Tiling a Birdbath

Decorate a precast concrete birdbath with tile to liven up your garden or landscape.

Intro

A precast concrete birdbath is inexpensive and functional but not very attractive. A handmade mosaic design will transform it into an eye-catching ornament for your backyard.

Birdbaths come in different sizes -- the larger the unit, the easier it will be to work with. Get the largest one you can afford.

The decorative tile in the bottom center of the bowl is an optional feature. Shop around at tile outlets or home centers to find one you like.

The mosaics are actually broken pieces of plain glazed wall tile. Choose colors that complement the center tile. Calculate the area of the bowl by multiplying the radius squared times 3.14, and buy twice as much tile. You need this much because breaking the tiles into mosaic results in about 50 percent waste, and the area of the bowl is actually larger than the circle it represents.

Purchase 1-inch bead tile for the row around the rim. Lay a string on the rim and measure it to compute the number of bead tiles you'll need.

Checklist

Time
About three hours for a 24-inch birdbath

Tools
Tape measure, rubber mallet, tile nippers, putty knife, notched plastic spreader, rubber spatula, burlap bag or heavy towel, plastic scrub pad

Skills
Measuring, calculating, mixing mortar, setting tile, grouting

Prep
Spray-wash surface of the bowl to remove dust

Materials
Decorative tile, 1-inch bead tile, assorted glazed wall tile, latex-modified thinset mortar, latex-modified grout, sealer

Step 1

Set the rim tile first by back-buttering the pieces and pushing them in place. To get the tiles flush with the rim, place a piece of scrap wood on the top edge of the rim and push the tiles up to it. Back-butter the decorative art tile and center it in the bottom of the bowl.

Step 2

Cut the width of a plastic spreader to conform roughly to the contour of the bowl. Then use a hacksaw to cut a few teeth in the edge of the spreader. Comb out latex-modified thinset across the entire surface of the bowl.

Step 3

If you haven't done so already, tumble your handmade mosaics in a paper bag so different-color pieces mix. Set the mosaics in the mortar, pushing them in place with a margin trowel or putty knife. Make sure the surfaces of the pieces conform to the shape of the bowl and that the edges tilt only slightly, if at all. Try to space the pieces as consistently as possible so the grouting will look regular. Let the mortar dry.

Step 4

Mix up a batch of latex-modified grout and spread it on the mosaics with a rubber kitchen spatula. Force the grout into the joints and remove as much excess as possible from the surface using the spatula. Let the grout set from 5 to 15 minutes, then remove the excess with a slightly dampened sponge. Let the grout set for another 5 to 10 minutes, then sponge it again. When the grout hardens, remove excess with a plastic scrubber.


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