• In this video, This Old House features editor, Amy R. Hughes explains how to make a a tabletop using old tile.

    Part of the fun of making the table featured in this how-to video was rooting through the tile crates with TOH reader Rosi Zingales at Olde Good Things in New York City. Our first find was an 1890s 6-by-6-incher depicting a Spanish Colonial mission, for $45. This, we agreed, would be the centerpiece. Next were four flowered accents, $8 each, and 30 yellow-and-white marbled tiles from an old fireplace surround that we bought in bulk for $40. We also uncovered the wrought-iron table base with a recess for a glass top in a dusty corner of the shop.

    Step-by-Step

    1. Lay out your tile design on a 1/8-inch-thick Masonite board that's cut to the inner dimensions of the tabletop's recess, and set it inside the base. (Seal the porous board—front and back—with a coat of polyvinvyl glue, such as Weldbond, first so it won't absorb the tile adhesive.)

    2. Set 1/8- and 1/4-inch spacers (sizes vary based on the layout) between the tiles to hold them in place.
    3. Mark the tile bottoms where they overlap the edges of the table, being careful to follow the contours of the top.
    4. Wearing latex gloves and protective glasses, use a wet saw to slice the tiles along the pencil lines.
    5. Smooth jagged edges with a grindstone (shown) or tile file.
    6. Replace the tiles in their grid to check the fit. If there's still a slight overlap, take off the excess with the grindstone.
    7. Working from the center out, remove tiles one at a time, spread ceramic adhesive on their backs, and then stick them on the board. Use a thick mastic, such as Henry 314 ($9 at hardware stores), which allows you to build up a bed under thin tiles so their surfaces are all level. Replace the spacers and let the adhesive set for 30 minutes, then remove them.
    8. Position a flat board on top of the tiles, and weight it down. We used pattern weights from Rosi's costume shop (she makes clothes for theater and film), but bricks or a couple of phone books will do.
    9. Wait 24 hours for the adhesive to dry before removing the weights, popping the board out of the table base, and grouting the tiles. Use a sanded grout for filling gaps 1/8 inch wide or wider. Spread a thick coat of grout over the surface, and then work it into the gaps.
    10. Remove the excess grout from the tile faces with a rubber scraper. Spritz with water, and sponge off any remaining residue. Fit the tiled top back in the base, and let it set for 48 hours before applying a sealer to the grout lines. Then go ahead and use your stylish new table.
    (Note: This table is fine for occasional outdoor use, but it should not be left out during rain or snow.)
    • Three hours over two days (24-hour dry time, required)
    • Tile about $100; Table base $15
    • Difficulty: Easy
      Spreading tile adhesive and grout is as simple as icing a cake.
Ask TOH users about Salvage

Contribute to This Story Below

    Video Directory

    Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • wet saw
        Wet tile saw
      • grout sponge
        Tile grout sponge
      • plastic spacers for tile
        Plastic spreader
      • margin trowel
        Small trowel or old batter spatula
      • rubbing stone
        Grindstone
      • latex gloves
        Latex gloves
      • safety glasses
        Safety glasses

      Shopping List

      1. Salvaged tiles: $3 to $65, depending on size, detail, and rarity; Recycling the Past

      2. Vintage metal table base: find these on eBay and at flea markets for about $15

      3. Tile spacers: use 1/8-inch thick Masonite board (sold at your local lumber yard) or purchase 1/8- and 1/4-inch tile spacers (at hardware stores) 4. Weldbond polyvinyl glue, $3.50 at Ace Hardware

      5. Henry 314 Multipurpose Ceramic Tile Adhesive (small container)