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Old 07-11-2005, 06:01 PM   #2
John Bridge
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Houston, Texas
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Glass Tiles in Steam Shower

From Kim Hauner of Interstyle, Vancouver, B.C.


Hi there. I hope you don't mind if I join in. This is Kim Hauner of Interstyle. The tile you are installing is not manufactured by us, but 4"x4" glass tile is one of our specialties.

In a steam room you need to make sure that you have a waterproof membrane. You also want to make sure you have good separation between the tile and substrate. You can accomplish both by installing a crack suppression membrane. We recommend a peel and stick membrane such as Protecto Wrap, Mapei or N.A.P. Laticrete also suggests their waterproofing system as an option, although we have not tested it as a crack suppression membrane. Definitely do not apply the tile directly to the substrate.

Choose a white, fast setting, flexible thinset. The theory is that you need the greatest flexibility in the thinset because the glass tile is very inflexible. This will allow any movement in the installation to be absorbed in the crack suppression membrane and thinset. A fast setting thinset is desirable because the thinset will be applied between two non-permeable surfaces (glass and crack suppression membrane) and you may end up with some picture framing behind the glass if the thinset dries around the edges but not in the center of the tile. We recommend Grani-Rapid by Mapei. Be sure to use white thinset so that the color of the glass is not altered.

Use the smallest amount of thinset possible. Spread the thinset with a notched trowel (a 3/16th V notch will do) and flatten out the ridges with the flat side of the trowel (being careful not to remove thinset in the process). With tiles 4"x4" or larger we recommend back buttering the back of the tiles. All this will prevent the appearance of ridges or discoloration to show through the surface of the glass.

I prefer to apply caulking to the inside corners prior to grouting. That way you will end up with the most flexible joints possible while hiding the ugly surface application of silicone. Choose a mould resistant caulk.

Select the most flexible grout possible. Although the mould resistant properties of epoxy grout are very appealing, they are generally considered inflexible. For that reason we prefer a traditional polymer-modified, mould resistant grout that is carefully cured as per manufacturer's instructions.

Cutting glass tile can be a challenge using traditional tools. You may score and break a 4"x4" tile using a glass cutter and a ruler. Do not use a tile cutter because the wheels are not angled property to score glass.

An easier method is to use a wet saw with a proper blade for cutting glass. Standard blades used for cutting ceramic tiles, even continuous rim porcelain blades, are too coarse for glass and will rip out little chunks of color from the back of the tile. A better blade is a lapidary blade that uses very fine diamonds, or better yet, you can purchase a very inexpensive electroplated diamond blade. Electroplated blades are very thin and have very fine industrial diamonds plated to the outside of the blade. This prevents most of the chipping associated with ceramic blades. Be sure to cool the blade with water, or turpentine and water that will extend the life of the blade.

Cutting or coring holes can be accomplished in one of two ways. A nipper can be used to trim larger holes. Don't be greedy and nip little bits at a time. A glass coring bit is the preferred method. A glass coring bit is made with very fine diamonds plated to the outside of the bit. Be sure to cool the bit by using a water dam filled with water or turpentine and water.

One more hint about installing fixtures and anchors. Always anchor any supports directly to the structure and do not apply any pressure to the substrate or glass tile. It is best to drill an oversize hole on the glass and fill it with caulking. This will prevent any pressure to build up on the surface of the glass that may cause it to break later.

Sorry to be so long winded. I hope this is useful to you.
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