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