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By the time I was 14 years old, I probably had more experience in home improvement than most middle aged men. I had painted houses. I had installed sheet rock in a garage and a basement. Installed carpet. Tiled counters. Laid laminate floors. You see, in my house the bonding with my mother always happened in the kitchen. But with my father, it was always over a hammer and nails. And growing up, I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s funny the way life works. You grow up hearing that one day you’re going to become your parents, but you don’t believe it. And then one day you wake up and you’re blogging about mosaic glass tile installation and making meatballs. They got me good.

If you think about it, home improvement is really just large scale crafting. And lord knows I love my crafting. If you’re looking around your house thinking you’d like to try your hand at home improvement, a tiling project is an easy place to start. Hopefully this will give you some background information on what you’ll need and reassurance that it’s not much different than crafting! 😉

I bought everything I needed at Home Depot, so I’ll link to the products in case you want more info. Forgive the photos—it was all via phone cameras.

The Supplies

Semi gloss white paint with primer
120 grit sand paper block
Good quality paint brush
High Heat Black paint (for touching up the grate)
Glass mosaic tile with a mesh backing (I needed about 6 square feet)
Glass Tile Thin Set Mortar
Pre mixed grout
Notched Trowel
Large Sponge

The Steps

I started by cleaning and sanding the existing wooden mantel using a 120 grit sandpaper block to remove the sheen. I then coated it with two coats of semi gloss white paint.

Next I mixed the thin set in a medium sized bucket until it resembled the texture of peanut butter. Using the flat edge of the trowel, I applied a layer of the thinset to the slate surround of the fireplace. Check the instructions on your thinset to ensure that the surface you’re adhering the tile to is adequate.  For this fireplace, there was an existing piece of slate around the fireplace grate, and I could tile right over it.

Using the notched edge of the trowel, I created ridges in the thinset. Technically I should have used a trowel with smaller notches because my tiles were only 1 inch wide—but this one worked just fine.

I used a mesh backed tile. When measuring I ensured that the surface I was covering was divisible by one inch and it was. If your surface doesn’t fit the tiles perfectly, you can purchase a tile cutter to get the right size. With some of these smaller mosaic tiles, there’s a good chance you can fit the tiles without cutting. Using a razor, I cut through the mesh backing to create the appropriate sized pieces.

Then I gently attached the tile to the thin set. I say gently here because at first, I smushed the tile into the thinset and made a big mess. Learn from my mistake. Be gentle. The thin set should not come through the spaces in the tile.

I competed the tile around the fireplace and allowed it to dry for 24 hours.

Then it was time for grouting! I used a pre-mixed grout. I read 100 reviews saying this grout stinks, but I risked it anyway because..well how convenient is premixed grout? I chose a white grout to really make the mosaic colors pop. You’ll also need to float (on the right) and a large sponge.

Using the float, I got a nice good glob of pre-mixed grout.

Then, holding the float at a 45 degree angle, I smushed the grout into the gaps in the tile.

Then remove the excess grout by gently scraping it off by holding the float flat.

Next, using a very lightly damp sponge, I wiped away the remaining grout. This will leave a haze on the tiles.

After letting the grout dry for a few hours, I used a dry, clean tshirt to buff away the haze. Leaving me with pretty tile! Yay!  I love the tile we used.  It had stainless steel pieces mixed in and the neautral, slightly green tone, was so pretty with the green walls.

As a final touch, I touched up the black grate surrounding the fireplace using a high heat black paint. (Then I tore down those horrible sconces and helped my dad install beautiful floors J )

Happy [Large Scale] Crafting!