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How to Darken Tile

Apply tile stain is a great way to give a floor a fresh new look. While the process can take time, it's managable to undertake at home. The key is adequate prep and applying many, thin layers. Don't forget to use a protective sealant at the end to secure your hard work and prevent damage.

How to Darken Tile

You might think that tile color would be hard to change. And while the process is not as simple as painting a wall or staining some floorboard, applying tile stain at home is possible. The process is somewhat time consuming, but that’s due more to the long waiting periods rather than anything labor intensive.

Preparing Tiles for Darkening

If you have untreated tiles such as Saltillo tiles, you may find that they’re already very easy to stain, thanks to their porous nature. However, if your tiles are already finished and glazed, you can dull their finish in order to make the tiles more absorbent and accepting of stain. A popular tile type is travertine. Once it is finished, it becomes non-porous, but if you prep the tiles first, you can undertake a successful travertine stain project at home.

You can do this manually with sandpaper, but a much quicker method is to use a belt sander. Make sure you take adequate safety precautions when using this type of machinery to avoid injury or accident. Move the sander in one direction over each tile. Don’t press so hard that the sander touches the grouting between the tiles. If you can avoid sanding the grout, you should be able to prevent the stain affecting the grout and not just the tile.

When the surface of the tile is matte (not reflecting any light) sand it adequately enough to accept stain. Then, brush and vacuum up any sanding dust to ensure an easier and more even tile staining process.

Apply your tile primer-sealer before staining. Brush this on in a thin, flat layer in a consistent direction. Take care to avoid applying the primer to the grout. Give the primer adequate time to dry, preferably overnight.

Applying Tile Stain

The key to a successful tile stain application is to go for many, thin layers. If you try to achieve the darkening you want in fewer, thicker layers, the stain is much more likely to peel off.

Apply your tile stain in the same way as your primer. Use broad strokes with very little product, and make sure you don’t apply stain to your grouting. After your first layer, your tiles will not look their best. The coverage will be uneven, and you’ll still be able to see your primer. Don’t worry, as this is normal.

Wait for at least 10 hours for your first layer to dry, and then apply another in the same manner. Repeat the process as many times as needed until your desired depth of color is reached. Don’t forget to leave adequate drying time between layers.

Once you’ve achieved your desired color, leave your final coat of stain to dry for at least 24 hours.

Resealing a Tiled Floor

After you’ve finished the layered staining process, reseal your tiles to prevent future damage and protect your hard work. Polyurethane makes a good sealant for tile stain.

Apply your sealant in the same manner as your primer and stain – with broad strokes in a thin coat. Again, avoid the grout. Leave your polyurethane sealant to dry overnight.

The polyurethane sealant will have a glossy finish. To slightly dull the gloss, go over it manually with sandpaper. Apply at least two layers of sealant to properly protect the tiles – and more if possible. After you’ve applied your final layer, allow two days for your tiles to dry.

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