Ceramic tile rarely will completely wear out–in the sense that vinyl flooring, paint, or carpeting will wear down and out. But over time, tile can look shabby: discolored grout, cracked tile, and faded colors. Can you refinish tile without replacing it?
Yes, ceramic tile can be refinished, but it will never look as good as the original tile.
- The Finish Wears Down: Refinishing doesn’t last forever. Surfaces that are used a great deal will wear and require new finishes over time. If you refinish ceramic tile on a wall, it will remain attractive for much longer than floor tiles will that have the same refinishing materials. Manufacturer’s suggestions may vary, but applying a new finish every two or three years is probably best for floor applications.
- The Look Is Different: Tile will not look the same after refinishing. A clear epoxy finish can be installed as a protection on a good floor, but if the tiles are in poor condition, a clear finish is probably not going to make much improvement. Applying a colored finish is going to hide imperfections, but it will also change the look of the tile and the grout joints won’t be visible anymore.
Not so many years ago, you wouldn’t have considered attempting to refinish ceramic tile because there were no proven products that would adhere to the tile or hold up for very long. Epoxy finishes have addressed both of those factors and provide a great alternative to replacement.
If your first choice is replacement, consider the expense. Since you can’t just add more ceramic tile to an existing floor without creating a raised area, you must first remove the old tile before installing new. Demolition is an expensive process on its own, and it makes a great deal of mess. The labor for floor demolition can be more expensive than installing the floor originally, after taking into consideration hauling and disposing of waste materials.
Depending on the tile used to replace what is removed, the reinstallation can cost in the double digits per square foot. Of course, a good installer can make a floor look very nice, but the cost is not going to be cheap.
Cost-Effective Tile Refinishing
The basic process involved to refinish ceramic tile is painting, which most people can do themselves with a little direction. The finishing materials are more expensive than standard paint, but nothing in comparison with removal and replacement of tile.
The Process of Tile Refinishing
Cleaning is one of the most important parts of refinishing. Trying to cut corners on cleaning will only shorten the life of the application and cause some areas of the cover to fail. Any paint drops, oil spots, or accumulations of other foreign materials will cause a weak area in the tile refinishing.
After cleaning and patching any holes or pockets in the tiles, the floor, wall, or counter should be allowed to completely dry before applying any finishes.
Epoxy paints come in both high gloss and matte finishes, and most epoxy coatings are a two step process. The primer coat is designed to create an adhesive layer that will bond the finish coat. The application of both coats can be done with a short nap paint roller or with special paint spraying equipment. One finish coat is usually all that is necessary.
It is important to use all of the epoxy coating that you have for the floor because there is a short shelf life for the materials. When the epoxy is a two part mix, all the material must be applied within a short time after it is mixed.