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Unread 07-05-2013, 07:16 AM   #1
jobondur
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Glass Tile on Plaster Walls

I am getting ready to install a new kitchen backsplash and wanted to get some advice from the experts before moving forward. I will be installing 3" x 12" glass tiles onto plaster walls. Most of the wall has a layer or two of paint on it, which I'm not willing to scrape completely off. I also don't want to add a layer of CBU or other backerboard because I'd like to not build the wall out. My questions are:

1 - Can I just tile directly to the plaster? If not, what is your recommendation?
2 - I assume I should use a white modified thinset? Anything special in particular or just a normal modified thinset?
3 - What notch size trowel should I use?
4 - One guy told me to wet down the walls with a sponge really well prior to tiling so the walls wouldn't suck all the moisture out of the thinset. You agree? Anything else I should do?

Thanks for your help...
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Unread 07-05-2013, 08:51 AM   #2
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It really boils down to the type of paint on the walls. If it's enamel, I would rough it up with some sand paper and use thinset over it. If it's flat latex wall paint, you could use thinset right over it. If you wet down the flat paint, you could probably scrap it off the walls after the water soaks in a little. So, I wouldn't wet the paint unless you plan on removing it.

First, I would look in the tile box for a list of recommended thinsets from the manufacturer. Yes, it's usually a modified white.

If the tiles are transparent, you may have to use a notch trowel to get the correct amount of thinset on the wall and then turn the trowel around and lightly flatten out the notches in the thinset. This will keep you from seeing the lines thru the tiles.
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Unread 07-05-2013, 09:03 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Davy. I'm positive the top coat is a latex and the coat underneath is likely latex as well so that makes things easy. What about the spots that are bare plaster? Do I need to do anything different over those spots?

Also, define transparent. They are painted backs but if you hold it up and hold your hand behind it you can definitely see the shadow of your fingers (and pretty well defined).
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Unread 07-05-2013, 09:19 AM   #4
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Some tiles are clear and the notches will show thru the tiles, best to flatten the notches anyway. Did you find any literature in the box?

Thinset is fine over the plaster areas as long as the wall is flat.
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Unread 07-05-2013, 09:35 AM   #5
jobondur
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Can't say what literature's in the box, haven't picked it up yet (just ordered Wednesday). Walls are fairly flat.

Any advice on cutting the glass tile? At $5 a tile, I don't want to mess up many of them. I've got a wet tile saw (cheap one) and have heard to cut them nice side down. Agree or does it matter?
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Unread 07-05-2013, 11:11 AM   #6
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If the backs are translucent, I would back butter them to make sure of 100% coverage before applying them. While knocking the ridges down may be helpful, your are still likely to get bubbles and voids just going straight to the wall.

As far as cutting the tile - unfortunately there is no substitute for trial and error there - how good it works will depend on your blade, how smoothly it runs in your saw, how chippy the glass is, and how chippy the coating on the back is.

If you try it both ways - right side up,down and it still is not good enough, a true glass blade may be needed, they have a finer diamond structure, and make a smoother cut.

You can also try a rubber mat under the tile to dampen vibration, and making a zero clearance support (cut partially through a big cheap tile to make a gap that supports your tile closely at the blade as you cut it).
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Unread 07-05-2013, 09:29 PM   #7
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Yep, what Kevin said. Cutting up side down may chip the surface too much but cutting right side up may chip the paint on the back side.
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Unread 07-07-2013, 10:10 AM   #8
jobondur
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So here's what I learned about cutting glass tiles yesterday for anyone that may read this and be interested.

Cutting glass tiles hurts if you're not careful. It puts up tons of little shards of glass that constantly need to be cleared away to keep from cutting yourself to pieces. I kept the garden hose next to the tilesaw and after each cut I rinsed off the table of the saw, my hands and arms, and the tiles. Even still I got cut a number of times. Also, more so than any other tile I've ever dealt with, make certain you use those safety goggles. I had plenty of glass shards hitting me in the face over the course of the day yesterday and those things could do some major damage to an eye.

Glass tiles will ALWAYS break before you get to the end. You have to learn to manage that break in a way that doesn't mess up the tile. The best luck I had was cutting halfway and then turning the tile around and cutting in the other direction. That way when the tile does snap you're left with a straight edge that just needs to be cleaned up a little instead of it snapping off at an angle.

If you need to cut a piece close to the end without breaking off the end (e.g. a U cut to go around a receptacle in my case), you're likely to break the tile if you're not really careful. I had luck doing this by starting further in on the tile and nibbling out toward the short edge. That way when the glass broke it would break in the path of least resistance (to the direction I've been nibbling from). Took me two broken tiles to figure that one out.
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Unread 07-07-2013, 10:13 AM   #9
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Josh, yes and did you have a glass blade for your saw? It is glass so common sense would apply but good idea with the garden hose. Cutting around outlets
with that is really fun isn't it?

Lets see some pics a what you did yesterday
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Unread 07-07-2013, 11:08 AM   #10
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Sure. Here are a few pictures. Just waiting to grout the joints.

Which brings me to another question. The Versabond bag is somewhat confusing. I'm either supposed to wait 12-24 hours before grouting or 36-48 hours. Anybody know which? I'd like to grout today if possible but will wait if that is recommended (the pool and a beer are calling my name).

If it matters, I'm using TEC AccuColor un-sanded grout with Grout Boost additive instead of water. The grout lines are 1/8".
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Unread 07-07-2013, 11:09 AM   #11
jobondur
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Oh and I had success with just a regular tilesaw blade. I figured I'd give it a try before buying a glass blade and it worked fine.
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