by Pierre Hébert
Originally inspired by Roman mosaics and stained glass art, contemporary designers continue to transform today’s walls and ﬂoors with glass tile creations. An explosion of glass tile technology over the past decade has also produced variations in style and texture. No matter the glass tile’s size, shape, thickness, surface ﬁnish, or backing, tile-setting mortar manufacturers have a solution for every installation.
Glass tiles are frost proof as well as resistant to heat, fading, and discolouration. Easy to clean and impervious to water and stains, glass tile is suitable for interior backsplashes, showers, swimming pools, fountains, and other outdoor decorative applications.
As the market for glass wall tiles ﬂourishes, the popularity of glass tile ﬂoors also grows. Similar to laminate ﬂooring, glass ﬂoor panels can be manufactured in any size, and can be produced in any colour or remain transparent.
Large-format glass tile rated for ﬂoors are usually textured to provide skid resistance and help hide scratches.
Variety is the spice of glass
Variations in shape, size, thickness, surface ﬁnish, and texture are all factors affecting the look and feel of a glass tile installation. These differences should be considered before the proper setting and grouting materials are selected.
While square is the most commonly manufactured glass tile shape, other geometric options include rectangles and polygons. Geometric shapes are typically used as border tile or decorative inserts while irregular, handmade pieces are more commonly used in mosaics or as decorative inserts. Rectangular pieces give the impression of width or height, while rarer-shaped octagons offer a unique appeal.
Size and thickness
Glass tile can be custom ordered in any shape and size. Small glass tiles measure 25 x 25 mm (1 x 1 in.), 50 x 50 mm (2 x 2 in.), or 25 x 50 mm. While small tiles can be purchased individually, they are more commonly mounted in 305-mm (12-in.) squares with a mat backing or removable paper overlay.
Larger glass tiles measure anywhere from 102-mm (4-in.) squares, extra-large at 610-mm (24-in.) squares, and more. The standard thickness for glass tiles ranges from to 4.5 to 8 mm (3/16 to 5/16 in.), with thicker options offering the most intense colour. The use of glass tile any thinner than 4.5 mm is rare due to higher vulnerability of breakage during shipping and handling.
Glass tile ﬁnish can be glossy or etched. Since glossy ﬁnishes appear more luminescent, they tend to reveal manufacturing ﬂaws, cracks, and scratches. While this makes them unsuitable for ﬂoors and countertops, glossy ﬁnishes are ideal for showers and pools. Etched ﬁnishes appear opaque, offer less brightness and subtler depth of colour, and are used in residential and commercial applications.
Whether the tile is ﬂat, rippled, low, random, or relief, each texture creates its own visual interest. Flat and rippled textures offer reﬂective, pool-like qualities, ﬂat-texture tiles have a smooth ﬁnish, and rippled textures ‘ripple.’ Low-texture tiles have small dimples of consistent depth across the surface. Random texture tiles feature irregular ruts and peaks, giving the tile a mottled appearance. Relief tiles are moulded into various shapes for use as borders and decorative inserts.