-brown. One variety of terra-cotta tiles is used in kitchens because it is given a slip-resistant surface. To apply lasting coverage to terra-cotta floor tiles, the floor must be thoroughly cleaned and correctly primed, painted and coated.

Thoroughly clean the tile. There may be mineral residue, grease, or other dirt trapped in the porous tiles. Scrub the tiles with a brush and distilled or purified water, to avoid adding mineral residue from tap water. If necessary, use a trisodium phosphate cleaner according to manufacturer directions. Avoid the use of abrasive cleaning methods or materials like strong acids, high-pressure water, or metal-bristled brushes.

Dry the tile using a wet/dry vacuum.

Apply an acrylic masonry primer to protect the finish. Several paint companies offer a variety of masonry primers. Use a roller or brush, and apply the primer according to manufacturer directions.

Allow the primer to dry completely.

Apply a semigloss or high gloss acrylic or latex paint. Follow manufacturer directions.

Let the paint dry for two to three days, then coat the floor tiles with clear, non-yellowing, water-based urethane or polyurethane.


Make sure the room is properly ventilated throughout the cleaning, priming, painting, and coating processes. Tile surfaces without any sort of slip-resistant surfacing can be extremely slippery, particularly when wet.

Things You'll Need

  • Distilled or purified water
  • Trisodium phosphate cleaning solution
  • Cleaning brush
  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Acrylic masonry primer
  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Paint
  • Urethane or polyurethane finish
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About the Author

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.