Your patio table aspires to be more than just a place to set your drink while you grill burgers. It wants texture, color, and most of all, respect. Topping your patio table with a mosaic will do the trick. You can turn it into a stunning hand-made work of art, as artist Mark Hendricks did with the table we see above. But even a more modest mosaic of ready-made tiles will raise your patio table’s self esteem to a whole new level.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to create a mosaic tile top for your patio table put together by Forums associate aboveaveragejoe. He posted these instructions on The Home Depot’s Community Forums in response to a question by a Forums member who goes by the handle tenthumbs. The glass top of tenthumb’s patio table had broken, and he/she wanted to replace it with a DIY mosaic top.
Here’s what aboveaveragejoe said to do:
How to make a mosaic tile top for your patio table
You can approach it two ways:
2. Make your own custom, one-of-a-kind mosaic tiles by hand!
No matter which way you choose, you’ll need to first install a secure base so that the tiles have a firm and permanent place to rest upon. This step is just as important as the tiles themselves, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Let’s get started!
Preparing the table for mosaic tile
Now depending on the size, shape, and how the table is constructed will depend on how much materials you’ll need to buy. Hopefully, you’ve gotten the remaining glass out of the table and surrounding area. At this step, check carefully any strips, edges or fasteners that held the original glass in place. If it is rubber or a vinyl-based material, it will be easier for this project for you to take it out now so the new material can fit properly. If the table had a hole for an umbrella to go through, you’ll need to consider the diameter size for the new table top. Either way, the main takeaway at this stage is inspection and measuring. You will need to take careful note of how thick (or thin) the table edge is as well as finding out the exact size of the opening. This will make sure your base, and then your tile will work effectively. For example, choosing thin base materials (tile backerboard and wood) to hold up the final tile and grout will mean the table top won’t go very much higher than the edge of the frame of the patio table.
As for a material base, there are various items you can use for this project. You’ll want the materials for your table to withstand the weather, and fortunately, there are items we sell in our stores that will work perfect for this!
Shown below, I included a cut-away illustration that best describes the items you will need to make a base and to hold the tiles down securely. While I realize your table edge and materials maybe different, this should give you an idea of what to expect.
Some of the items listed above, like the screws, may not be needed. You may only have to put a wood frame to hold the tile backerboard in place. Again, it all depends on the size and shape of the existing patio table frame that you have now.
Essentially, if you place down the backerboard with wood underneath (the wood can be fastened underneath with adhesives and sheet-metal screws to the frame), you’ll be giving yourself a long-lasting and professional tile top that can withstand any weight and weather beating down on top of it. So, lets say we’ve got this base down, now lets get to tiling!
Using pre-made mosaic tiles
When choosing which tiles to use, using a mosaic tile that has existing patterns are a time-saving and very beautiful choice when it comes to putting a new table top. These kinds of tiles typically come in 12″ x 12″ sheets and have a mesh backing, allowing you to make cuts and place the tiles all at once.
With all tiles, no matter the style you choose, you’ll first need to measure and layout the space to find out how much tile you’ll need. After getting the tiles that you like, you will need a good adhesive to stick them down. You can use a pre-mixed thin-set mortar or adhesive, since we are dealing with a small area. The great thing about these kinds of tiles is that most of the spacing is done for you. While you can line up the other spaces where the tile mosaics meet, using tile spacers will guarantee you a professional finish.
I’d recommend using a tile installation kit that has everything you’ll need to put down the tile. It includes a grouting sponge and gloves to make the job much easier.
Making a Custom One-of-a-Kind Mosaic Table Top
If you decide to make your mosaic using broken tile pieces no bigger than a quarter, you’ll need to do a little more preparation with the tiles. The upside of this is that you’ll be getting a unique and customized table top that no one else on earth has!
First, obtain the pieces of tile you would like. Remember to consider thickness, so that at the end of the day, the table top is as level as possible. You can place the tiles you want to break up in a folded drop cloth and break the pieces using a rubber mallet. Wear gloves during this stage, since chards of broken tile can cut skin very easily.
Next, depending on the size of your table, you can layout the tiles by pattern, color, or style on a flat surface so you can mimic that pattern onto the final table top. Now you can place a small amount of tile adhesive spread thin in a small area so you can work the tiles in carefully. The tile nippers (included in the tile installation kit), can cut, or bite into the tiles if you want to give more smoother or different edges that the original broken pieces. This tool is very useful when making a mosaic pattern. If the tiles happen to be glass, you can use the item shown below that works by ‘scissoring’ the tiles to be manipulated.
I’ve seen some arts and crafts stores sell tile mosaic glue, but if you do a small amount of pre-mixed tile adhesive we sell, this can work just as effectively. Space the tile mosaic pieces out from any space you like as little as 1/16″ up to 1/2″ wide. It is entirely up to you what particular pattern or space you want. Just remember: the more space, means the more mortar you’ll need to place between the tile pieces.
Let the tiles dry out overnight, and you can place grout or mortar to fill in the spaces between your tile pieces. Grout can dry very hard, but I’d recommend to use mortar, since it dries even harder and can stand up to heavy use. Look for a mortar that can be mixed with color additives to give you more choices for your final look. No matter which kind you use, they will be applied with a floating trowel. If you already bought your tile installation kit, it is already in there.
Be sure to wipe off excess mortar/grout as soon as you are done with the application. Be sure to pick up all haze, residue while it is still wet, as cleaning dried grout/mortar isn’t something you want to be doing after coming this far along in the project.
After letting the tiles and grout/mortar set overnight, you can now place the last thing on your mosaic tile surface, a good tile sealer. I’d most definitely recommend putting a clear sealer down to ensure no food or water can reach into the tiles and mortar and damage the job you’ve spent so much time on. Depending on what kind of tile down will determine what kind of sealer to put down, which is why I can’t recommend one until you choose your tile. No matter how you put down your tile, using a quality sealer guarantees you won’t have to worry about failure in your table for a long time.
And that’s it! All the options, steps, and choices when it comes to putting down mosaic tile for your patio table!
[Ed.: This article prompted reader Jan Wilmeth to send us photos of her mosaic works. We've shared the photos here on the Apron in Real Stories, Real Doing: Mosaic Teacher Shows Us Her Creations. We'd love to see your creations, too! Just leave us a note in the comments, and we'll contact you.]
Take a look at some other interesting ways to decorate with tile in our Meet the Materials article on mosaic tile.
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