Bed + Bath

Guide to Flooring Mosaic Tile in Bathroom

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Throughout history, mosaic tile has been more than a floor or wall covering—it’s an art form. In fact, the Latin origins of the word mosaic refer to art “worthy of the muses.” Mosaic tile is beautiful and durable, and working with it is easier than ever today. Modern mosaic floor tile is available in squares that are held together by an underlayer of fabric mesh. These squares are set in much the same way as larger tile, but their flexibility makes them slightly more difficult to hold, place, and move. The instructions given with this project simplify the handling of these squares.

The colors of mosaic tile shift just as much as any other tile, so make sure all the boxes you buy are from the same lot and batch. Colors often vary from one box to another, too, so it’s a good idea to mix tile between boxes to make any shifts less noticeable.

It’s also important to know that adhesive made for other tile may not work with glass or specialty mosaic tile. Consult your tile retailer for advice on the right mortar or mastic for your project. Before you start, clean and prepare the floor. Measure the room and draw reference lines. Lay out sheets of tile along both the vertical and horizontal reference lines. If these lines will produce small or difficult cuts at the edges, shift them until you're satisfied with the layout.

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How to Floor Mosaic Tile in Your Bathroom

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    Beginning at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines, apply the recommended adhesive in one quadrant. Spread it outward evenly with a notched trowel. Lay down only as much adhesive as you can cover in 10 to 15 minutes.

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    Stabilize a sheet of tile by randomly inserting three or four plastic spacers into the open joints

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    Pick up diagonally opposite corners of the square and move it to the intersection of the horizontal and vertical references lines. Align the sides with the reference lines and gently press one corner into place on the adhesive. Slowly lower the opposite corner, making sure the sides remain square with the reference lines. Massage the sheet into the adhesive, being careful not to press too hard or twist the sheet out of position. Continue setting tile, filling in one square area after another.

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    When two or three sheets are in place, lay a scrap of 2 x 4 wrapped in carpet across them and tap it with a rubber mallet to set the fabric mesh into the adhesive and force out any trapped air.

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    When you’ve tiled up close to the wall or another boundary, lay a full mosaic sheet into position and mark it for trimming. If you’ve planned well and are installing small-tile mosaics, you can often avoid cutting tiles.

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    If you do need to cut tiles in the mosaic sheet, and not just the backing, score the tiles with a tile cutter. Be sure the tiles are still attached to the backing. Add spacers between the individual tiles to prevent them from shifting as you score.

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    After you've scored the tiles, cut them each individually with a pair of tile nippers.

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    Set tile in the remaining quadrants. Let the adhesive cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove spacers with a needlenose pliers. Mix a batch of grout and fill the joints. Allow the grout to dry, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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    Mosaic tile has a much higher ratio of grout to tile than larger tiles do, so it is especially important to seal the grout with a quality sealer after it has cured.

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    To work around pipes and other obstructions, cut through the backing to create an access point for the sheet. Then, remove the tiles within the mosaic sheet to clear a space large enough for the pipe or other obstruction.

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    Set the cut sheet into an adhesive bed, and then cut small pieces of tile and fit them into the layout as necessary.