It shimmers, it shines, and if properly installed, it can be used in place of ceramic or stone on walls, counters, and floors.
Synopsis: The hottest tiles today are made of glass, which is often recycled. While they may be similar to ceramic tiles in terms of size, shape, and use, glass tiles stand out from the crowd thanks to their vibrant colors and intriguing translucence. Glass can be used anywhere other tiles are used, and even a narrow accent strip of glass can add sparkle to a surface. Learn about the different types of glass tile, its many looks and applications, and the precautions you’ll need to take during installation.
Walk into any tile showroom and among the sedate terra-cottas and earth-tone ceramics you’ll be dazzled by displays of brightly colored glass tiles. From candyapple reds to iridescent aquas, tiles made from glass are the hottest thing in the industry. With proper care in selection and installation, these pieces can work anywhere ceramic and stone tiles used to hold sway.
The ancient Romans made mosaics from small pieces of glass called smalti. They added all sorts of materials —metallic oxides, copper, bits of marble, and gold or silver leaf—to create various colors, surfaces, finishes, and textures.
Fast forward 2,500 years, and the basics are pretty much the same. Glass tile has survived and remains popular, for good reason: Besides its beauty and decorative potential, it also happens to be functional, versatile, and durable. It can be applied to almost any surface, and stunning results can be achieved using even the most ordinary tiles. The secret to making a striking statement involves the use of pattern and color, and often, using the tile in unexpected ways.
If this makes you want to immediately go out and select glass tiles, take pause. Glass tiles share many characteristics with ceramic ones, but there are differences, too. Though alluring, glass is fragile, and the tiles can expand and contract, scratch, break, chip, and stain. Technical considerations make certain types more appropriate than others, and installation is a complicated process best left to professionals. The options are so broad that picking and choosing which ones to use and where to put them can be daunting. They come in countless colors and incarnations and can be set in any pattern imaginable. Costs vary from reasonable to outrageous.
Bang for the buck
Because glass tiles can be pricey, and not all tiles work in all situations, it’s crucial to balance cost and function. You should have a clear idea of how and where you want to use glass tile and know its specific properties.
Some tile may be too slick to use on a floor but perfect for a wall. Vibrantly colored glass tiles are so beautiful and so commanding of attention that often a few can go a long way. Consider using the most-expensive glass as an accent amid a larger field of less-expensive ceramic tiles. Hand-cut glass tiles have an organic look, which you may either love or find too irregular to suit you.
Though any reputable tile dealer should be able to guide you through this process, some retail salespeople are not well versed in all the technical and design factors you should consider. In general, the same rules that apply to any decorative surface in your home apply here.
For photos and the rules regarding glass tiles, click the View PDF button below.