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How to Paint on Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tiles provide an old-world feel for your home. Many homeowners love the look of the reddish, clay-based ceramic. However, if you're interested in cultivating a sleek, modern home aesthetic, terracotta is definitely not a good choice. Fortunately, existing terracotta tiles can be painted for a fresh look. With just a little preparation and the right tools, almost anybody can change the colour of rustic terracotta for a bold, contemporary look.

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  1. Clean the surface with a trisodium phosphate -- TSP -- cleaning solution and a rag. Since terracotta tiles are traditionally unglazed, this ceramic surface is relatively porous when compared to other common home surfaces. Porous surfaces trap dirt easily. TSP cuts through dirt build-up without leaving behind residues that react negatively with fresh paint.

  2. Protect nearby surfaces with painter's masking tape and plastic sheeting.

  3. Apply masonry primer to the terracotta tiles. General purpose primer will also work on terracotta, but a general purpose primer may take two coats instead of one. Masonry primer is thicker and better suited for quick coverage of porous terracotta surfaces. Wait for the primer to dry before continuing. If the tiles feature recessed grout, or if they are positioned in a staggered pattern, a brush allows you to prime more precisely. For relatively flat terracotta tile surfaces, you can use a medium-nap roller.

  4. Paint the terracotta tiles with latex paint. Foam brushes are ideal for painting uneven terracotta surfaces, while a foam roller makes short work of flat terracotta tiling. If the terracotta tiles are outdoors, make sure the latex paint is labelled for exterior usage.

  5. Apply a second coat of latex paint to the terracotta surface after the first coat dries.

  6. Remove the painter's tape after the paint dries for 24 hours.

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Things You'll Need

  • TSP cleaning solution
  • Rag
  • Painter's masking tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masonry primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Medium-nap roller
  • Latex paint
  • Foam brush
  • Foam roller

About the Author

Richard Kalinowski

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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