Installing Mosaic Tile

This story covers installing mosaic tile sheets.


Not long ago, setting mosaic tile meant embedding each small piece in a mortar bed. Later developments, notably sheets of mosaic held together by paper adhered to their face, helped reduce installation time. These early face-mounted sheets, however, were difficult to line up.

Modern mosaics have taken improvements a step further. Each small mosaic tile is bonded to the sheet with plastic dots or on a plastic mesh, paper, or threaded backing.

You'll find mosaics in many colors and in squares, rectangles, random designs, and all forms of geometric figures. Most mosaic tiles are glass or high-fired porcelain, so they're impervious to moisture. Porcelains come with glazed surfaces for walls and with nonslip surfaces for floors.

If the style you've chosen is available only in dot-mounted sheets, make sure the dots are free of any residual manufacturing oil. This oil interferes with adhesive bonding. Check two or three sheets in each carton, wiping them with a paper towel. If replacing a carton is not an alternative, either change your design or wash the back of each sheet with a mild detergent.


About five to six hours (not including grouting) for an 8x10-foot room

Chalk line, tape measure, carpenter's pencil, power drill, mixing paddle, notched trowel, beater block, rubber mallet, 4-foot metal straightedge

Measuring, setting tile

Remove existing flooring, repair or replace underlayment

Epoxy mortar, mosaic tile sheets

Step 1

Lay out perpendicular lines in the center of the room, and snap grid lines at intervals of the same dimensions as the mosaic sheet. Mix the epoxy adhesive, and using a 1/4-inch notched trowel, spread and comb it on a small area, just inside the layout lines.

Step 2

Set the corner of the first sheet just inside the corner of the layout lines. Square the sheet to the lines and embed the tiles firmly into the mortar with a beater block and rubber mallet. Make sure the entire surface of the sheet is level in the mortar -- mosaics show depressions dramatically.

Step 3

Pull the sheet up and check it for full coverage. If some of the tiles show bare spots, apply more mortar. Lay the sheet face down on a clean surface and skim more mortar on the back. Recomb the mortar bed with a larger notched trowel and reset the sheet with the beater block.

Step 4

Set the next sheet using the same techniques. After four or five sheets, you should have a feel for the proper amount of mortar. As you embed the tiles with the beater block, make sure the edges of each sheet are flush with its neighbors; then line up all the joints.

Step 5

Continue setting the tiles, using a metal straightedge to keep the edges straight. Wipe excess mortar from the surface of the tile with a damp (not wet) sponge. Make sure you remove all of the excess -- dried mortar is difficult to remove. Let the mortar set, then grout and clean the tiles.

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