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Mosaic tiles are a classification of tiles that are usually 2 inch (5 cm) or smaller pieces. They can be squares, most commonly found in home improvement stores, or odd shapes usually purchased in a craft or art store. They are made of various materials including glass, ceramic and porcelain.
The term mosaic refers to a picture or design that is made up of many smaller pieces of material. The artwork by this name originated thousands of years before the modern age in all areas of the world. The original mosaics were made of materials ranging from terracotta and stone to gold pieces and glass. Eventually, pieces were created specifically for use in creating these elaborate pictures and the mosaic tile was born.
Today, mosaic tiles are popular for creating elaborate patterns like those found on backsplashes and entryways. They are also used for making tiled or random patterns on clay pots, mirrors and other decorative items. Their small size makes them an excellent material for assembling intricate designs and combining a variety of colors. When many mosaic tiles of the same color are placed side by side in a single area, the effect can be a very striking modern look.
The color palette for mosaic tiles is very wide. They are traditionally very bright and vibrant, but can be found in just about any color imaginable. Many are iridescent or textured in an unusual way to increase their versatility and artistic interest.
There are two ways mosaic tiles come packaged for purchase. The most common way they come packaged is on paper or mesh sheets that hold the tiles together in a properly spaced pattern. These are extremely convenient for making solid color walls and floors. Single tiles can be pulled and replaced with other colors to create random patterns. Very small pieces or odd shaped ones tend to come in large bags of like color.
To lay mosaic tiles, the process is very similar to laying any other tile. Thinset mortar is used as the binder between the surface and the tile when working with a backsplash, floor or other home tile surface. In these situations, the tiles are grouted after they are set. For making patterns on smaller decorative objects, many choose to use a mortar and grout combination that serves both purposes and requires only one step. The tiles are pressed into the mixture until they are set within it. This is particularly helpful when dealing with odd shaped or recycled glass pieces that are very difficult to grout.