Ugly Wall Tile Fixes

One of the most often-asked questions about decorating bathrooms on a budget is what to do about ugly wall tile.  There are a few options for dealing with it.

Remove It

The most comprehensive fix is to remove the tile.  Unfortunately, you may have no choice but to break them off or actually gut the wall.  Which means you’ll need to replace the entire wall.  Not exactly the answer you wanted to hear, was it?  So, read on....

Paint It

If the hideous tile in question is not directly in the shower, you can paint it.  Any paint needs texture or a rough surface to help it stick.  That’s why you sand walls prior to painting.  Painting over a shiny surface like tile can be done, but you need to take a few extra steps to prep the surface.

  • When you clean the tiles before painting them, use a mild abrasive as well to remove all the dirt and buildup and to start taking some of the slippery shine off the surface of the tile.
  • Now you need to sand the surface to remove the rest of the gloss.  Using a handheld sander and 220 grit sandpaper is the easiest and quickest way.  You can do it by hand, but it’s worth the $20-$50 to invest in a hand held sander.
  • Now remove all the dust you just created before you prime the tile.
  • Use an oil based semi-gloss or high gloss alkyd over the primer.  Use two to three coats to really build up the surface to strengthen it.

Cover It and Paint It

To pretend the ugly tile in question never even existed, use a bridging material to cover the tile and the grooves from the grout lines for a smooth surface.  A bridging material is a thick wall liner similar to wall paper.  It’s used to make a flat surface and can cover a multitude of sins such as paneling, damaged walls and tile.

  • You’ll still need to sand down the gloss from the tile as mentioned above to prep the wall before using the liner.
  • Slick surfaces will require the application of a primer/size, also known as a prep coat.  This is a special type of primer that when dry, still has a tacky surface that helps the bridging material stick.
  • The bridging material is put up just like wallpaper –it comes pre-pasted and will need to be wet to apply or may need to have the adhesive applied to the wall and then the birding material applied.
  • Bridging material requires at least one day of drying time, but once dry, it’s ready for wallpaper or paint.

Your least expensive option will be the coat of paint, but I would consider taking it a step further and using the bridging material.  Lowes has rolls of liner available for $10 per roll, and chances are you will only need one or two rolls for a single wall.