Glass tiles have certainly gained popularity in the past few years, whether it be a fully tiled installation or using glass as a backsplash behind the bath or sink, there is something that lends itself to contemporary designer chique when glass tiles are utilized in bathrooms. However, there are some considerations when using glass tiles that a significant number of people are not aware of and can lead to a very costly failure.
As you are aware, glass is transparent by its very nature and depending on which tiles you have purchased you may have to spend a little more time making sure that a 100% coverage of adhesive has been achieved behind the tile, which can be attained by using the correct tile to trowel on the adhesive to the substrate or by back buttering the tiles previous to installing them. You are making sure here that there are no gaps behind the tile so that when it is viewed from the bathroom when installed you are not looking at unsightly shadows where gaps of adhesive reside in the adhesive bed. You will also need to be using white tile adhesive which will help maintain the colour of the tiles through the transparency of the glass.
As glass is a totally non porous material, it is not recommended to use any type of ready mixed adhesive from a bucket (unless the tiles are very small) this is because these adhesives (known as dispersion type adhesives) rely on air to be able to dry out and therefore fix the tile to the substrate. The adhesive will take an extremely long time to dry or maybe will never dry completely if using this ready mixed type of adhesive. You will be wanting to purchase a highly flexible, white cement based (thinset) adhesive , check with your supplier as to the suitability. Cement based adhesive will cure hydraulically, whilst the flexibility in the product will help bond the adhesive to the tile. A professional tile fixer may be a good choice to install glass tiles due to the specialised requirements, you can challenge a potential tiler with the information you have learned on this site.
Glass Bathroom Tiles – Potential issues
To avoid the issue as mentioned above where the glass tiles are transparent, some manufacturers now provide a coating to the reverse of the glass tile which helps to negate the requirement to achieve a 100% coverage behind the tile. This coating can either be like a painted finish on the reverse, or a specialist coating which is white when viewed from the front of the tile and achieves the same thing as the adhesive being back buttered to the tile. But, there is a warning regarding these coatings, firstly there are some glass tiles with a coating that is in fact “water sensitive.” Your tile adhesive will have water in it, your bathroom is sure to have water in it, after short while these tiles coating will start to degrade as the water acts like an acid to the coating, eating it away which leaves unsightly gaps and holes when viewed through the tile, akin to how a mirror can be affected in a bathroom over time. Over the last few years, these types of coatings have become less common thankfully, but it is worth just asking your supplier if there are any special considerations with the particular glass tile you are interested in. If a glass tile does have a water sensitive backing then you would either need to use epoxy grout as an adhesive and grout to fix the tiles (as epoxy grout contains no water) or use epoxy grout to back butter every tile prior to fixing with a regular cement based, water containing adhesive. This can be very labour intensive and very expensive as a method, but offers the only real viable solution.
Glass bathroom tiles – Cutting
Glass tiles can be a little more difficult to cut than your standard ceramic tiles, especially with smaller pieces. You need a good quality water, diamond blade cutter or you should cut in the same way as you would other tiles or glass by scoring with a tungsten glass cutter and snapping the tiles over match sticks at each end of the scored line, but you will only be able to do this with larger sized tiles. You will obviously have a sharp edge when a glass tile is cut and this cut edge will need to be placed out of harms way, or placed into a suitably sized tile trim to avoid accidents. Set out the room in such a way as to avoid difficult cuts which are often unsightly also, make it as easy as possible, tiling is always about the initial planning.
Glass mosaics are not usually subject to the same issues mentioned above in regards to transparency as they are usually a solid glass piece with colour all the way through, they generally do not have a coating on the reverse either, but check your tiles before fixing or ask your supplier for their recommendations and you will not have an issue.
If you have any questions or comments in regards to glass bathroom tiles, then please post in the comment section below.