Home & Garden

Ideas to cover ugly tile

Recently, a reader asked me about painting bathroom tile a different color instead of spending thousands of dollars to replace it. Many of you wrote in with recommendations based on your experience. Here are a few:

Marilyn Harris of Hatboro, Pa., and her husband are the second owners of a house built in the 1940s. They bought the house in the mid-1970s, and the bathroom had pink and maroon tile set in a concrete base. The tile was “in good condition — except for the color,” she says. They had the tiles redone in a bone color by a local porcelain-refinishing company in 1991.

“The grout lines are lost with the reglazing, but the process has been great for the past 18 years,” says Harris, adding that she had the white tub reglazed in 2003.

Reader Joan Mangen reports that she had the same problem, “only our tiles were aqua and white with gold flecks — what were they thinking?” They fixed it by putting a tub surround over the tiles above the tub and wainscoting on top of the ones on the wall. The floor was linoleum and thus easy to replace. It has lasted two years in a high-moisture situation with no problems.

“It looks incredibly nice, I think,” Mangen says, adding gleefully, “No more ugly tiles.”

Gloria Scharff had pink tiles surrounding the walls of her main bathroom and came up with something called “Perma Ceram” tiles as her solution.

Perma Ceram is a synthetic porcelain-reglazing product. The typical reglazing job takes a few hours and the tile is dry in 12. The grout lines disappear, too. Ten years ago, a company came and deglossed all of the tiles and sprayed them with an ivory paint.

“It still looks like new,” Scharff says. “Maintenance is low, and we never have to clean any grout ever — just the grout between the tub wall and the tub, which is what you need to do anyway.”

While the Perma Ceram folks do reglaze tubs, Scharff advises against it, “because, as you said, people walk there, the system is not good where a lot of soap scum can build up.”

The bathroom did get a new tub and floor tiles, but “the difference in cost was about $7,000 lower than if we had chosen brand-new tiles.”

Paulette Fox of Medford, N.J., confesses that her family “suffered from the notorious pink-tile bathroom, and a beige one and a yellow one.”

Her solution was to tile over the floors with new ceramic tile and cover the tile on the walls with bead-board plywood with trim at the top.

The trim “became a great display area, like a plate rail, she says.

In the master bath, the Fox family went to the expense of pulling out the tile around the tub and putting in new tile.

For the other two baths, however, “we put in fiberglass tub surrounds over the existing tile,” she says. “All the bathrooms look great for a fairly small outlay of cash.”

Thanks to everyone.