- A table
- Assorted tiles
- Old towel
- Tile underlay, cut to size (optional)
- Construction adhesive (optional – eg liquid nails)
- Tile adhesive
- Grout in desired colour
- Clean rags
- Edge trim or beading
- PVA glue
Step 1: break the tiles
Before starting, you need to decide on a theme for your tabletop design. Designs like waves, swirls, or perhaps an animal or floral image are not overly ambitious for a first timer effort. Select your tiles to suit the colours you will need to create your design.
Now put on your safety glasses and break your tiles by placing them face down in the towel, covering the tile back with the towel, and striking with the hammer. You’re trying to create 20mm-40mm fragments, so don’t pulverise the tile. Any larger pieces can be trimmed down using the tile nippers later.
Step 2: prepare the tabletop
If your table top is timber, sand it back to create an even surface for the tile adhesive to stick to. If your table top is plastic, metal or laminate, you will need to cover the original table top with the tile underlay. Adhere the underlay to your table top using some construction adhesive and allow it to dry before attempting to work with the new surface.
Step 3: lay out the tiles
Now draw out your design on the table top, taking the time to get the lines and shapes right. Once you are satisfied with the design, start filling in the patterns by dry-fitting the tile fragments in place (Fig. 1). Don’t leave more than 5mm or so between tile fragments, and don’t sit tiles too closely side by side as the grout will not be able to penetrate correctly later on. Use the tile nippers, always wearing your safety glasses, to trim tiles to size. We found holding the nippers and tile fragment inside a cardboard box was a good way of containing any flying fragments and dust when doing this. Take the time at this stage to ensure that your tile fragments are the right shape and size to do justice to your design.
Step 4: stick down the tiles
Once you have completely covered the tabletop with tile fragments in the design of your choice, get comfortable and start gluing (Fig. 2). Start from one corner, and working with one tile fragment at a time, use your old knife or filling blade to apply tile adhesive to the back of each tile frag-ment. If your tiles are large enough, tile adhesive can be applied directly from its container. Press it down firmly onto the table top – but be careful not to squeeze all of the adhesive out from under it. Continue in this way until all tiles have been stuck down, using the tweezers to work with small or fiddly tiles. When all the tiles are all stuck down, use your wooden ruler to check the level of the new surface you have created. Press down any raised tiles, and use your tweezers to pull up and reglue any tiles that seem too press down – you are aiming for a uniform levelled surface that will take grout well. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in regard to drying time.