Sunday, 1 May 2011

Recycled Glass Tiles

Trev and I searched for Tasmanian tiles for the bathroom and discovered there are none. Mostly due to the prohibitive cost of sending them to the mainland and the cheapness in which one can import tiles from overseas. But we wanted something local. So true to form we found a hard way to go about it. Making our own.

We'd said no concrete, but as this involves minimal amounts of cement and it creates a thermal mass and utilises a recycled product we finally compromised and gave it the green tick of approval.

Onto the scene comes one angsty pre-teen with a, before now, unfullfilled desire to smash and break things. The desire survives parental approval. Caleb donned safety gear and happily smashed around 30 blue bottles purchased at a tip shop. He's since gone onto shades of green which are easier to come by.

Trev made up moulds from a sheet of form ply. I consulted him on percentages of cement to glass and sand and then went and did something else anyway. Yes, he does get frustrated. I discovered that filling half the tile with a mix of white cement and roughly smashed glass with no sand provided the best quality tile, the second half of the mould is topped up with a mix comprising less cement and more sand. Both in shades of boring gray. It will never be seen. Between the two different mixes is laid a sheet of fibreglass mesh that provides an added degree of strength to the tile.

Once screeded off and tapped and vibrated level the tiles are left a couple of days before the moulds sides are removed and the tiles turned over and revealed. They look boring. The white cement covers all the glass. Out comes the angle grinder with a coarse grinding attachment. Dust mask, gloves and glasses donned and off I go. The blue glass peeps through, then grows as the first layer of cement is ground back. I keep going till it's liberally sprinkled with beautiful blue chunky glass.
Next I mix up a small amount of white cement (which should have PVA glue in but I've never remembered to put it in yet) and use a plaster spatula to thinly spread the mix over the tile to fill in any air bubbles or holes. It's left to dry and then out comes the...

Variable speed polisher with a diamond polishing pad attached. I start at 50 'grit' and move slowly down to 2000 - by the time I'm finished the concrete is smooth with a sheen on it. It looks beautiful, I can even see my reflection. I look disgruntled. I have sore shoulders and a murderous headache. My carpal tunnel syndrome has flared up and I'm wondering why the hell it is we always have to do things the hard way. But the tile looks beautiful.

Repeat this process every weekend till hospitalised.

This weekend I've started a new tile. I found a design online and used it as a template for a feature tile. I've stuck down the design inside a mould and siliconed between the pieces. Trev gave me a good tip, to dip my finger in detergent and press the silicone to a similar depth the whole way around. Once this is dry I'll trim it with a knife so the lines are all the same thickness and remove the paper. Into each of the segments will go a mix of either green or blue glass and white cement mix. When the tile is complete it will have premade grout lines and hopefully look gorgeous in either the bathroom or the sun room.

I had intended to make black tiles with green glass for the sunroom but quickly discovered that you need nineteen mountains of black oxide and even then it's not a good black.

I learnt how to do this from youtube. There's a much more anal bloke who can tell you how to do it much better than I at Day Creek


Daffodil said...

WOW! Your tiles are going to look fantastic!!! I can´t wait to see the finished bathroom!

Jan Morrison said...

You are one inspiring broad! They look fabulous - makes me want to pitter patter fly atter myself.

Rebecca said...

They are beautiful! When you're done can you make some for me too? :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this. I have been catching up the past 4 years of your blogging, over a few day period. sometimes late into the night. a really good read. thinking seriously about a return to Tassy where i grew up.

I just get so sick of being marketed to 24 hours a day in society and manipulated on what i should think,eat, do. I can see that your life would kind of keep you out of this constant bombardment and you get to be cause over your existence.

I love to see Calebs adventures.
It reminds me of my youth, when you could leave the house at daylight, and return by nightfall and all this from the age of 6. The call from the parents at teh back door was - 'get inside!' - now in this day and age - it is 'get outside !' My 15 yr old daughter, a city girl, gets up in the morning so that she can sit down and be entertained in front of some screen or another. Spectatorism rather than Participation is very hard to combat. it kind of makes robots out of us all.

I love reading this, and good luck.
Adrian - from Adelaide.

Linda Cockburn said...

Oh Adrian, my sentiments exactly, it's the age of spectatorism - unfortunately Caleb is a child of his age and when I ban him from the computer he movies onto Facebook on his phone, ban him from that and it's the TV, from that and he resorts to using high tech electronic gear (my android) which took millions of years of our evolution before we gained the skills to creat - to make fart noises.

Also, must admit I thought Tassie might be about the quiet life, but I've never been busier. I talked to my doctor about stress once and he said, 'that's the problem with moving somewhere else, you always take yourself with you'.

Too true.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Linda.
yes, seems the tendrils of entertaining technology weed through our lives wherever we are. adrian

Anonymous said...

The tiles look fantastic, well worth the effort.It gives such pleasure to create your own household items.

Anonymous said...

No new blog entries? Is everything alright? How is the house coming along? - I bet winter has got you by the short and curlies :) Adrian

Anonymous said...

Concrete and fibreglass? I think you need to recheck the integrity of your "green tick of approval". :P

Linda Cockburn said...

Sometimes you just wonder what it is about people - the need for one-up-man-shit, the need to be the ultimate authority etc and disparage anyone elses efforts. Always amazes me. Having the kind of day when I'm on edge enough to say the last bloke needs to check his comprehension skills.

80% recycled glass to 20% cement with a 5gram grid of fibreglass reinforcement is actually more environmentally friendly than purchasing an imported tile to Tasmania.

Concrete actually has a low embodied energy, it's only the vast amounts of it we use that makes it environmentally unsound. We did the figures and it is a more environmental choice to have 24kg of concrete in our entire house project than to purchase the fired tiles.

It's easy to sit on the side lines and snipe.

outdoor products said...

Those look like great tiles. Although they look beautiful, I think it would've been a bit more "green" if you maybe used old bottles instead of buying new ones? Still this, looks like a great project to do.

Linda Cockburn said...

Not sure why you think we bought the glass new, it all came from tip shops and fished out of skips, though lots of friends saved us their wine bottles etc, no new glass was used in the making Outdoor products it would have defeated the purchase. That's why they 'recycled glass' tiles.


outdoor products said...

Sorry, I guess I just didn't know what a 'tip shop' was. I got it into my mind that since you purchased it there that it was new glass.

Linda Cockburn said...

realised afterwards that you probably didn't know what a tip shop was. I'd not come across them till I got to Tasmania either. It diverts waste from the waste stream before it hits landfill. They're situated at the tip and some are better than others, but they're all great. Amazing what you pick up, got my last uni text books too. If you don't have them in your state I'd be asking for them. Lots of groups use them to make money and provide useful employment for intellectually disabled people etc. Multiple outcomes.