Creating a Mosaic Inlay Table Top: Using Mosaics to Personalize Furniture
Whether looking to add some color and design to a room, refinish an old table, or make a point of interest and conversation in a space, mosaic inlays are a wonderful option. While there are certainly options for sale, it can be simple to create one, either by inlaying a ready made mosaic design, or creating one from loose pieces.
Preparing the Table
The mosaic is going to need an area to reside in. If the table already has a built up rim around the edge, nothing more will need to be done for this step. If the table does not have a rim, or depression for the mosaic to be set in, one will need to be created.
While it may be possible to carve, or sand out a depression into the table, this does leave a lot of room for error, so leaving the top as is and building a rim is the more feasible option.
Using a thin domed molding in the material that will be inlaid will give the most uniform look, or if no molding is available, use a thin strip of wood molding painted or stained to match the color of the table.
Stone, glass and ceramic can be purchased in thin ½” domed moldings, which can be applied to the outer edge of the table. These will be applied first, before the mosaic, to ensure that the table will be level when complete.
The surface of the table should be clean, dry and sanded to remove any bumps or depressions. Apply the molding by either driving thin nails in at an angle through a wooden molding, or by applying thinset in an even coating to the backside of the tile molding, as well as a thin troweled coating to the edge of the table, and tapping down lightly to even them.
Be sure to line the edges up straight along the table, and wipe away any excess thinset. The moldings can be mitered at the corners for a framed look, or left to over lap.
Choosing the Material and Style
There are several ways of going about inlaying a table top. The first would be to order sheets of ready made pattern or random mixed mosaic. Mosaics are sold on netted or paper-faced sheets of natural stone, ceramic or glass tiles and can be placed onto the table top with little modification if so desired.
Mosaics can also be removed from sheets, or purchased in loose tiles if a more custom look is desired. Purchase single sheets of different colors of material, and use the pieces whole to create patterns, or use tile nippers or glass cutters to break the pieces up to reconfigure into pictures and shapes.
Check with tile showrooms to see if they have odd lot material of mosaics on hand that can be purchased for well below list price. Some showrooms may also have old mosaic samples on hand from discontinued materials that they are willing to give away simply to make space. It never hurts to ask, and many unique and different materials can be acquired this way.
Setting the Mosaic
Once the able top has been prepared, measure how deep the indentation is, as well as the depth of the mosaic. Thinner mosaics will need to be built up with extra thinset to create an even top, while thicker mosaics will need less.
If using sheets of mosaic, trowel on the thinset to the depth required. For glass mosaics, be sure to smooth out any trowel marks before applying the glass, as these marks can be seen through the glass when complete. For thinner materials, try putting thinset on both the table, and the back of the mosaics to create extra height.
For loose pieces of mosaic, have the design pieced together off of the table, first. Apply small areas of thinset to the table and recreate the design one section at a time. Working this way will help keep the thinset from drying out too quickly, and will allow for plenty of time to be sure the design is right.
Wipe away any excess thinset, and remove any paper covering mosaic sheets according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Allow the material to set for at least 24 hours before applying a sanded grout with either a grout float or a sponge, being sure to pack the grout into the spaces between the tiles. To remove grout haze when dry, buff the table top with a dry paper towel. If natural stone tiles have been used, they will need to be sealed prior to grouting, to help ensure easy clean up.
Once complete, protect the surface from stains by applying a sealer to any natural stone or grout. Ornament the table with vases or pictures, or leave bare to display the design. Be sure to place the table where its unique properties and beauty can be enjoyed by all.