Installing glass tiles can be a tricky process and we recommend that first-time tilers start with a small project like a simple mosaic wall hanging. Larger, more complicated projects are best left to the professionals. Trust us, we’ve heard some real do-it-yourself horror stories.
However, tiling can be an incredibly fun and rewarding project for crafters and novice contractors alike. Our step-by-step instructions will take you through the stages of a typical glass tile installation. Visit our Accessories Store to stock up on everything you need to complete a typical project. Go ahead, get your hands dirty—or should we say grouty—and when you’re done send us pictures of your finished project so we can display them in our Amazing Glass Mosaic Tile Gallery!
Here’s a list of tips that we’ve collected from our years of experience installing glass tiles. Please contact Susan to share any of your own tips!
- Use safety gear! Goggles, kneepads, rubber gloves.
- If mixing your own thinset, allow it to sit for 5 minutes once it has been mixed to it’s optimal consistency.
- If using paper-backed tiles, remove the paper the same day that tiles are set. By doing this you can make sure the tiles are set evenly and fix any crooked ones before they have permanently affixed themselves in the thinset.
- White thinset should be used when setting glass tiles, as it will have the least affect on the color and transparency of the tiles.
- When your installation has a focal point, such as a backsplash, start in the center and work your way out
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Work surface should be clean, dry, level, and free of cracks before beginning to tile. A wire brush works best to remove dirt, mortar, and most other stuck-on substances, though a sandblaster may be necessary for those really stubborn ones. If surface is uneven or cracked, leveling compound and crack suppression membranes should be used.
Prepare tiles to fit work area. Use a nipper to cut glass tiles to fit around outlets or to create a tight edge.
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Apply Thinset evenly to surface using the flat edge of a 3/16" V-Notch Trowel. Because glass tiles are non-absorbent, it is necessary to use a latex-modified Thinset designed for use with glass tiles. (These Thinsets contain latex or acrylic, which prevent them from shrinking during the drying process and weaken their bond to the tiles.)
When an even layer of Thinset has been applied to the desired surface, use the notched edged of the trowel to comb ridges in the Thinset.
Susan Jablon Mosaics QuickTip: When using tiles attached to paper, remember that the backs of the tiles are the sides NOT attached to the paper. When using blends held together with clear glass tile tape, it is helpful to run a razor blade down every other grout line, allowing the mortar to breathe. This drying process can take a few days. Do not try to remove the tile tape until the mortar is dry.
Carefully press tiles into Thinset.
Let Thinset dry. This will usually take around 24-72 hours. High altitude and low temperatures may affect the drying time.
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Make sure surface is clean and free of dirt before beginning to grout. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, mix grout until it reaches the consistency of peanut butter. Use a grouting float to apply grout to the surface of tiles. To ensure the grout gets between all spaces, apply it in an upward diagonal motion then spread back and forth. Clean remaining grout from the surface of tiles using first the edge of the grouting float and then wipe dry with many paper towels. Keep all grout removal tools dry to remove grout. Any wet tools such as a sponge will just keep the grout smearing.
Detail the tiles, removing all remaining grout from the surfaces of the tiles. Be meticulous with this process, at this point time, as any grout left on the surface cannot be removed once fully dry. Let grout set for 24 hours
Allow sufficent time for the tiles to dry. Use our drying reference chart to determine how long this will take.
Handy Glass Tile Installation Links: