Frequently asked questions and answers
We're doing a glass tile wrap-around backsplash installation, which will leave exposed glass tile edges above the sides of the counter. How can we conceal the grout edge of these exposed tiles?
About the only way that you can disguise the grout & thinset so they're not visible is to use a piece of trim. Some manufacturers sell glass trim pieces along with their tiles. Plastic and metal trim can be found in most tile stores and big box stores, or you shop directly at the Schluter store.
We have just tiled a kitchen wall in glass tiles - a DIY project. Can you recommend a sealant to protect the tiles with?
You don't need a sealer to conver the tiles, as glass tiles are impervious. But for the grout lines: once they have been damp cured (28 days), pick a grout sealer recommended by your local tile distributor, or go to the online Stonetech store. Note: remember to damp cure the grout first, or the grout lines may, in time, dry out and degrade.
I have just had a new concrete pool made. Are glass tiles feasible for this? If so, are there any special materials that I should use?
Glass tiles have become a very popular surfacing for pools, for at least two reasons: 1) glassy surfaces compliment the effect of water, and 2) glass tiles do not fade over time or discolor under normal conditions.
The underlying cement should be cured for at least 28 days, and free of cracks before you begin. Pools are harsh environments because of the chemicals used to keep the water clean; setting materials should be adadptred to these conditions mind. We often recommend the products by Mapei, but defer to your tile manufacturer's specifications.
You will also need waterproofing on the substrate. One reputable manufacturer of roll-on membranes is Schluter. Some membranes also have anti fracture properties, allowing them to buffer against substrate shifts. For wet areas, we generally suggest membranes that have waterproofing as well as anti fracture properties - especially when larger tiles are used. Consult with your tile manufacturer for advice on an installation method that they will stand behind
There is something chalky looking on the surface of my tiles. I haven't been able to remove it. Any ideas?
If the residue is caused by abrasion, it will be difficult if not impossible to remove. Glass tiles should never be scrubbed with abrasive tools or fabrics.
In some cases, minerals from hard water can leave a residue. Try white vinegar sprayed directly to the tile. Rinse and neutralize with baking soda. Some people have had good results with commerical toothpaste - though abrasive, it can be fine enough not to scratch tile. Test it on a less visible piece of tile first. If this doesn't work, try googling manufacturers of descaling products like Descale-it and ask if the product is indicated for your tiles.
The pros sometimes use a 10% solution of muriatic acid. Caution: muriatic acid is a very strong acid. Keep the room well ventilated, wear gloves, and keep the acid away from exposed skin; rinse tiles immediately after use.
Does it Matter How a Tile is Colored?
Color is typically applied to tiles in one of two ways. Either it is mixed with molten glass, or it is applied to tiles and then fused into it by firing. When color is properly applied using either of these methods it will be stable, will not fade or delaminate and will resist the effect of moisture and aging. 'Cold' applications of color to an otherwise finished tile - for instance, painting onto the back of a clear tile with no subsequent firing process - is a cheap method. These tiles may look okay at first, but they will have a relatively high incidence of failure. In fact, unless the color is set into the tile with high heat it is liable to fail during or at some point after installation. Thinset and moisture can cause the tile to discolor and the layer of color may even separate from the tile.
I hear that tempered glass is harder than regular glass. Does this mean that I should look for tempered glass tiles? Should glass tiles used on the floor be tempered?
Glass tiles are not tempered, for good reason. First, some background information: tempered glass is a type of toughened glass that has been heated above 600 °C, then rapidly cooled with forced air. This process causes the outside of the glass to become brittle. On impact, the glass will shatter into small pieces and crumble.
As a result, tempered glass can’t be cut or trimmed. It is cut to size before it is tempered; it can’t be re-worked. This makes it unsuitable for tiles, as it can't be fitted to various site conditions.
Glass floor tiles are bonded to solid surfaces, which means that violent follow through is impossible. What is more, the bonding agents that the tile is set enables glass pieces to stick together.
Can I use glass tiles outside?
Yes. Glass tiles, like windows, work well outdoors. They are non- absorbent, and have a very high tolerance to freeze/ thaw conditions. They are also very resistant to acid rain and the fading caused by ultra violet rays and chemicals. Like any glass, they should be installed away from places of violent or sharp impact.
All sizes of glass tiles may be used outdoors. Mosaics are often used in pool and fountains, where they can be shaped around the objects they cover. Large glass tile may be used in walls and floors, provided they are not exposed to high impact and meet slip resistance criteria for floors.
In all cases, proper construction methods must be observed, such as installation over stable substrates, the use of flexible thinsets, proper use of expansion joints and crack suppression membranes. Consult your manufacturer for details.
Can I use glass tiles on floors?
There are several glass tiles suitable for floors on the market today. Be sure that the tile is actually indicated for floors, with adequate slip resistance built into the tile. The manufacturer will specify floor-rated tiles.
Can I use mastic to install glass tiles?
We do not recommend mastic adhesives. When mastic is applied between glass tiles and a substrate, the area around the edge of the glass tends to dry and seal in the (moist) mastic that lies directly beneath the tile. Glass tiles are not porous, so this moisture remains trapped; the mastic can remain soft and moist almost indefinitley. Behind clear tiles, this phenomenon results in more than a bonding issue - mold can grow and the tiles can visibly discolor.
We recommend only white, fast-setting, polymer-modified thinset. Thinset is made with sand, cement and additives that react chemically. Note: Beware of a product called "Pre-mixed Thinset". This is usually not a thinset material, and is simply a re-branded mastic.
We installed glass tiles 6 months ago, and now a few pieces are breaking. What's going on?
The answer probably lies underneath the surface. For clues, look at the type of cracks. For example, if a crack has developed across two or more tiles, then it is likely that the substrate is giving way. If the cracks are isolated to individual tiles, expect the adhesive to have been applied incorrectly (too thick and too wet) and now the shrinking adhesive is causing stress on the glass.
Install glass tiles over stable substrates and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Our experience is that most installation problems can be avoided with the proper use of a crack-suppression membrane and thinset.
What is the best way to clean these tiles?
Usually a soft cloth and water will do: because they are nonporous, glass tiles are typically very easy to clean. For stubborn dirt, commonly available commercial ceramic tile cleaners may be applicable - check with the manufacturer for recommendations.