Michael Byrne has more than 30 years of experience as a contractor and consultant on a wide range of projects - from residential to industrial - in North, Central, and South America. A recognized leader in the ceramic tile industry, Michael is the author of numerous books, videos and feature articles on tile and installation.
Mosaic tile installations predate regular tile installations, because full-size tiles require manufacturing expertise that was not even on the radar when the first mosaics were put together. Let’s take a brief tour into history so we can better understand the nature of mosaic tile installation, and how much has changed – and hasn’t changed.
The title of this article is slightly misleading since most
tile installations – even straight installations composed of a single color –
are the result of a pattern. For simple, single-color tile installations, the
installation pattern is actually an ANSI A108 standard (A108.02, 4.0, 4.3,
Workmanship, cutting, and fitting). The first two parts of this standard, 4.3.1
and 4.3.2 cover centering and balancing, and the no-tiles-less-than-half-size
rule, and are the foundation of most tile installation layout work. Regardless
of the pattern, and in spite of the fact that most tiles are not perfectly
sized, the tile industry recognizes that a mathematically precise layout is
required for the finished tilework to look craftsman-installed and beautiful.
Movement within a structure, especially shear forces, can crack, dislodge, or otherwise damage tiles and the ruin the appearance of the tile installation. To guard against this, the tile industry requires that tiles be shielded from expected movement by a network of movement joints.
Installations without cracks or loose tiles should be examined to determine if they can be restored, especially if located in a building with some historical or nostalgic importance. Almost any tile installation that has become unsightly through accident or neglect can be brought back to life using relatively simple methods and readily obtainable materials.