It's a common scenario. Homeowners eager to buy a fixer-upper are willing to overlook certain questionable cosmetic details, such as the fake ceiling beams made of plastic foam, or the textured brick wallpaper in the kitchen. They'll even forgive the previous owner's fondness for pink and gray tile in the bathroom.
But at a certain point in the renovation, the thought of ripping into another roomful of metal lath and plaster walls to rid themselves of the hideous tile is just too much to contemplate. No more dust, no more rusty-edged gashes, no more dumpster debris. They think, "There must be some way…What about paint?"
As tempting as it sounds, it's probably not a good idea. This same question came up in Fine Homebuilding's Q&A department back in issue #138 (Dec./Jan. 2001). Ceramic artist Pat Wehrman said that although she knew of two types of paint used for tile, neither were particularly practical or durable.
To get a fresh take on this, I called Lane Meehan, who runs Cape Cod Tile Works in Harwich, Mass. She said that she hears this story a lot, and there's no easy solution. The problem is that paint won't stick to the glass-like surface of a glazed tile, especially if the tile is in a high-traffic area or exposed to water. "Unless it's in a non-essential place that stays dry, it'll always chip off" she says.
She did suggest one solution, and that was to hire a company that specializes in re-coating bath tubs. "They typically spray a two-part epoxy that could be used on a backsplash or wall. The problem is that the color choices are limited and the end result covers the grout lines and makes the tile look like a cheap fiberglass shower stall."
It's an old question, but both Werhman and Meehan recommend that remodelers just grit their teeth , tear out the bad tile and replace it with something they like.