Installing a mosaic: confession time
Before we go any further, I need to lay my cards on the table. My obsession with mosaics is pretty much unlimited. I spend inordinate amounts of time designing them, making them, grouting them, thinking about them and writing about them. I am equally comfortable with the direct or indirect methods. On mesh or in 3D is fine. I change rods into cubes and cubes into pieces that fit. I cast them in concrete and buff them to perfection but when it comes to installing a mosaic something in me balks and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. At that point I sit back and hand over to the floor-laying and wall-tiling experts.
But even though I didn’t have a direct hand in installing this kitchen splashback I thought it would be helpful for you DIYers out there (or for people with more guts than me) to see how easy the process is. This is my own version of the famous Vatican Museum Unswept Floor Mosaic which I wrote about in a previous post.
It’s made on mesh and I cut it into four pieces (see above) so it could be transported easily.
Installing a mosaic kitchen splash back
Prepare the surface. The chap we used removed the light above the cooker and put strips of tape down either side of the area where the mosaic was going to be installed. Speaking purely as a back seat tile installer I would have also scored the surface to ensure that there’d be plenty of grip:
Apply tile adhesive over the wall’s surface with a notched trowel:
Carefully lay the mosaic sheets onto the adhesive:
And tamp them in so that they are nice and firmly stuck:
Finish laying the mosaic pieces:
At this point it is more or less inevitable that adhesive will seep through from the wall and be visible on the stones as it has done in these three areas:
Don’t worry. It will be wiped off during the grouting stage.
Choose your grout – this is just a normal grey tile grout – and mix it according to the packet instructions and apply. For more on grouting go to my previous post: Making a Mosaic Trivet, Part IV: Grouting a mosaic
Clean off grout thoroughly and (if you are using stone tesserae) wax and/or varnish to bring out the colours:
For more mosaic tutorials, just click on the mosaic tutorial tab at the top of the page.
You definitely make it sound easy. I love the way it turned out! If only it could be so easy in my kitchen. Thanks for the tips!
Thank you so much for taking time to record the process! I never done mosaic, but braving to make a backsplash, so this tutorial is a gold!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! It’s always hugely appreciated. All the best with the splashback.
Our group has done, up to now, mosaic murals in situ, but now we have been asked to do a collection of smaller murals several hundred miles from home. We have no experience with mesh although your tutorial has greatly inspired us. And we have questions! 1). Where can we order mesh by the meter (we are in Mexico). 2). The sight is on the Caribbean, a place subject to hurricanes. Will acrylic glue stand up to a beating if grouted properly? 3). Also, we do trencadis and the tiles are irregular. Any tips on how to section off the finished mosaic (around 50 x 70 cams) for easy transportation and installation? Or should we just struggle with it whole? And, finally, 4). What are those panels you use on the top and bottom of the finished parts, held together with tape? Something lightweight I hope! Thanks for your any advice you can give us!
Hi Lola, Thanks for your message and I will reply as best I can! Here goes: 1. I would imagine that you’d be able to order the mesh from the States but you would know better than me about shipping regulations over there. Fibre glass mesh is also widely used for building construction so you could go along to your nearest building merchant with a photo and see what he says. You don’t want the mesh to be too stiff or for the squares to be too wide apart obviously but they may very well be able to help. 2. The type of glue I use for mesh is stronger than acrylic glue. The one recommended here in the UK is called Titebond II Premium Wood glue – a fast setting water resistant glue suitable for use indoors and outdoors. Again, I would recommend going along to your building merchant and asking for recommendations. The one I used in Greece was recommended for bonding all types of materials including ceramic and stone and is also suitable for outdoors. You need to get a STRONG permanent glue. Do be careful though and try not to use so much glue that it squishes up between the tesserae because the mosaic on mesh will need to be set into a tile adhesive bed and firmly embedded so that the tile adhesive comes up between the tesserae and bonds the mosaic in place. If you use the right glue to attach the tesserae to the mesh, a strong tile adhesive to attach the mesh to the wall (again check the manufacturers specifications) and then finish with an outdoor flexible grout, I would be confident (but cant guarantee) that your mosaic will withstand hurricanes! 3. I would definitely cut the mosaic into at least two pieces. Each piece should be roughly the size of a tray or computer screen – easy to handle and manoeuvre by one person with two hands. If you send a photo I would be able to suggest how you should cut it. 4. The panels I use to transport the finished parts are very thin and very lightweight panels of plywood – cheap, but strong. I hope that helps! All the best with your project, Helen.
I want to make a sign for our school as a mosiac. This mesh idea may just work as I was worried that mounting in wood would be heavy and also not withstand the weather. Can you attach the mesh mosiac straight onto a brick wall ( uneven surface) with the tile adhesive?
Hi Rebecca, Thanks for your enquiry. No, it is not wise to apply it directly to a brick wall unless you have applied a mortar base first so that you have a smooth surface. That shouldn’t be hard to arrange and will guarantee your mosaic will have a long and happy life on your wall!
Hi Helen, Great lessons and I am glad I found your tutortial. I am going to do my own kitchen backsplash. I am pretty confident with doing the mosaic on mesh . I wanted to clarify though because it appears that the adhesive used to attach the mosaic on mesh to the wall was not allowed to dry prior to grouting. Was this the case? If so, what type of adhesive was used? I am in the U.S. so I’m guessing the products will be different than what is available here. I just know that when I have done a reverse mosaic (table top) where it was laid into Thinset (an adhesive mortar). I then had to let it dry for almost a week prior to grouting. Thank you for inspiring me!
Yes, it was indeed the case in this particular instance but I wouldn’t recommend this approach at all! I would certainly let the tile adhesive (which is the same as thinset) dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours) before grouting. However, there are rapid set tile adhesives available which dry much faster. The only thing I can recommend is that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully on the packet before use. I hope you make a magnificent backsplash!
Great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing .
Have a question :planning on using smalti for my project , but want to leave it ungrouted . Can I use the mesh for this ungrouted project or it is better that I used another method?
Thank you very much 😉 !
Hi Suyapa, thanks for this! I dont see any reason why not to use mesh for an ungrouted project. Obviously, the tesserae are likely to be closer together but as long as there is enough space between them for the tile adhesive to come up in between them and hold them in place then you should be fine. Good luck with your project.