Using Glass Tile as an Accent

by Roger

Glass wall tile

NOT just an accent

Glass! Awesome! (I like glass tile…)

It is, however, fairly spendy. It is also a highly specialized installation when used for the whole installation. You need to understand the type of glass (there are three different manufacturing processes), acceptable processes, proper installation procedures and what type of glass can be used where.

It’s a lot.

So when you’ve found that perfect glass tile that would look great in your shower three things will happen:

 

  1. You will look at the price and multiply that by the square footage of your shower
  2. You will immediately go into shock
  3. You will decide that maybe a porcelain shower will look okay after all…

 

However (!), you don’t need to give up on that glass tile just yet. You can simply buy a few square feet and use it as an accent in your (now much less expensive) shower. I regularly use glass mosaic tile as an accent row or inserts in tile installations.

travertine with glassThere are several reasons this is a better idea.

  • You don’t really need to know every technicality of your particular glass tile (unless you want to use it on a floor!). With small strips or inserts the dimensional stability of the glass (which is a huge issue in large applications) is negligible. You still need to take it into account to an extent, but you don’t need a tile contractor’s education on glass tile to successfully install it.
  • Most glass mosaics can be cut apart to the size you need. If your wall tile is only an inch short you can simply add another row of the mosaic rather than shifting your entire installation up or down. This saves you time and effort in making the layout fit properly.
  • You won’t spend nearly as much for the installation materials. This leaves you more money for beer new rubber duckies!
  • It will turn a plain installation into a very nice, classy project. And who doesn’t want everyone to believe know they’re classy? I mean besides me…

Just like that little (?) bathroom up there on the right. That entire bathroom is just beige travertine. That’s it. However, when I added the glass ‘waterfall’ and the diagonal inserts it turned it into a very, very nice master bathroom.

porcelain shower with glass and metal mosaicsAnd here’s another.  This one has even more expensive mosaics – it’s glass and metal. As well as having the mosaics I took the 12 x 24 inch porcelain tile and cut every other row in half. So rather than a plain white porcelain shower it is now a very unique installation which stands out from all others (you can click on it for a full-size example of my horrible photography skills).

There are two basic shapes of glass mosaics (although you can find them in nearly any shape). You have the small square ones, which you can use for the diagonal inserts, or the long, rectangular bar mosaics, which are normally only used for liners like the waterfall stripe and a liner insert. The latter can not normally be cut into squares.

Porcelain and glass tubThe biggest problem with using glass mosaics for an accent is the thickness difference between the regular wall tile and the glass. The wall tile is normally thicker. If you know how to resolve this it isn’t an issue. You can also get an accent tile like a pencil rail, which is a half-circle, to frame out the glass. If you do that the thickness difference will not be an issue, it won’t even be noticed (unless you invite a tile guy to dinner). Like this one here.

You can also have a focal point in your installation like tiling the back of a niche, like behind that tub there, with the mosaics.

Ceramic and glass shower tileYou will also want to use white thinset to install them. If you use the regular gray thinset it may show through the glass and make them look splotchy or dingy – even with darker mosaics!

Yes, both splotchy and dingy are technical terms.

You can even get creative with your design. Nearly anything you do with a glass tile mosaic in your installation will make it stand apart from a regular, boring installation.

The possibilities for glass tile mosaic use in your installation are only limited by your imagination. You can still let your imagination run wild without cutting into the beer vacation money. If you find that perfect mosaic and find a wall tile that matches it well you can have a very nice installation for considerably less money.

Need help with design questions or basic layout of your tile project? Check out FloorElf’s Design Manual. It includes basic layout, correct installation and balance as well as a LOT of photos and design ideas.

You can click on any of the photos below for a larger version.

 

 

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S

Hi – great, useful site. For new construction, my builder is allowing a custom tile selection. For the shower I chose a waterfall accent with glass between porcelain tiles. I’ve seen shower tile waterfall designs in so many showrooms and the tiles always look seamlessly transitioned. Now the builder is telling me that metal ‘schluter’ strips will be visible where the glass tile meets the porcelain – is that how you’d do it? Thanks for your expertise.

Reply

Roger

Hi S,

I have done them both with and without the schluter. It isn’t necessary. If you don’t want it tell him you don’t want it. If they can’t do it without it that likely means that your tiles are two different thicknesses and they don’t know how to set them flush with one another – tell him to find a contractor that knows how.

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Janet Mensing

I am NOT commenting on this post! I can’t find anywhere else on your website to contact you, Mark! I paid for your “Topical faced Waterproofing manual” and “Tile Tips” thru Paypal on 2/8 and when I tried to download the manuals, they crashed my computer. Needless to say, this caused me great unhappiness. Now that I have my computer working again, how in the world am I supposed to get the manuals I paid for?
P.S. haven’t you ever heard of a “contact me” button?

Reply

Roger

Hi Janet,

Who the hell is Dave???

It is essentially impossible – seriously – for my manuals to crash your computer. When you download them they are located in a .zip folder, which can do absolutely nothing to your computer. When you open the .zip folder they are .pdf manuals, which can do nothing to your computer. My manuals did not crash your computer. :)

My email address – Roger@FloorElf.com – is all over the website. Yes, I have heard of a contact button. If I use one, people send me 50 emails a day, rather than making 50 comments here which benefits everyone else reading the answers to them. :)

I have sent you an email to get this sorted out for you.

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Mary

Do you not worry about using spacers when you’re setting glass or mixed mosaics?

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Roger

Hi Mary,

It depends on how well the glass or mosaic is placed onto the mesh backing. If it is uniformly placed and solid I normally don’t use spacers except between two separate sheets. If it is not place on the mesh well I’ll use spacers to straighten them out.

Reply

Neen

I have had a metallic backed glass mosaic tile fitted to a wet room wall & floor. The majority of the shower floor tiles are turning white as well as some of the wall tiles. Do you know what’s causing it? Thx

Reply

Roger

Hi Neen,

I need a LOT more information to even venture a guess, such as the substrate of the tile, type of thinset used to bond the tile, waterproofing method, etc. Are the tiles themselves turning white? Because if they are you should first contact the tile manufacturer.

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Neen

Hi Roger

Sorry for the lack of detail. The shower area was tanked and the tiles were fixed used BAL CTF4 tile adhesive in white. The underside of the clear class mosaic is either painted metallic silver or some form of silver material has been applied to it to create the effect. The fact that the adhesive is white is making me think that it’s impacted the metallic and turned it white. It’s mostly on the shower floor that the tiles are affected so perhaps moisture is an issue. I’ve since found out to my horror that the tile is not suitable for a wet room and the shop sold them to me along with the adhesive specifically for a wet room.

Any thoughts at all would be much appreciated.

Many thanks
Neen

Reply

Roger

It’s likely a coating or finish (on the back of the tile) which is susceptible to alkali. Portland cement, and in turn thinset, contains a lot of alkali. Anything that is affected by that will have problems when installed with thinset. Water may exacerbate the issue, leading to earlier failure than the tile on the wall. I would contact the manufacturer of the tile and let them know what’s happening.

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Chris

We are tiling a shower wall with a glass accent tile at the top and bottom. The 12×12 tiles are spaced at 1/4. Do I need to use sanded grout on big tiles and non-sanded on glass?

Reply

Roger

Hi Chris,

Sanded grout can be used on all of it.

Reply

Jayme

Roger,

Instal is rectangular bar mosaic. Clear/frosted. Substrate is concrete pillar, structural, cylindrical shape. Approx 60″ diameter. Floor to ceiling.

Recommendations on mortar type? Grout type? Caulked expansion lines?

Your site is top notch. Thanks for all your help.

J. :rockon:

Reply

Roger

Hi Jayme,

I would likely use either Laticrete XLT or their glass tile adhesive for that. I would put a soft joint on both sides of that top to bottom since it’s structural. I would also probably look at a urethane-based grout. Epoxy would definitely be a negative on that.

Reply

Julie

You rock by the way!
We are installing 6″ x 24″ tile in a staggered vertical pattern in our shower along with 9″ x 12″ glass and metal accent tile in a horizontal band around the wall and in a niche. My question is…. where do you start? I would think you would put up the accent tile first then work up and over around… with the field tile. Am I thinking right?
But..There will be a lot of cuts. We might have to go horizontal with it as well. Any recommendations?

Reply

Roger

Hi Julie,

At the bottom. :D Figure out where (approx.) you want your horizontal band and tile up to that with the field tile, then set your accent on that, let it cure, then continue up with the rest of the field tile.

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Clay

Roger, great site! I am doing a shower using 12×24 tile on the walls, (1/2″ kerdi board)I have left two 4″ strips for some glass tile at two points on the wall. Each strip is approx 4″high x 126″ long (they are meshed backed but each tile is 1-3/4″ x 1/2″) I have read your tutorial on putting in small chunks of glass tile on ditra, then putting onto respective holes/gaps in your field tile. My question is, am I able to put the 4″ strip of ditra on the wall first then tile to it? If so do I put the waffle side to kerdi board or the fabric side? The ditra will being doing no more than spacing all waterproofing is done on the walls.

Thanks Clay

Reply

Roger

Hi Clay,

Yes, you can put the ditra on the wall first. Put it with the waffle side towards the wall.

Reply

MB

I am installing a glass/stone/metal mosaic as an accent strip on our shower wall (surrounded by porcelain tiles). I also have these 2″x2″ metal tile squares that I wanted to put in as accents. My sister-in-law works at a flooring store and asked me if the metal was ok to use in the shower. I called the manufacturer and they said even though their name was on as the manufacturer he couldn’t give me details about the product because???
Have any comments or suggestions to help? I am using a thinset white mortar for installing and the directions on the mosaic says to seal, which I will do.

Reply

Roger

Hi MB,

I have never seen a metal tile which was not suitable for use in a shower. They are normally either stainless, aluminum, or coated with a pewter or bronze finish which is sealed. You didn’t mention which type, but they are all fine for use in a shower.

Reply

Julie

Hi! Your site is awesome. Thank you!
Question for you regarding glass tile… We picked white glass subway tile for our shower. We have cement board on the walls… And used thinset to stick the glass tiles. Some of the tiles have cracked. We are trying to decide if it’s worth it to remove the cracked tiles and replace them… Or to scratch the whole glass tile idea, and pick a different tile. I have fears of them continuing to crack and it being a constant headache.
If we remove the cracked tiles and replace them, what can we use instead of thinset to stick them, so they don’t crack?
Thank you for any suggestions!

Reply

Roger

Hi Julie,

Your issue isn’t with the thinset. Your issue is expansion. Glass tile will expand considerably more than anything else around it, including the substrate. You NEED expansion areas built into your shower. Normally having a gap filled with SILICONE (NOT grout) in the corners and at the bottom/top of the shower will suffice. Do you have that, or are they filled with grout? If they have grout scrape it out and replace it with silicone (provided they are not butted to one another in the corners) and that should solve your cracking issue.

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Greg

On this subject, when doing a waterfall accent with glass/ metal mosaic between porcelain field tiles, and the waterfall goes from shower floor to ceiling, is the caulk or siliconed gap at top and bottom enough for expansion? Is it ok to grout the mosaic to field tile joint? Using modified thinset for mosaics over Kerdi and unsanded grout for the mosaics.

Thanks
Greg in FC

Reply

Roger

Yes, it is enough. Unless your accent is larger than about 18″ or so, in that case you likely want silicone joints down the sides between it and the field tile.

Reply

adam

Hey love the site! When applying accent strips do you need to use different grout and mortar to apply to the wall than your ceramic tile? Thanks

Reply

Roger

Hi Adam,

Nope.

Reply

Sue

I searched through your site to see if you already answered this question but couldn’t find anything so if I missed it, I apologize in advance.

We found a great wall accent tile that isn’t meant for floors but would love to use it on our shower floor. We understand that there’s usually a slip hazard with using the wrong tile but thought that the small surface area with grout in between might eliminate the issue. Here’s a link to the tile we were looking at.

http://www.emser.com/index.php?id1=collectionDetails&productID=1824&id0=glass&super=219&index=87

What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance for all of your help.

Reply

Roger

Hi Sue,

Likely not a good idea with the glass. The main problem isn’t really the coefficient of friction (slipperiness) of that particular tile – it’s the compressive strength of it. It likely is not strong enough, compressively, to be used on a floor without cracking. Cool tile, though, would make a great accent.

Reply

Greg

Hi Roger,
Installing a waterfall stripe in the shower, using glass / stone / metal mosaic tile. I was planning on buying a glass tile blade (Home Depot) for the wetsaw for the few square-off cuts on this mosaic tile. Any issues with using a glass tile blade when cutting these different materials in the mosaic? Is there a better option? I already have a porcelain blade for the field tiles.

Best,
Greg in Fort Collins

Reply

Roger

Hi Greg,

The glass blade will work fine. They are normally just a thinner blade, but they’ll cut all that material.

Reply

Julie

Ok I will try this again..I am replacing my fiberglass shower with a tile. I have purchased Ann Sacks 4″ Lucian back painted glass tile for the walls, and the 1″ Matte glass penny tile (on mesh) for the niche and floor. Shower is 36″ x 48″. I purchased a Schulter shower kit for ease of install. Unfortunately Ann Sacks ” highly recommends” a high performance thin- set mortar, and Schluter will not recommend this type of mortar with there Kerdi! Also, recommended crack suppression membrane. What would you suggest? I don’t want to go mortar bed if I don’t have to. HELP

Reply

Roger

Hi Julie,

If it were my installation I would use a good modified mortar for the tile. It will work on the kerdi, and I definitely would never try to install an Ann Sacks tile with unmodified mortar. You will lose your warranty from Schluter, but you will build it correctly and won’t need it anyway. :D

Reply

MJ

What I’m reading on your website for where to start in a tiled shower is the 2nd row of tiles on the wall. This makes sense if I was using a uniform tile size throughout. However, I’m using a mosiac tile layed vertical of all different sizes on a meshed backing. Would it make sense in my case to start at the shower floor and then cover it and move to tiling this mosaic tile on the walls? Also, does the top of curb get tiled before the walls too? I can’t seem to find any information on does the top of curb get tiled first or last. Thanks!

Reply

Roger

Hi MJ,

Yes, I would start at the floor for that. The order for the curb doesn’t really matter, I normally do it last, but it can be done first.

Reply

"G" I Need Help

Roger,

As so many have already said, thanks for all of the incredible information!! You were a huge help with both of our our bathroom remodels.

I am at the final stage of our new shower installation, and just realized I may have a problem. I created a 12″ wide accent strip of pebble mosaics from floor to the ceiling, dead center on the shower head / handle wall. So my concern is if the Moen Posi temp Shower Eschucheon (spelling?) will properly seal around the pebbles? The instructions says it is self sealing, but I am sure this is in regards to it going over tile.

I have searched the site and could not find this question asked before. So
before I covered it in silicone, and have many sleepless nights, I figured I would have no choice but to interrupt your busy day.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Reply

Roger

Hi G,

It should provided your pebbles are relatively flat. If they are not then tighten it down as much as you can without bending the crap out of it, then place a consistent silicone bead around it. Regardless of how it looks before silicone, the little foam seal located on the back of the escutcheon should seal just fine against the pebbles.

Reply

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