If you’re like most DIYers, the idea of tearing down a bathroom tile wall or backsplash is anything but appealing. The project itself is a pain, but so are the hundreds of tiny little pieces of tile that break off and go flying during the process.
Then there’s patching the damaged substrate left behind. It’s rarely a favorite project. Luckily, demolition isn’t the only solution for old, dated tiles. Folks who know how to reglaze bathroom tile can change their room’s entire look without so much as picking up a hammer. Here’s how it’s done.
Reglazing is the process of applying a new finish to an old tile. But the term “reglazing” is a little bit misleading. It appears to imply that the person who is doing the glazing will be restoring the tiles’ original shiny, smooth finish. However, that’s not the case.
It’s important to understand that the tiles must be in decent condition because this project entails applying a coat over existing tile. If the tiles are heavily gouged, cracked, chipped, or loose, reglazing will not help.
How to Reglaze Bathroom Tile
The following steps will walk DIYers through the process of transforming old, out-of-style tiles to new and exciting ones. Two crucial steps to pay extra attention to are preparing the surface well and taking precautions to protect yourself from the fumes of the epoxy.
Note: Be sure to read all the manufacturer’s instructions before starting. If the company suggests a specific temperature and humidity range, adhere to their guidelines to ensure the finished product will look its best.
Use the putty knife or scraper to remove any gunk, buildup, or hardened debris that might be sticking to the tiles. If necessary, spray the surface with a tile-cleaning solution to loosen anything stuck to the tile.
Once the tiles are clear from any stuck-on debris, use the putty knife or scraper and a utility knife to remove any silicone caulk from around the tile surface. The reglazing epoxy won’t stick to silicone caulk, so it needs to go before starting.
Once everything is clean, allow the tile to dry completely. Next, apply painter’s tape anywhere epoxy may drip, or the sander could cause damage. This may include around window and door trim, along tub edges and floors, or around fixtures like spouts and faucet handles.
Put on a respirator, attach a piece of #400 grit sandpaper to the sander, and begin sanding the tile’s surface. The idea is to cut through the shiny, glossy surface so the primer can stick to the uncoated, porous tile beneath.
After sanding the entire surface with #400, vacuum the residue with a wet-dry vac. Repeat the sanding, this time with the #600 sandpaper attached. Vacuum once more, and then wipe down the entire surface with a tile-cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth.
Most of the products that come in a tile reglazing kit contain VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These compounds emit strong odors, and their vapors can make people feel ill, cause respiratory discomfort, or cause headaches.
Wearing a respirator will help, but it’s best to partner this with ventilation. Open the bathroom window and place a box fan inside, facing outward, and turn it on. This orientation will allow the fan to pull the fumes from the room and pump them outside.
Some reglazing kits come with a tile primer that must be applied before the actual epoxy. Pour the primer into a paint tray and apply it to the surface. Use a paintbrush to cut in and a paint roller to apply it to the wider areas. Make sure to prime all the tiles to ensure the best possible epoxy applications.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and mix the epoxy parts together. This generally means pouring specific amounts of two different liquids into a clean paint bucket and mixing them together. Once mixed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, pour the mix into the paint tray.
Note: These products emit strong fumes so be sure you are wearing a respirator from this point on and keep the box fan running.
Each brand varies slightly, but once the two parts are mixed, you can expect to have about six hours of working time before the epoxy will start to harden and become difficult to apply.
Use the paintbrush to cut in along the edges of the tile surface and to work the epoxy into the grout lines. The epoxy is typically pretty thick so brush strokes won’t be an issue, but make sure not to apply too much at once as this can cause it to run.
Use the paint roller to apply the reglazing epoxy to the tile surface. Keep the roller loaded with enough epoxy to avoid lap marks or thin areas, but don’t use so much that the epoxy drips through the grout lines and pools where they intersect.
Allow the epoxy to dry for 45 minutes to an hour (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Once completely dry, apply a second coat of epoxy (two coats are typically all it takes).
You’ll want to keep an eye on the clock so that you apply the second coat exactly when the manufacturer states. If you wait too long, the coat will cure and you’ll have to start sanding the tiles all over again. If you apply the second coat too soon, however, the epoxy will run and pool.
Drying time varies by manufacturer, but it can take up to 3 or 4 days for a tile reglaze mix to completely harden. It’s best to avoid using this bathroom as high humidity levels will prevent the reglazing epoxy from curing.
Once the epoxy is completely dry, give the entire surface a quick cleaning with a tile-cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. You’ll then be able to clean these tiles with the same products and techniques as the original tiles.
With these steps, you’ll be able to give that ugly old bathroom tile a transformative makeover. Just don’t forget to wear a respirator and set up proper ventilation to ensure you stay safe. If you’ve followed these tips closely in addition to the manufacturer’s instructions, you will achieve the best result.
- Tile cleaning solution
- Painter’s tape
- Microfiber cloths
- Tile reglazing kit
- Box fan