At Susan Jablon Mosaics, we recommend that you engage a professional to install any of our products. For those customers who prefer to install our glass tiles themselves, this article will provide some practical guidance by describing how to install glass tile over a typical 4-foot by 4-foot area. Please read this entire article before beginning your project. In addition, because any glass tile project requires 100 percent of the installer’s attention, minimize any distractions before beginning.
Before getting started, you want to make sure that you gather together all of the supplies needed for your project. This includes a level, a pencil, a screwdriver (for removing switch and socket plates), nippers (which are available for purchase at our online store), an Exacto knife, rubber gloves (preferably dishwashing gloves), mortar and a plastic container to mix it in, your glass tile, and a 3/16 V-notch trowel. You will also need a good surface cleaner and paper towels. Finally, we recommend knee pads, if your installation requires kneeling, and a drop cloth to protect your floor or rug.
It is important to plan ahead and focus on small areas at a time, because the mortar dries quickly. Begin by cleaning the surface with a household cleaner and a paper towel. Make sure that you clean the surface completely. Next, use the screw driver to remove the switch plates and socket plates. The spaces around these fixtures will require separate attention, so use single tiles to measure these areas and estimate your loose tile requirements. After taking these measurements, use the nippers to pre-cut enough tiles to fit around any such obstacles.
Using a level and a pencil, draw a guideline from your starting edge or corner straight across the top of the area you plan to tile. Next, you are ready to begin applying the mortar. As noted, make sure that you are working in small areas because the mortar dries very quickly. Put on your rubber gloves and mix the mortar in your container, following the directions on the bag. When the mortar is ready, apply it to your surface using the trowel. You want to make sure that the mortar is applied evenly and sparingly; the mortar should not be thicker than the depth of your tile. Once a uniform layer of mortar is applied, remove any excess from the trowel back into the container. To use the nippers, simply remove a single tile from the mesh backing, hold the nippers in your dominant hand and, with your other hand, place the tile between the nippers at the point you want to make your cut. Placing your non-dominant hand beneath the tile to catch the cut pieces, squeeze the nippers together and the tile will easily divide into two pieces. Repeat this process until you have enough tiles to fit around all the obstacles in the space you are working.
At this point the mortar should be even and smooth. You are now going to score the mortar by using the V- notched edge of the trowel. Starting at the top of the mortared area, drag the notched edge of the trowel down downward, creating ridges in the mortar. Make sure that you go back over any spots that many have been missed by re-smoothing them with the bottom of the trowel and then re-scoring. After the entire area has been scored, you can put down your trowel and remove your gloves. Make sure that your gloves are removed before picking up any of the tile.
You are now ready to apply the tile. If your tile has a mesh backing, the mesh side is applied to the mortar; if the tile is taped, the tape side should face away from the wall. If you can see mesh through your tile, back butter those tiles. Start in the upper corner of the area to be covered, and align the tiles with your horizontal and vertical edges, keeping the entire sheet of tiles level and square. Run your hands along the front of the tile with light pressure (as if you are rubbing a baby’s back), gently pushing the tile into the mortar. If any sections feel a little loose lightly rub your finger on specific areas of the tiles. Repeat this process by lining the next sheet of tiles against the edge of the first sheet, making sure that the rows are level and in line, and once again apply light pressure to secure it into place. You can then tile the areas below the first sheets, following the same procedure. Take a few seconds to step back and check to make sure that all of your sections are aligned.
If you have applied the mortar too thick, it will be visible in the cracks between the tiles. If this happens, make adjustments to secure the proper placement of the tiles, and wipe off any mortar that gets on the tile themselves.
For smaller areas, use your Exacto knife to cut the tile sheets as needed, making sure to align these tiles with your rows and columns. Once your desired area has been tiled, clean off your trowel and use the flat edge to remove any excess mortar above, below, or to the side of the tiles.
At this point, you can tackle the remaining areas around the light switches and other obstacles. Use the exacto knife to cut the mesh into smaller tile sections that fit around the obstacle. Again, make sure these pieces align and are even with all the other tiles on all sides. As you get close to the end, you can use the switch plate as a guide to determine where tiles are still needed. This is where you will use your previously cut tile pieces. When applying these tiles, make sure the clean edge faces out, so that the cut edge will end up being covered by the switch plate. Continue to apply and line up these tile pieces, and then use your switch plate again to make sure that you have covered the entire area. Once the switch plate is surrounded by tile, you are good to go.
Plan where grout is needed around lightswitchMake sure clean edge of tile faces outward
If there are any remaining areas that only need part of a tile, such as uneven corners, use the nippers to cut additional tiles as needed, and carefully install them, taking care to place cut edges of the tiles facing the corner of the wall. If necessary, remove improperly placed tiles and try again. Make certain that the tiles are not touching each other, and that they are lined up so all the tiles look straight and clean. After the whole area is done, allow your work to dry for at least 24 hours before grouting.
If you have any other questions or concerns you can refer to our FAQ page, or feel free to call us at 1-866-939-1033.
**Susan Jablon Mosaics is not responsible for the outcome of any installation projects. We highly recommend professional installation of our products.