Tile TipSeeing a sign along the highway flashing “Caution, Caution, Caution!” causes most drivers to slow down for impending danger. Unfortunately, this many times is not the case when installers are called on to install glass tile that is itself unfamiliar. This beautiful product, when installed correctly, provides years of enjoyment. The problem is when incorrectly installed, the beauty turns into a monster that can swallow the installer’s wallet.

The First Caution: Know what type of glass is being considered. Is it cast glass tile with its inherent folds, bubbles and creases? Or could it be fused glass tile, which is altered using a heat process to create a variety of colors and patterns? Or could it be low-temperature coated glass tile, which receives its character from the product that is bonded to the back of the tile? Each of these categories carries different requirements as to how and where it is to be used.

The Second Caution: How does this product get bonded to the substrate? Ceramic and porcelain tile can normally be adhered to a properly prepared surface with a good quality A118.4 latex modified Portland cement mortar. Glass tile, however, is not in the “one size fits all” category.

For instance, if a highly latex-modified mortar is used to install a low-temperature coated glass tile in which the mortar has a stronger bond than does the coating to the back of the glass, the coating may become distorted and look like crumpled aluminum foil. To be certain this doesn’t happen to you, always contact the company selling the glass, the mortar manufacturer andthe manufacturer of the glass. Let them tell you in writing what should be done and used.

The Third Caution: Watch for moisture trapped between the glass and the substrate, as seen in the photo above. In this case, the clear-colored glass tile allows the trapped moisture to show through as a different shade. This one failed due to its inconsistent appearance and had to be replaced – twice.

The focus of this Tile Tipis not intended to say, “Don’t install glass tile.” Rather, it is to make you aware of the issues that surround the product. When asked to install glass tile that is unfamiliar to you, do your homework, ask questions and get answers in writing before doing the job. This will keep the monster out of your wallet.