How to Lay Mosaic Tiles

| March 14, 2011

Mosaic tiles can create a great finish in both kitchens, bathrooms and, if used creatively, many other areas of your home. Mosaic tiles are now normally bought in large sheets, with the tiles arranged in a grid and attached to a mesh backing material. This makes it much easier and quicker to lay the tiles and allows you to buy ready-made patterns because you can simply attach a full sheet to the wall or floor. Mosaic tiles can also be much easier to fit around obstacles such as sockets and switches.

If you are planning to use full-sized tiles, take a look at our How to Tile a Wall guide.

Marking Tile Edges

If you are only tiling part of the wall, such as a splashback for example, you should first mark out where you want the tiles to finish on the wall. Take a length of batten and a spirit level, and draw a pencil line to mark the top edge of the tiles. Hold a sheet of mosaic tiles up against the wall (with the bottom edge resting on the sink/work surface) and trim off any rows that are above the pencil line. The easiest way to plan a splashback is to make it the height of one full sheet of mosaic tiles and you will avoid having to cut anything at all.

If you are planning to cover a full wall with mosaic tiles, you do not need to mark out the edge. You should still use a spirit level to make sure that the first sheet of tiles is level.

Applying the Tile Adhesive

  • Using a good quality tile adhesive and a notched adhesive spreader, apply a square of tile adhesive to the wall large enough for a single sheet of tiles.
  • Follow the instructions on the adhesive packaging to determine the depth of adhesive needed (as a general rule, wall tile adhesive should be 3-4 mm deep).
  • Hold the spreader at a 45 degree angle and drag it through the adhesive to create ridges of an even depth. Making grooves in tile adhesive allows it to spread out evenly when the tiles are pressed into it.
  • Once you have applied the first sheet of tiles, you can apply more adhesive in one go if you feel confident enough to be able to work quickly. Even if feeling confident, don’t apply more than about 3 sheets worth.

Laying the Mosaic Tiles

laying mosaic tiles

If applying mosaic tiles to a full wall, take the first sheet of tiles and, making sure you have them the correct way up for the pattern (if using patterned tiles), apply them to the adhesive in the bottom corner of the wall. Press the tiles firmly into the adhesive with your hands, making sure that the sheet is level and flush with the edge. Now use a short, straight length of wood to tap the tiles flat and level. Pay particular attention to the edges of the sheet.

If you are tiling a splashback, attach the first sheet of tiles at the far left of the area to be tiled and check that it is level using a spirit level. Work from left to right, trimming the tile sheets before applying them to the wall (if required). As mentioned above, it is far easier to plan your splashback around the size of a sheet or sheets of mosaic tiles, rather than having to make too many cuts.

Tiling Around Obstacles

Continue to apply the tiles in this way until you reach the end of the run or meet an obstacle such as a socket. Tiling around obstacles with mosaic tile sheets can be, as mentioned earlier, much easier than with normal tiles.

  • Measure from the right-hand edge of the last full sheet of tiles before the obstacle, to the near edge of the obstacle (a socket in this example).
  • If tiling a splashback, and the socket is lower than the pencil mark you made on the wall, also measure down from the pencil mark to the top edge of the socket.
  • Finally, measure the height and width of the socket. Now transfer those measurements to a tile sheet and with a sharp trimming knife, cut out any tiles which are inside your marks.
  • It does not matter if the section of tiles you cut away is larger than the socket. Before spreading adhesive around the socket, hold the sheet against the wall to make sure it fits.

Spread adhesive for the cut sheet of tiles and lay them in the same way as you did the others. Unless you are very lucky, there will be some gaps around the socket but don’t worry about them for the moment, just finish off laying the rest of the tiles. Once all the tile sheets are in place, trim a few tiles from the edge of a spare sheet. Measure the gap around the edge of the socket and, if it is more than half a tile width, cut some tiles to fit using Tile Cutting Pliers. Score a line onto the tile and place it in the V-shaped jaws of the tile cutting pliers.

Grouting Mosaic Tiles

Leave the tiles to set in place for at least 24 hours before starting to apply the grout. If the tiles are in a kitchen or bathroom, you should always use a good quality waterproof grout. Apply the grout as instructed by the manufacturer using a rubber-edged grout spreader. Cleaning any excess grout from the tiles as you go will make finishing off the tiles much easier. Leave the grout to set for a short while before using a grout shaper or thin piece of dowel to tidy the grout lines.

Leave the grout to completely set and then wipe over the tiles with a damp cloth. Any grout on the glazed face of the tiles should come off fairly easily. If you are having trouble cleaning off grout, you can buy cleaning products specifically designed to remove dried grout from the surface of tiles.

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Category: DIY Spotlight, Tiling Guides

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