Crafted items can be great conversation pieces when done right. Ceramic tile, once limited to bathrooms and kitchen floors, has become a popular decorating medium. Glass tiles, retro subway brick tiles and a wide variety of decorative tiles have made it possible to make a wall, a floor or a counter a work of art. Art tiles or recycled glass can be used for a variety of surfaces beyond the traditional uses, including occasional or dining tables.
Things You'll Need
- Table or lumber
- Tile nippers
- Tile adhesive or thin-set
- Sanded grout
- Stout stirring stick
- Latex or plastic gloves
- Tiler's sponge or squeegee
- Grout float or 3 x 6 inch piece of thin board
- Safety glasses
Start with your table. You can either use a new unpainted table or build one, using ready-made table legs from the home store, framing lumber, a three-quarter-inch plywood top and one-inch wood trim for the edges. Strengthen an old table top by screwing a piece of one-quarter-inch plywood to an existing table top. Add some construction adhesive or wood glue between the wood for a solid top. Rough up the plywood or tabletop by scoring it with a matte knife in a criss-cross pattern. This will make a good surface for the adhesive.
Lay out your tile and decide on a pattern before opening any adhesive. You may want a diagonal pattern and discover that a square pattern requires less trimming. Lay your tiles out by starting with one line of tile right down the center of the table and build out from that. Adjust your pattern as you lay the tiles, minimizing the number of cuts you’ll need to make. When you’re happy with the pattern, take all but the first line of tile up, lay out the pattern on some newspaper nearby, mark either end of the first line of tile and snap a line on the plywood. Put newspaper under your table and around your workspace.
Spread your thin-set with an eighth-inch notched trowel and place the first line or center of your design, allowing one-eighth to one-quarter inch between tiles. Work out from the center, spreading a few square feet of thin-set at a time and jiggling tiles gently to get a good seal as you set them down. Do not push them so that the adhesive oozes up between them. Tiles set on a surface that will be wet or where they form a complex design should be set closer together. Tiles on a surface that will not be wet very often or where a contrasting grout is part of the design can be set further apart. Follow the directions on the adhesive and let it dry completely before grouting.
Apply grout with a float. Squeeze down between the tiles. When the entire top has been grouted, wipe gently across the tile with a large, barely-damp sponge several times to remove excess grout. Rinse the sponge frequently to keep it clean. After the grout dries, wipe the surface with a clean, dry cloth to remove any remaining grout dust. Edge the table with wood trim. Seal according to grout directions.
Tips & Warnings
- If you’re working with an old table top that’s sturdy enough to hold the tile, just sand the top to remove any hard finish and score as you would the plywood.
- Leave the top unfinished but paint or refinish the legs first. Finishing is easier if you don’t have to work around the tile.
- If you’re using clear glass tile, be sure to use white adhesive. Check with your tile or home store to be sure you’re using the right adhesive, grout and sealer for the tile you’ve chosen.
- Grout is caustic and adhesive is sticky. Wear safety glasses and use rubber gloves when mixing or working with adhesive and grout.
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