Dress Up Your Drab Shelves with Mosaic Designs

What You'll Need
Glass, metal or wood shelves are okay for adding mosaic tiles, but not plastic.
Mosaic glass tiles, shards from old china, leftover tile pieces
Tile nippers
Protective glasses, leather and rubber gloves
Tile adhesive or thinset mortar
Grout sealer
Grout spreader (rubber float)
Old sheets or work cloth

Tired of your old shelves? Instead of buying new ones, give your old shelves a makeover by creating a mosaic design on the shelves surface. Decorating your shelves with mosaic designs is a fun project that takes just a couple hours of labor that feel like play, not work. 

Step 1 - Choosing the Right Tiles, Grout and Adhesive

There are many options for different tiles, grouts, and adhesive. Don't just grab anything off the shelf.

Tiles: Since you are making shelves, make sure all your tiles are the same thickness so that your surface will be even. For this project it may be easier to purchase tiles instead of just breaking all kinds of different materials. Ebay is a great place for buying large or small amounts of glass tiles. 

Grout: Sanded grout is usually used in mosaic projects, but unsanded grout should be used if you aregoing to be spreading into extremely small crevices (less than 1/8 inch). For this project, sanded grout should work fine. 

Adhesive: In general, use thinset mortar for outdoor projects that will receive a lot of wear and tear. If using mortar, mix with water until it forms a tacky consistency, resembling "stiff peaks." For indoor projects, tile adhesive like Mastic can be used. Some ready-to-go tile adhesives can be used outdoors, so check your labels to make sure.

Step 2 - Preparing the Shelves and Tiles

Be sure your shelves are cleaned and dried thoroughly before beginning to lay your pattern. If you are wanting to create an intricate design like a flower or underwater scene, sketch your picture directly onto the bookshelf. Break a number of your tiles with a hammer, then use the tile nipper to shape the tiles into the sizes you want. 

Step 3 - Applying the Tiles

For shelves, a border works well to frame your pattern. Use square tiles to create a border around the shelf and to cover the edges of the shelf. A dark color usually works best for borders. If you are using shelves that screw into the wall, make sure you don't cover the screw holes with tile. You can apply the adhesive directly to the shelves or to the back of the tile. Space the tiles 1/4 to 1/8 inch apart.

Step 4 - Applying Grout

Wait a day or so before applying the grout. Plop scoops of the grout onto the shelf and spread. Work into the cracks using your fingers. After several minutes, wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge. Repeat, waiting several minutes in between swipes until the tiles are clean.

Step 5 - Curing and Sealing

Let sit for a week, and then apply grout sealer.

Display your favorite books, vases, pottery and other treasures on your new and improved shelves!