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Unless you’ve designed your home from the floor plan to the fixtures, there are probably a few things you’d like to update. Perhaps the vivid paint better suits the previous owners, or the bathroom looks like a time capsule from another decade. For one update that may be on your list—taming colorful porcelain tile—glazing is an inexpensive solution to bring things back to neutral. Best of all, with a little prep work, you can give your tile a modern facelift that will last for years.

Most kits for glazing tile come in white or off-white and include a brush or spray-on epoxy that adheres to high-gloss porcelain and ceramic tiles, sinks and bathtubs. Keep in mind that glazing products are not suitable for acrylic or exposed metal sinks because the epoxy will not adhere properly over time. Speaking of time, be sure to set aside about a week to complete the entire process. Properly preparing the surface is critical, so give yourself plenty of time. 

Depending on which kit and application process you choose, here’s a list of supplies you might need and a basic rundown of how to do the job. Different kits have different procedures, so read and follow the directions to ensure a beautiful finished product. 

Is Glazing for You?

For everyone but an experienced do-it-yourselfer, glazing tile might be better left to an experienced pro. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pro

  • Cost effective (kits are about $50)
  • DIY possible
  • Adds value to your home and brings new life to tile surfaces

Cons

  • Labor intensive
  • Temperature and humidity requirements
  • Room out of commission for duration of project
  • Not meant for all surfaces
  • Chemical process requires extreme care
Once you've decided to tackle this project, here's a list of things you'll need:

Supplies

  • Rubber gloves
  • Steel wool or wet/dry sandpaper
  • Surface preparation cleaner
  • Dust mask (for scouring)
  • Paper towels
  • Stir sticks
  • Sponges
  • Painter’s masking tape
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • Lacquer thinner for cleanup
  • Bucket
  • Abrasive cleaner
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Hard-water remover
  • Bleach
  • Caulk remover tool
  • Humidity and temperature monitor

The Setup

For most tile glazing products, the temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity less than 80 percent during application and curing. If your porcelain is a dark color, plan on applying more than two coats and an additional epoxy finish. 

Step 1: Prep the Surface

This step is crucial to producing a flawless finish that will last. Be sure to wear protective gloves! Start by repairing cracks or chips, then remove existing caulk. Wipe these areas clean with isopropyl alcohol. Scrub the surface with bleach and water until it is clean, and rinse thoroughly with water. Scrub the surface with an abrasive pad and rinse again. Finally, scour the surface with steel wool or sandpaper with a small, circular motion. This abrasion will allow the epoxy to properly adhere. Rinse again and dry with a paper towel or lint-free cloth. At this point, it is critical that the surface is free of residue. 

Step 2: Mask the Area

Carefully mask off the area surrounding the surface to be painted with a plastic drop cloth. This will protect overspray or drips from reaching unwanted areas, so be sure to cover drains and fixtures, or even remove them before applying the product. 

Step 3: Application

If you’re using a brush, stir the product (shaking will create unwanted bubbles), apply a thin coat with a clean polyester-bristle brush. Spread it evenly, in one direction, across the surface. This primer coat won’t completely hide the color, but will serve as a base coat. Let the first coat dry for three hours. Apply a second coat in the same way you did the first.

If using an aerosol spray, shake the can and spray a small test area to ensure the finish is even. Hold the can about 8 inches from the surface and spray a light coat, using constant motion, starting from the top. After 15 minutes, apply the second coat. 

Step 4: Curing and Use

Leave the masking tape in place for at least 72 hours, ensuring that the room temperature and humidity stay within the aforementioned range. Carefully remove the tape and use the lacquer thinner to clean up any out-of-place epoxy finish. When it’s ready to be used, the surface will be hard like resin. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning, and avoid using abrasive cleaning products to maintain the integrity of the glaze.

All in all, glazing tiles can save the expense and hassle of replacing tile or a tub or sink, but it requires a bit of patience and elbow grease. If you’re up to the challenge, be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In the end, you’ll have an updated look to enjoy for years to come!