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. Brenda says

    I really love the tile you chose! And I’m already picturing how nice it will be when it’s finished to be able to sit outside and listen to the rain but not get wet. I grew up sitting on my grandpa’s screened in porch, and I love being outdoors but not quite.

  2. says

    Awesome! I liked Mountain Slate Iron too! Good price! Instead of the “house of style” its like the “house of slate”. (Maybe I’m dating myself with mentioning that show) but suddenly my imagination turned to Cindy Crawford touring your house.

  3. Auntie Allyn says

    Lots of good information in that post . . . you’ve saved me a lot of money! I have a screened porch off my living room with a concrete floor that’s been painted three times over the decades, and a lot of the paint has peeled/chipped off. I was thinking about sanding the floor and maybe putting tile down, but that sounds like it’s out of the question. Good. I do think I’ll sand it down a bit and maybe apply a stain over the top of everything, to make it look a little more interesting.

  4. Amanda says

    It’s amazing how much bigger the space looks with the ceiling lofted!! I’m anxious to see the fate of the intercom when you guys are finished with this room. ;)

  5. Liz says

    Very nice! It’s looking like it’s all coming together! I love the idea of beadboard on the ceiling in the porch. Something to think about- here in Charleston it’s tradition to paint the ceiling of your porch in light blue. It’s an old southern tradition and is said to ward off evil- plus it looks gorgeous :-)

    • Elaine says

      Another benefit of the blue ceiling is that it confuses wasps etc. They don’t build their nests in an area with a blue ceiling because, I guess, they think it’s sky.

      Totally thought it was nonsense until my parents did it to their outdoor ceilings – no more wasp nests!

    • says

      My dad, who just had a house built here in Texas, says that if you paint the underneath of the porch like a sky blue, it prevents yellow jackets, muddobbers, and wasps from building their nests under your porch. It is traditional though, all the old southern ranch houses have it, which is why my parents did it (they built themselves a ranch house on some land recently.) He says that whether or not the old wives tale is true, any nests they’ve found so far have never been on the blue part of the porch!

  6. says

    Before I even read which one you picked I really liked the Mountain Slate one! That is going to look very nice next to the chocolate color of the deck. Extra bonus it’s the cheapest and most textured.

    • Lisa E says

      Don’t know why, I just assumed you would put the beadboard in between and keep the rafters exposed. Of course that would mean a whole lot of cuts and a lot more work, yikes! This “room” is going to be so pretty when you are done!

  7. says

    It’s going to look great when you guys finish it. However I would say if you choose to use outdoor tile wet it down in the store to check if it’s up to par. We didn’t do that and our outdoor tile is awful. We have all fallen on it. Scares me when my 2 year old goes down two steps. I can’t wait to see the finished space.

    • says

      We did the slip test and it’s much grippier than the concrete and significantly grippier than the other two tiles, so we’re really happy that it should help a ton in the slipping department.


  8. says

    Mountain Slate was my first option too, it’s a really pretty tile – I like it even more than the expensive option – I love when this happens :)

    The sunroom is looking great!


  9. Julia says

    Call me a worrywart, but did you actually test the slipperiness of those beautiful bad boys? We recently stayed at a hotel that had some highly textured yet bizarrely-slippery-when-wet tile around its pool. That was exciting!

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