Tiling a Precast Bench

Decorate a precast concrete bench with tile to accent your landscape.

Intro

Garden benches come in many sizes and styles, most of them quite plain. But with just a little investment of time and cash, you can turn an unadorned bench into an attractive backyard accent.

Choose a bench whose style matches other features of your landscape. Most large home centers offer a wide selection with various embossed patterns. Perhaps the simplest of models -- those with flat, plain legs -- offer the greatest creative potential. Tile the legs in addition to the seat and back of the bench for a contemporary addition to your landscape.

The treatment of the edges affects the amount of time you need to devote to this project. If you select a field tile for which bullnose (for the edges) and down-angle trim tile (for the corners) is available, the job will go more quickly. If you have to set field tile on the edges, you will need to round them with a masonry stone. Squared-off edges invite chipping. If possible, purchase tile that fits the bench seat without cutting.

Checklist

Time
Two to four hours, depending on whether you have to round the edges

Tools
Tape measure, rubber mallet, beater block, snap cutter or wet saw, notched spreader, grout float, chalkline, pencil

Skills
Measuring, mixing mortar and grout, setting tile

Prep
Spray-wash the surface to remove dust

Materials
Field tile, bullnose tile, down-angle trim tiles, latex-modified thinset mortar, grout, scrub pad, sponge, rags

Step 1

Lay out the tile in a dry run, using spacers and covering the entire surface. Center the middle row (if you'll have an odd number of rows) or the middle grout joint (for an even number of rows) on the bench and cut edge tiles if necessary. Place the cut edge facing inward.

Step 2

Make a mark at the edges of the tiles at each row and at each column of tiles. Remove the tiles and snap chalklines between the points you have marked. Use these lines as a layout grid to guide you when setting the tile.

Step 3

Comb mortar onto the top with a plastic trowel, but don't hide the layout lines. Set the tiles with a downward twist and embed them with a beater block. Keep the tiles evenly spaced and aligned with spacers or a metal straightedge.

Step 4

Lift every third or fourth tile to make sure their backs are fully covered with mortar. Back-butter the tiles when necessary and reset them. Keep each row level with the rest. Clean out excess mortar from the joints with a matchstick and scrape the excess from the edges.

Step 5

After the mortar has cured (overnight), grout the tiles with a latex-modified grout (sanded or unsanded). When the grout is just hard enough that you can dent it with a thumbnail, wipe it with a dampened sponge and remove the haze. Remove stubborn spots with a plastic scrubber.


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One Hour or Less

Three simple projects to cross off of your to-do list -- just print these instructions and begin!


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