Reusing Broken Ceramic Tiles to Create a Mosaic

A ceramic tile background mosaic.
  • 2-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-100

There is an art to reusing ceramic tile to create a mosaic. By definition, a mosaic is a picture or decoration made of small pieces of inlaid glass or stone. A mosaic is a great recycling project for ceramic tile that can help you express your artistic side.

You can create mosaics on just about any type of flat surface. Tables, walls, and even patio decks can be places where you put together incredible art through reusing ceramic tiles. There are two different ways to make a mosaic with ceramic tiles. They are both very similar in a lot of respects, but differ in the way the ceramic tiles are applied. Here are some tips for reusing ceramic tiles for your next mosaic.

1. Prepare Your Ceramic Tiles

By the definition of a mosaic, you need to use small pieces. That means you have to break up the old ceramic tile. The great thing about this is if you have a bit of stress built up from a hectic day, you can let some of it out while smashing the tile. Safety, of course, is always important when preparing the tile for your mosaic.

Another point to remember is you do not want to go crazy while breaking up the tile. If you smash it too much, the pieces will be too small to use. Also, they do not need to be square. Irregular shapes are prefect for mosaics.

2. Get a Pattern

colorful mosaic tilework

Before you start, you should have at least some sort of design from which to work. If you have one in your mind, draw it out and copy it to the size of your mosaic. Now, trace it onto your base as a guide.

3. The Direct Method

The direct method of using ceramic tile is to affix the tesserae to the base using mortar and grout. The tesserae are anything you make the mosaic out of, in this case, the pieces of ceramic tile. When laying the tesserae to the base right side up, this direct method is the method of choice. Butter each piece with some mortar, or other adhesive, and then affix the piece onto the base according to your pattern.

4. The Indirect Method

a mosaic on a bathroom floor

The indirect method of reusing ceramic tile to create a mosaic involves making the mosaic upside down on a piece of adhesive paper. You lay out the tiles according to the pattern, but they are all face down. The grout is then laid out on the base. By taking the corners of the adhesive paper, you flip the mosaic over and onto the grout. Once it has dried, you lift off the adhesive paper. This works well when the ceramic tile is colored on both sides.