Many homeowners look to change the décor in their home to add life to a tabletop. Changing an existing wood table top to a mosaic masterpiece is a great way to also salvage otherwise stable and sturdy furniture. Over time and through use, tabletops endure much unintended abuse. Sliding objects across the table can mar the finish; accidental impacts can nick and dent the piece. Repairing nicks, gouges and scratches can restore the finish, but after fixing these issues several times it becomes apparent the table has seen better days.
Giving the table a new life with mosaic art saves on the cost of buying a new table and is a great way to add a touch of personalization to any room. If you’ve found a table with great lines and overall perfect shape, but the finish isn’t in good condition don’t pass up the bargain at a yard sale or flea market for that reason alone. Or, better yet if Great Aunt Josephine or Grandma opens their attic for you free shopping pleasure, take advantage of the opportunity to save a table. Who knows your crafty, artistic efforts may become the next family heirloom. Adding a mosaic to a tabletop doesn’t require a lot of tiling skill or a flair for art, just a good eye for what you like. It is your table to design. Consider turning the table into a fun family project. Get the kid’s input and give them the experience of reclaiming a piece that was destined for the dumps.
Mosaic Stuff to Get out of the Way Before You Begin
Measure the length and width of the tabletop with a tape measure.
Write the measurements down and head to the store to buy molding.
Choose flat molding that is at least ½ inch wide and enough running feet to accommodate the size of the tabletop. The molding will act as the frame for your mosaic, so you may choose decorative molding or plain molding.
Lay the molding at the edge of the table and mark where you will need to make cuts.
Place the molding in a miter box and cut the ends of the molding with a handsaw at a 45 degree angle so when you are finished cutting the ends of the molding fit together like a picture frame.
Sand the cut edges of the molding with 220-grit sandpaper to remove the rough edges.
Place a large sheet of kraft paper over the entire tabletop. Dry lay the molding along the table edges. Trace the size of the tabletop from the inside edges of the molding to form a template of usable space. Your mosaic will sit inside the molding frame when complete.
Coat the molding with the appropriate primer if you intend to paint the molding.
Apply wood stain, polyurethane or enamel paint in the color of your choice to the moldings. Let the molding dry for three to four hours. Paint on a second layer of the coating of your choice and set it aside to dry.
Preparing the Tabletop for Mosaic Tile
Load a belt sander with 220-grit sandpaper and sand off the finish. Don’t worry about removing the stain, just remove the existing finish or paint layer. If you are adding mosaic tile to a small table, wrap the 220-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and hand sand the table.
Dry lay the molding again, fitting it exactly where it will lay later. Make sure the polyurethane, paint or stain is dry before handling it.
Trace the inside edges of the framework directly onto the tabletop with a permanent marker.
Remove the molding. Your mosaic tile will lay inside the lines.
Choosing a Mosaic Design
If you are artistic, sketch a freehand design that you would like to see on the table onto the kraft paper template.
If you have a favorite painting, find a picture on line, enlarge it and trace it onto the template.
You may want to put a large monogram on the table. If so sketch the letters or trace them from a stencil.
Consider, tracing your children’s hands onto the kraft paper template and having a mosaic that is truly personal to your family.
You may even want shades of a particular color with an abstract design or shading.
Preparing the Mosaic Tile
Wrap a full size tile in a towel.
Put on a pair of safety glasses and work gloves.
Smack the towel with a hammer to break it into smaller pieces.
You can reclaim tile from a renovation, buy odd lots of color or purchase tiles made specifically for mosaic designs.
Setting the Mosaic on the Template
Take pieces of the broken tile or small mosaic tiles and place them on the template staying inside of your sketched lines and then filling in the background color or colors.
Make cuts to the tiles that do not fit where you want them to with tile nippers. Trim tiny bites off the tile until they fit into the space you want them to.
The tiles can tightly abut each other or you can leave up to ¼ inch in between, which will be filled in later with grout.
Adding the Mosaic Tiles to the Tabletop
Dip a notched trowel into thin set tile adhesive and scoop up about ¼ to ½ of a trowel-full.
Spread a thin and even layer of adhesive over the top of the table, staying within the drawn lines. If you are adding a mosaic to a large surface area, apply the adhesive over an 18 by 18 inch section at a time.
Turn the trowel on it’s side and lightly dig the notches into the adhesive. Pull the notches through the thin set while making wavy lines.
Choose a piece of tile from the corresponding corner of the template.
Scoop up the adhesive on a wood popsicle stick and spread a thin layer to the back of a tile of piece of tile.
Set the mosaic tile into the thin set on top of the table and press it in place.
Continue to transfer tiles from the template to the tabletop, one by one following the same pattern while transferring and then setting the tiles on the table’s surface until all tile from the template sit on the tabletop.
Framing the Mosaic
Squeeze a long continuous line of wood glue along the back of the molding.
Set the molding in place next to the mosaic.
Repeat the process for the three remaining pieces of molding.
Place weight on the molding or secure them to the tabletop with C-clamps.
Let the wood glue and tile adhesive dry for 48 to 72 hours.
Grouting a Mosaic
Mix unsanded grout with water or use pre-mixed grout.
Scoop the grout up onto a rubber grout float. If you are adding a mosaic design to a small table, you can use a rubber spatula.
Spread the grout over the mosaic tiles while pressing the grout in between the tiles.
Wet a natural sea sponge with water.
Wipe off the excess grout from the face of the mosaic tiles.
Let the grout set for 72 hours.
Apply a coat of grout sealer over the grout.