Mosaics: material options, design trends, installation systems, and grouting.
Offering a wealth of design possibilities, mosaics are an incredibly versatile option for a wide range of projects. Whether they’re used as an accent to add a splash of colour or texture, tiled across full walls to create striking features, or used on floors to create wet rooms, they can bring any space to life; as well as offering a practical finish that is suitable for many applications. Not just for bathrooms and kitchens, mosaics can add interest to any residential or commercial space, from reception areas to bars.
Selecting a material
One of the most notable things about mosaics is just how many options there are in terms of materials. From simple ceramic and porcelain mosaics, to sheets containing a blend of natural stone, glass, and metal, there are a plethora of combinations available. The choice of material mainly comes down to two considerations: where is it going to be used, and what look are you aiming to achieve.
Mosaics that are made entirely from natural stone or porcelain are suitable for use on floors as well as walls, making them a popular choice for wet rooms. Mosaics containing glass are recommended for use on walls only, as the glass pieces could be susceptible to scratching if used on the floor.
There are different types of metal pieces that can be used within mosaics: those that are hollow aluminium pieces similar to sections of tile trim are suitable for use on walls anywhere, while metal pieces that have a ceramic or porcelain backing are not recommended for use in shower enclosures or anywhere where standing water may collect, as over time there is a slight risk of water getting behind the metal fascia, especially with power showers. The best way to tell what type of metal pieces a mosaic contains is simply to view a sample from the reverse side.
While there are definite dos and don’ts in terms of whether mosaics can be used on the wall or floor, the choice of mosaic material based on aesthetics is much more subjective, and the best way to narrow down your selection is by viewing samples alongside other elements of your design scheme.
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an increase in the number of customers opting for a fully co-ordinated look, with porcelain mosaics being used alongside the matching tiles from which they’re made. This gives a contemporary finish that allows designers to create interest in certain areas of the room, but in a subtle way. Porcelain mosaics are available in a range of shapes and sizes, from classic 50 by 50mm squares to more design-led hexagons and chevrons. Porcelain is also the most practical and low maintenance of the mosaic materials, as it is simple to cut, does not require sealing, and is easy to clean.
Ideal for adding a splash of colour, glass mosaics are a consistently popular choice for both domestic and commercial applications. With a huge range of shapes, colours, finishes, and designs available there is a glass mosaic to suit all styles, from timeless black and grey, to bright colours and metallics. Glass mosaics may often have a backing which shows through the glass and gives them their design, such as a metallic foil or even fabric.
In line with interior design trends, we’ve recently seen a rise in the popularity of copper and gold tones, with mosaics being used to co-ordinate with accessories and fittings. Once installed correctly, glass mosaics provide a waterproof and low maintenance finish that can simply be wiped clean.
Arguably the most luxurious look is achieved with mosaics that combine different materials, such as glass, natural stone, and metal. The contrasts in shade, texture, and depth, create a real focal point and are a popular choice for feature walls and splashbacks.
Not only are there different materials to choose from, there are also different finishes. For example, metal pieces can be shiny or brushed; glass can be smooth, frosted, or hammered to give a textured finish; and natural stone can be polished, honed, or tumbled. So there really are hundreds of combinations to choose from. One of our most popular mosaics is Ashby, which features a mix of brushed metal pieces in varying sizes with textured glass pieces. The glass pieces have a linear metallic fabric backing which sparkles in the light, adding to their depth.
Natural stone is the most traditional mosaic material, and still one of the most popular. From travertine to marble, there are many options available depending on the look you want to achieve. Classic tumbled stone gives a timeless spa-like look to walls and floors, while polished marble offers a sleeker and more contemporary finish. Natural stone mosaics are available in many shapes and sizes, from squares to hexagons.
One of our best-selling natural stone mosaic designs features marble hexagons in a blend of tumbled, polished and textured finishes. Remember that, just like larger format natural stone tiles, stone mosaics should be sealed before and after fixing to prevent staining, but once installed correctly they can be very hard wearing and suitable for floors as well as walls.
While the majority of mosaic sheets are roughly 300 by 300mm in size, there are lots of different options when it comes to the shapes and sizes of the individual mosaic pieces. Small square mosaics are a consistently popular choice as they give an elegant look and they are easy to fit into curved or awkward spaces with minimal cutting. Stacked linear designs are also a popular choice and can be fixed horizontally or vertically to create different looks. Although slightly trickier to install, as an element of cutting will be required, offset linear patterns that interlock with the adjoining sheet are incredibly popular thanks to the contemporary finish they create. Modular layouts that feature a mixture of different sized squares are still popular despite having been around for several years, and the addition of newer finishes, such as copper, keeps them contemporary.
Many design trends from wall tiles are reflected in mosaics. For example, hexagon mosaics, herringbone patterns, and chevrons are all on trend right now. Following the trend for all things industrial or vintage, mirrored mosaics with an aged appearance are another popular choice that look just as stunning in a domestic bathroom as they do in a high-end bar or restaurant. Glass mosaics that have a wood-effect finish with a subtle metallic sheen are one of the latest additions to our range.
In terms of how mosaics are used, recently we have seen a move away from the more traditional look of mosaics being cut into strips and used as borders between tiles, as people are favouring full feature walls or decorative panels instead. Mosaics can be used to create a focal point such as a vertical panel behind a sink in a bathroom, or behind the counter in a retail outlet, or they can be used to zone different areas within a room, for example within a shower enclosure.
Before fixing, remember that mosaics containing natural stone should be sealed to prevent staining using an appropriate sealer. To cut the mesh backing of mosaic sheets, simply turn them over and mark on the back where you need to cut, then slice through the mesh using a sharp knife or scissors. If you need to cut any of the mosaic pieces themselves, a wet wheel cutter with a blade appropriate to the material of the mosaic is recommended.
One of the many benefits of mosaics is that they are relatively simple to install even in awkward spaces such as alcoves. Their flexibility means that certain mosaics can be tiled onto curved surfaces or sloped towards drainage, for example. As with any tiling project, the surface being tiled onto should be clean, dry, and flat, and this is especially important with mosaics as their flexible nature means that any imperfections in the surface being tiled onto will be especially noticeable. For uneven walls or floors we recommend using a cement-based backer board designed especially for tiles, such as our ProBacker board, which provides a flat, stable, and moisture-resistant surface for tiling.
Although their flexible nature can be a benefit of mosaic sheets, for straightforward installations onto a flat surface many fixers choose to use our MosaicFix backing sheets.
These are self-adhesive plastic mesh sheets that stick to the back of the mosaic sheets to make them more rigid, speeding up installation and reducing the risk of alignment issues. Once the MosaicFix sheets have been applied to the back, each mosaic sheet is simply fixed and grouted as normal.
To avoid show-through, we always recommend using a white adhesive to fix mosaics. Use a cementitious adhesive rather than a dispersion or ready mixed adhesive and avoid using strong alkaline grouts or adhesives with glass mosaics as these can affect the decorative backing. Several specialist mosaic adhesives are available and we would recommend using one of these.
Super fine grout is ideal for use with mosaics, as coarser grouts can scratch the surface, particularly of glass or metal mosaics. When grouting, work on a small area at a time and clean off any grout residue as you go along. Gently wipe a wet sponge across the surface of the mosaic once then rinse the sponge before wiping again, to ensure that grout residues are not dragged across the surface of the mosaic. As with larger format tiles, the appearance of mosaics can be changed by using different coloured grouts, though we still find that white tends to be the most popular with glass mosaics as it keeps the colours looking bright and clean.
To summarise, mosaics are wonderfully versatile and offer a vast number of design possibilities for any project thanks to the choice of colours, materials, shapes, sizes, and finishes available. In addition to the typical bathroom and kitchen installations they can also be used to decorate unusual spaces such as stair risers or curved pillars, so they offer almost limitless potential.
At Verona we have a long history of supplying mosaics and we offer a wide range, from concrete effect porcelain to mixed finish marble to luxurious glass, metal, and mother of pearl combinations; all of which are held in stock in our West Yorkshire warehouse. As we are also the UK’s leading distributor of tiles in porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone, we offer full room solutions that match mosaics with larger format tiles to suit any project. For more details about how we can help you bring your projects to life, please don’t hesitate to contact us.