How to Paint Terra-cotta Floor Tiles

The reddish-brown hues of terracotta floor tiles can be a gorgeous part of any room, especially if you're a fan of the rich and rustic home aesthetic. But if you're ready for a modern refresh, you don't have to rip out those tiles. Instead, an easy and affordable paint job can bring a new breath of life into old tiles. Learning more about proper preparation and the best types of paint for terracotta can help guarantee your new paint job will be eye-catching, long-lasting and just the refresh you're looking for.

Farmhouse Kitchen
credit: phototropic/E+/GettyImages
The reddish-brown hues of terracotta floor tiles can be a gorgeous part of any room.

Cleaning Before the Paint Job

Before you begin to paint, it's essential to prepare your tiles. Terracotta tiles are more porous than other home tiles because they don't usually have a glaze. This means it's easy for debris to get stuck in there. You'll want to do a thorough cleaning so dust and dirt don't get trapped under coats of paint.

Thankfully, that's not too tough of a job. Start by sweeping or vacuuming away any material, such as dust, pet hair and lint. Then, use a soft mop and a solution of warm water and dish soap to clean the tiles more thoroughly. If you think your tiles are full of a little extra grime, you can also use a cleaning product with trisodium phosphate, or TSP. This is a powerful cleaner that won't break down your flooring. A little bit goes a long way with TSP, so follow the instructions on the bottle for best results.

Finally, make sure to dry the tiles completely before you begin using any paint. If moisture gets trapped under the layers of paint, it can lead to outbreaks of mold and unwanted bacteria growth.

Priming the Tiles

Terracotta's porousness also means that you'll need a thick primer for your tiles, so as to avoid the paint sinking into the tiles and looking clumpy or uneven. The best painting terracotta floor tiles before and after results come when you use an acrylic masonry primer. You can apply it with a paint roller, but you may need to use a paintbrush to get into corners and edges. Let the primer dry according to instructions on the container, but I t will likely need to sit for at least 12 hours.

Picking Terracotta Tile Paint Color

Once you've applied your primer and let it dry, you're ready to paint your floor tiles with the color you desire. Choosing a color depends on your personal preference.

Some people paint tile floor to look like slate. It's a great way to get a natural, stone look. Others enjoy painting tile floors with chalky paint. Chalky paint has a more matte finish, with a look that many people describe as distressed. It's a popular option for terracotta flooring because it has a thick consistency that works well against the porous tiles.

No matter the color and finish option you decide, choose a latex paint. If you're buying terracotta paint for a terrace or another outdoor setting, you'll want to be be sure it's a latex paint that has been approved for exterior use. The number of coats you need will depend on the brand, color of paint and the effect you're going for, but you'll likely need two coats. Be sure to let each coat dry for at least 24 hours in between your painting.

Finally, seal the tiles. It's important to protect terracotta with a water-based sealant to keep paint looking fresh and minimize scratches and other damage. One that is water-based, as opposed to oil, will stay clear instead of yellowing over time. You can also find a sealant made especially for terracotta at your local hardware store. After allowing the sealant to dry for at least 24 hours, begin to enjoy life on your old floors that will look brand new.

Rachelle Dragani

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the lifestyle space. Her work on topics including smart home technology, pest control, living green, budget home repair and helpful household tips have appeared in publications including Bob Vila, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo and Yahoo.