How to Make a Mosaic Table

My mosaic table is finally finished! Hooray! 

The idea to create a mosaic table emerged during the redecorating project earlier this year. I had never been a huge fan of this table, primarily because the top of it wasn't in the best shape. It was one of the few pieces of furniture that moved in with my husband. 

Initially, we covered the top with plastic and used it as an aquarium stand. It was the perfect size for a 10 gallon tank. When Aetharia, our beautiful goldfish, died, we removed the thick plastic and used it as a stand for a huge peace lily. 

The peace lily did nothing to preserve the top of the table. In fact, it contributed to ruining it even further. By the time I removed the peace lily from the top of the table, a round stain remained on the top. Thus, the need for a new top! 

I easily pulled up the thin pieces of wood from the top of the table. I used a chisel to remove the more heavily glued-on pieces and to carefully preserve the thin wood edging. I only ended up needing to glue a couple pieces back onto the edge.

After removing top. Only a few edging pieces needed to be glued back on.

My decorator suggested I use a product called Liquid Gold to polish the wood. This stuff is amazing! I had dusted the table many times, but it continued to look dull and dirty. The Liquid Gold made the table sparkle. I thought I was going to need to re-stain the table to make it look beautiful again. My tune changed after using Liquid Gold. 

I was finally seeing the beauty of this table! I loved the way it looked with the rest of our new wall shelving arrangement. Now, it only needed some bling to make it sparkle even more!

Table looks great with the rest of the shelves!

So, I watched a couple of videos online on how to create mosaic art and voila! I was an expert! :) 

I used tiles from Menards, plates from thrift stores, and a mirror and white plate from Target to create my mosaic top. I chose colors that I was naturally drawn to as well as colors that would fit in with my new color scheme. Finding glass or ceramic plates at thrift stores is actually a little challenging; most are made from plastic. I also tried to find plates that were mostly flat but also had the coloring that I wanted.

Once I had gathered my tiling, it was time to crush it! This was super fun! All you need is an old towel, a hammer, and a cement surface. 

First, place the object on the towel. Cover it with the towel, then smash it with the hammer! Once the object had broken into pieces, I repeated the process with the pieces until they were the size I wanted them to be. I aimed for no bigger than one inch, but not so tiny that I would go crazy with creating the pattern.


Yes, I even broke a mirror! eek! I figure that because it was for art, the 7 years bad luck doesn't apply. Sounds logical right?!  The mirror was especially challenging because it was glued to a backing. Thankfully, I didn't need much of it.

All of the pieces were really sharp, so I did need to be quite careful when handling them. I ended up with little cuts on most of my fingertips by the time I was finished.

One video I had watched recommended creating the design before gluing the pieces down. Being a planner, I naturally took to that idea.

The brown paper on the right was my mock table. I played around with a few designs before finally settling on the one I used. I decided to use the clear glass tiles as the curvy paths and all the rest of the tiles as the background. Modern decorating has a tendency to have really straight lines everywhere. While I love the crispness of those straight lines, I thought the pattern on this table would be a great opportunity to bring in some curves.

For this project, I actually created the entire pattern for the table on my mock table. This proved to be unnecessary as when I started transferring the tiles to the table, I didn't create an identical picture. I kept the same general pattern, but I ended up using a few different tiles throughout. 

Once I had the pattern down, the next step was to glue the tiles to the table. I used tile adhesive to do this. I also needed a way to apply the adhesive to the table - I used the orange spiked spatula thing pictured below for this. I also needed some grout, which goes between the tiles after they are glued to the table, a trowel to apply the grout, a sponge to clean the tiles, and sealer for the grout.

When I'm cooking, I know how to describe what something tastes like, or I know what an ingredient is called, or I know what tool I'm using and why. I didn't have any of that vocabulary for this project. I just kept saying things like: I need something to stick the tiles to the table or I need to put some stuff between the tiles so we don't see the sticky stuff on the table. I still don't know what the spiked spatula thingy is really called. It was weird not to have the right words and to not know what others were talking about when I asked for help at the store. 

After gluing the tiles to the table - before applying the grout.

Gluing the tiles to the table was fairly easy, but I could have made it more difficult had I the patience. For the most part, I just put a thin layer all over the top of the table and quickly applied the tiles to that glue. However - not all my tiles were the same thickness. The mirror especially was quite thin. I attempted to put extra glue on the back of the thinner tiles, but the glue was difficult to work with: I would cut my fingers by holding the tiles, get glue on the front of the tile, and never apply the right amount. As a result, my table is not perfectly flat. It would have been much easier to get more uniform tiles - had I been really worried about a perfectly flat table! 

Then comes the grout! Grout comes in a bunch of colors, and I wanted something fairly dark. I ended up with a light gray, which was the darkest color I could find in the smaller grout packages.

Tip: when applying grout to a table top that is not perfectly flat, do not spread it all over the top of the table with a large trowel. It will not work well.

How to apply grout inefficiently.

There were too many nooks and crannies for my trowel to be effective. I had to literally dig out some of my tile pieces because so much grout was covering it. What worked much better was using my fingers and sculpting the grout around each individual piece. 

After applying grout, before wiping off the tiles.

Because individually sculpting the grout takes forever, I ended up just mixing only some of my dry grout with water to activate it. It was the consistency of frosting. Then, I'd take my finger and press the grout between the pieces, sometimes sculpting it up to cover an especially sharp corner, or down to uncover a hidden mirror piece. This was a two-step process. First, I would apply the grout crudely, then after it had dried for a few minutes, I would go back over it and be able to smooth out any areas.

Once I had applied all the grout (I went through 1.5 buckets of the stuff), I let it dry for a little while before wiping the tiles clean. Letting it dry was important because otherwise I would just wipe the grout off the places I wanted it to stay! But I couldn't let it dry completely because I didn't want it to be on the tiles, like in the picture above.

After apply grout, after wiping off the tiles.

I tried using the sponge because it had been recommended that I use that. I didn't work well for this project. I needed something that wouldn't wipe off the grout between the tiles too. I ended up using a damp rag and a dry rag to do this. I would wipe off an individual tile with the damp rag, then dry it off and polish it up with the dry rag. This took forever, but the table glimmered when finished.

I let the grout dry for a full day before applying the sealer. I really liked using the sealer pen for this step. It was like I was coloring in a big picture. The most difficult part of applying sealer was remembering where I had already applied it. It dried within a few minutes and it took me 3-4 hours to apply it to the whole table.

I love how the table turned out. It's not perfect, but I like it that way. My style of decorating is not to look like a page from a magazine, but to look like me and make me feel at home. That's what this table does. I remember the hours of work and the tedium of creating the table. And I love how it looks in my home.