A Concrete Floor: Paint It Or Tile It?

Last you saw our sunroom, it looked like this:

Well, now it’s looking a little something like this:

Forgive the poor iPhone pic, but it’s the only one I snapped (just to text to my parents, actually) before Richmond turned into rain city yesterday. But you get the point, we’ve made some good progress lofting the ceiling (with the help of a professional framer who came out this week to make sure our roof wouldn’t collapse). But we’ll get into the story of the ceiling next week once the electrician has come and turned the (now loose) wires into junction boxes for two fans.

Today we’re talking about a floor plan. As in, a plan for the sunroom floor.

We’ve definitely been putting a ton of thought into it and debating the pros and cons of a few different methods. The easiest solution would be to stain or paint the concrete floor, kinda like we did to our first house’s sunroom.

We originally stained that a semi-transparent “Tuscan Yellow” color and later painted over it in a glossy chocolate color (when we decided we didn’t want yellow floors anymore). The process is pretty straight-forward and it’s just about the easiest and most affordable way you can update a concrete floor.

But the stain/paint shoe just didn’t seem to quite fit here at this house. For one, the concrete isn’t very pretty thanks to glue stains leftover from the carpet we removed (any semi-transparent options are out of the question since it would show right through).

And even if we just painted the concrete with a solid color, the brick border – which is charming at a distance – is a bit scraggily looking up close with glue stains and even a few gaping nail holes and gouges from the old sliders that used to sit on them.

We’ve also had issues with how slick the concrete is when it’s wet. Clara’s feet are often soaked from playing with her water table or plastic pool and then she slips and Sherry gasps and she screams. You get the picture. So something with a bit more grip that’s meant to be outside, like a rough patio tile, had us leaning in that direction.

The real nail in the paint-the-floor coffin was when we learned that painting the floor would effectively eliminate the option to tile it later. Paint prevents thinset from bonding to concrete, turning this tile-ready surface into a no tile zone forever (you can’t even use a solvent to strip the paint later since the solvent would also prevent thinset from bonding, so we’d literally have to hand-chip every trace of paint off the concrete if we wanted to undo our quick-fix of painting it). So as much as we were tempted to paint as a for-now solution (yay, cheap & easy!) we just couldn’t do it knowing that it would severely complicate future plans to luxe up the space with some nice outdoor tile. So in the throes of indecision, we went tile shopping…

We were quick to fall in love with big beautiful tiles like that one above. But as we did the math on puppies like that (which was $6.29 per square foot) we realized that tiling our 200 sf+ space was probably going to be out of our price range. ‘Til we spotted the Labor Day Sale sign that said 20-25% off your total purchase plus 35% off tools and supplies (that promotion seems to be running through Labor Day by the way). Score!

25% wasn’t going to put that $6.29 sf beauty in our budget (not even close) but it did encourage us to hunt down some other options. We found three good choices that met our criteria. It had to:

  • be outdoor friendly (the guy at The Tile Shop suggested that we focus on porcelain tiles, which are known to do best outside)
  • have a rough texture (to prevent slipping)
  • be a lot less than the one pictured above (as much as Sherry loved that guy like it was her baby)

We bought a sample tile of each (*although we’d actually purchase the middle one in a 1ft x 2ft rectangle, they just didn’t have that in stock to take home) and laid them in the sunroom near the deck. We wanted to see which played best off of the wood color, while also providing enough contrast so people would notice the super-slight-but-still-there step up into the sunroom (around an inch). Update: Although they each have other stone references in their names (slate, limestone, etc) these are all porcelain tiles since the tile pros said those were best for outdoor projects in our area – so it’s just called Mtn. Slate Iron because it’s modeled to look like slate.

Our immediate favorite was Mountain Slate Iron because we liked how the deep color and brown undertones worked with the deck. The others felt too cool and washed out when the sun hit them. And it didn’t hurt that Mountain Slate Iron was the cheapest and had the most texture (making it the least slippery when wet). So not only were we sold on that as the best tile option, we were officially sold on just diving in and tiling now. It’ll be more expensive and more work than staining or painting, but ultimately we think it’ll elevate the space more while solving a bunch of issues that those options couldn’t.

So as of last night, we’ve officially placed our order. Woot!

The tile won’t be in stock for pick up ’til next week. And even so, we want to finish the ceiling overhead (i.e. beadboard installation, new fans, painting) before doing anything too precious underneath. But we’re relieved to have made a decision AND to have caught a sale in the process. The discounts took our tile down from $3.48 per square foot to $2.61. Clara was so excited she just had to call Elmo right then and there on her toy phone.

Okay, that’s not really what they were talking about. Although she could easily play in those display showers all day, so I guess she’s showing a smidge of peripheral interest in our flooring decision. I’ll take it.


  1. Ashley J. says

    ooooh, it’s gonna look SO CLASSY! What do you do about the space between the deck and the concrete slab? Some sort of flooring transition strip? I don’t even know if that is a real thing!

    • says

      That has always been there even when this was a sunroom and it’s not big (none of Clara’s toys can fit down there or anything). It’s sort of just like a seam that’s only a smidge wider than the spaces between all of the deck boards, so I think we’re planning to leave it there for now, and see how it looks and then figure things out after the tile’s in. We might end up adding some transition piece or something!


  2. says

    You picked my favorite tile, too! ha.

    You know how you walk up to the edge of a little rocky creek and you can see the bottom with all the tiny rocks? That’s what that tile reminds me of. Also the ripples in the tile look like the water would over the top of all those little rocks.
    Great Choice. :) Can’t wait to see it installed.

    Jake’s a Girl

  3. Kelly says

    Huh! I had no idea that painted concrete can’t be tiled! My inlaws had a painted concrete floor in their screened-in porch which they recently had tiled when they glassed-in the room. I don’t remember them mentioning the mess of chipping off the paint, but the floor seems sturdy enough…hmmm. I hope the tile guy didn’t do something weird! Anyway, the tile you chose looks beautiful and I can’t wait to see the ceiling finished!

    • says

      Oh no, I hope it stays there! We asked a contractor friend of ours and he said “ahh, never do that!” and then sure enough when we googled it people on sites like GardenWeb were saying the same thing (apparently the paint breaks any possible tile bond and it can’t be stripped but must be sanded or chipped off by hand). Sounded so messy to us! But maybe the type of concrete or paint or thinset or tile your in-laws used broke that rule?


    • KathyG says

      Did you ask the tile people? I think that’s kind of old-fashioned, I believe all you need is an admixture to the thinset.

      Looking great, I like the dark tile.

    • says

      Yup, they said “never tile over painted concrete” – but they did say you can add a whole other subfloor over it to make it work (ex: lay down more hardibacker over painted concrete and adhere the tile to that). That would have created a big step up for us though, so we liked the idea of keeping it as flush as possible.


  4. lynn says

    Nice choice on the tile. Have you thought about a wooden strip for transition between the tile and the deck? We had a similar situation in our home and putting in a transition “smoothed” the edge so that while there was a slight incline under foot going into the space – it was easy to navigate and there is no stumbling for ourselves or guests.

  5. says

    I love the tile! I really wanted something similar in our sun room but Husband is against it. Somehow the guy that can loft his own ceiling is afraid to tile! We’re painting sub floor as a budget-recovery/compromise until we can decide on something we both like/are comfortable with. Maybe your tile job will be just the thing to convince him, so I selfishly say “forge ahead Petersiks!”

  6. Erin Curtis says

    Good luck with tiling! I just laid porcelain tile on my patio last Sunday and my hamstrings are still letting me know how unhappy they are haha! It will look gorgeous when you are done though, I’m sure.

  7. Stacy says

    I have always been so nervous about tile in outdoor spaces (growing up in humid Florida) so I am anxious to see how you make it as safe as possible. Now that I am thinking about it, wonder if wide grout lines for improved grip works? Anyway, love learning from y’all!

    • says

      Yes, we heard that last night at the shop, although with tiles this big there won’t be as much grout as on other areas like a mosaic! But we heard that grout lines enhance grip, so if you love a polished tile in a bathroom on the floor, choosing a really small tile with lots of grout lines (ex: small marble hex tiles instead of giant marble squares) can help. I thought it was so interesting!


    • priscilla says

      Great tile choice; it really makes the transition easy on the eyes!

      We have a Florida beach house and used the roughest tile we could find, and let me tell you, it does NOT slip, no matter the humidity or dampness. The kids never do slip, even from the shower. It feels like sand under your feet, but after 10 years, it is still that way and so durable!! Great decision

    • Stacy says

      So interesting! Now makes total since for the smaller tiles in bathrooms now. Gosh, learning is fun :)

      Thanks and I LOVE the ceiling changes already. Good call and way to take risks!

  8. says

    I like the tile choice! But I would trip over a 1″ step all the time. Are y’all planning on putting a transition in there like at the old kitchen (or do they even make those for outdoor tiles?)

  9. says

    Well the slippery does answer the question, doesn’t it? I had no idea that painting concrete made it so unfriendly to tile. That’s good to know!

    That new tile will really make it pop!

    Love the vaulting with the ceiling too. That was totally the right call. Kudos guys. I’m chicken and would have missed out but you guys are going to get the coolest space!

  10. Tina says

    I LOVE this. The lofted ceiling makes such a difference. I am envisioning epic parties out there. Or quiet family time, too. Whichever. It’s just awesome. Can’t wait to see the tile installed now!

  11. says

    Loving the lofted ceiling! And that tile y’all picked out!!

    Didn’t know that about painted concrete – we painted our basement floor a few years back and never realized we wouldn’t have the option of tile down the line. Oops…

    • says

      Yup, they’re happy to take them back. We’ve also returned extra materials or tools if we get them and don’t end up using them (we keep buying those big egg-beater mixing things for thinset and never use them and return them at the end, it’s like a tradition at this point).


    • says

      Thankfully it was a pretty easy conversion! We’re just waiting on the electrician to finish things off and then we can post all about the entire process (John took about seven million photos…)


  12. Anneliese says

    Love the slate you picked! I also love the first slate you picked, the one that was out of your price range… Since you’re not doing multiple rooms and since you’ve got a sale running, that original tile is a little over $200 more for the whole job.

    $200 is not a small amount, but since you’re going to be living in this house for the rest of your life and staring at this tile for most of those days, it might be worth it to have something you really adore (as opposed to just like a lot). I’ve learned a few of those lessons the hard way…

    Anyway, something to consider.

    • says

      Thanks Anneliese! I thought long and hard about that but in the end I think we’ll love what we chose and it might just be less “specific” (so it might end up being more timeless in the long run). There are just so many other expenses in here (redoing the ceiling and the electrical, furnishing the room) that I wonder if that money might be better spent in those areas.


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