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The Layman's Class on Glass: Design & Installation Tips for Glass Tile

May 02, 2016

The Layman's Class on Glass: Design & Installation Tips for Glass Tile

Rockville, MD - The supposed fragility of glass tile does nothing to deter from its beauty, and how much designers and homeowners adore it. And it's no wonder, because glass tile can transform a space into something truly unique. With such uniqueness, however, comes complex installations and tricks of the trade that often elude most homeowners. That's exactly why we're breaking down a list of our top tips and explanations when it comes to choosing and installing glass tile.
Lines Tuscan Lines Tuscan Glass Mosaic
Glassis one of our favorite types of tiles, and Architectural Ceramics offers a dozen lines of varying styles, textures, sizes, and colors. See our website for quick ship glass tiles such as Jacket, Naturals, Tozen, Lines, Quilt, and more.
1x4 Tozen Antimony Silk Brick Glass Mosaic 1x4 Tozen Antimony Silk Brick Glass Mosaic

So, Why Choose Glass?

Glass tile comes in a variety of forms and colors, which depend on the process used to create them. Some tiles are cut and cold-cooled while others are melted, cast, and cooled. The end result can vary by color, texture, thickness, size, and shape. The varieties of glass tile allow for endless customization options, and its versatility opens the door to indoor and outdoor projects alike. Glass is not always associated with durability, but in truth glass tile can be just as strong and long lasting as ceramic tile. By nature, glass tile retains certain properties that make it more resilient than ceramic tile. In fact, glass tile is not porous, and does not absorb moisture. Moisture penetration is the enemy of any tile project since it can lead to mold and mildew. There is no such worry with glass tile as long as it is properly installed.
Quilt Bone Quilt Bone

What Type of Glass Tile Should You Pick?

  • Cast: This glass is formed in a liquid state at 1600F. It involves mixing sands and synthetic materials, melting them in a tank, which is then dropped into trays for cooling. The tile's surface can be smooth or wavy and slightly textured, and it's one of the only tiles that can be installed on the floor. The surface of this glass can develop fissures which are natural in the process and are not cracks. Some tiles contain tiny bubbles within each piece, which create a “still wet” look and makes for individual tiles that, like snowflakes, are one-of-a-kind. See our Cannescollection as an example.
    cannes-paris-blue-stock.large Cannes
  • Fused: Fused glass is made from large sheets upwards of 4'x6'. Ceramic glazes are fused to the sheet in multiple stages, which is where it gets its name. Float glass or back painted glass falls in this category as well. Materials that are ceramic or metal glazes fused tend to last longer than back-painted glass tiles. See our Naturalsor Jacketline for examples.
    Naturals Naturals
  • Low-Temperature Coated Glass Tiles: This type of glass tile is made from simple sheet glass and altered at temperatures less than 1022F. In cold-manufacturing, there is no heat, just cutting of the glass. This is typically a 100% recycled product.
  • Stained Glass:This is cut down from large sheets (typically 2' by 4') and colorful, often swirly in texture. It is not safe for floors, but beautiful on walls and windows, especially with back-lighting or in waterjet patterns. Because of the complexity in its design and creation, stained glass is typically pricey, but lower priced options are available. See our Linescollection as an example.
    Lines Lines

What Should I Know About Glass Tile Installation?

  • Impact and Abrasion: Glass is often less resistant to impact and abrasion than other types of tile.
  • Thermal Shock: Glass is more sensitive to temperature changes so please confirm with the manufacturer before using it in exterior applications, kitchens, fireplaces or other areas where rapid temperature changes might occur.
  • Thermal Expansion: Glass has a higher expansion coefficient that makes more movement accommodation necessary. This makes soft grout joints important, as well as an experienced installer.
  • Limited Flexibility: Glass tiles have high breaking strengths but require a more rigid substrate. See an example of our waterproofing products like Hydrobanor Kerdi.
  • Translucent Properties: Installing translucent glass can result in visible moisture and bubbles behind the tile if bonding directly to membranes or other surfaces. Instead, membranes should be behind the substrate or an opaque glass should be selected instead, which must be installed with a white thinset and trowel marks must be flattened.
  • Substrates: Speaking of substrates, they must be very stable and rigid. A waterproof, anti-fracture membrane like Laticrete Hydroban is recommended to cover your substrate. Glass tile should never be bonded to wood substrates, and any organic adhesive is not typically recommended for use with glass. Some manufacturers even recommend mortar bends cure for 7 days prior to installation due to the impervious nature of glass tile. Architectural Ceramics carries a 25LB Laticrete Ultrawhite Glass Tile Adhesive Mortar, or the 254 White Platinum Thinset, or special adhesives like Epoxy for specialty glass with metallic backing. For more questions on that, please call or email our technical department, technical@architecturalceramics.com. For inventoried product, please visit any of our warehouses.
  • Sizing: Anything larger than 3x6 in places with major temperature changes is open to cracking. For that reason, nothing bigger than a 3x6 glass can be placed in wet areas, some exceptions may apply depending on the product manufacturing process. Expansion joints or caulked joints must be used in wet applications for sizes larger than 3x3 glass tile.
  • Paper Faced Mosaics: Some glass tiles, particularly in mosaic sheets, are adhered with a piece of paper on the FRONT side of the tile. This is done to achieve 100% bond during installation. It then looks like you're installing it backwards, but that's actually not the case. The paper is easily removed after the tile has been installed, but before the thinset has cured so any placement issue can be rectified. It is recommended that tile in a submerged application must be paperfaced. This is a common mistake, and very easy to avoid. Many videos are available on how to install this type of product on Youtube.
  • Cutting: Use a glass blade to cut glass tile. Experienced installers will use tricks to prevent breakage during cutting, such as taping the front and back, or applying silicone bead (although this can be messy) over the area right before cutting.
Agate Bari Pearl Agate Bari Pearl

I definitely want glass tile. Now what?

Now is the easy part! Check out our glass tiles here and then call, email, or visit us at one of our six locations to talk to a designer.
Climbing Vine waterjet mosaic field shown in Aquamarine and Quartz Jewel glass. Climbing Vine waterjet mosaic field shown in Aquamarine and Quartz Jewel glass.
Read more tips about glass tile and its installation in Architectural Ceramics' Learning Center here. See more of our glass tile. Email sales@architecturalceramics.com for questions, or visit us at one of our six locations.


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