Should You Install a Glass Tile Backsplash? If So, Which Type?

Full Frame Shot Of Glass Tiles
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If you're thinking that your master bathroom, powder room, or kitchen needs a new backsplash, you've probably considered glass tile as your medium of choice.  Why are you hesitating on pulling the trigger then?  Maybe because this is a monumental decision that, if you don't like it, would cost many hundreds of dollars and significant labor to reverse?  Before cutting that first tile, here is some guidance...

Let's just establish this:  glass tile backsplashes are trendy.

Just look in the latest home remodeling magazines, or walk through that custom model home you've been mining for decorating ideas, you'll see a glass tile backsplash just about everywhere you look. While you do love the translucent beauty and warmth that glass backsplashes bring, you also wonder if it's just a bit too trendy.  If installing glass will immediately date your house.  

Designers agree on the trend factor.

In a discussion of subway tile, which is another of those "Eek, is this thing too trendy?" tiles, designer Maria Killam brings up pencil-thin glass tiles as an example of a current trend.  She says that this tile came some time after ubiquitous ceramic subway and plain-Jane mosaic tiles, yet before fancy, scrolly Ann Sacks-like laser cut geometrics.  

Type of glass tile matters, though.

Designer Susan Serra discusses how it's not so much glass as it is the type of glass tile that screams "tile du jour!" to everyone.  The aqua-blue mosaic tile was used as a signifier of the "modern kitchen" in the late 2000s (2008 to 2010) and that more recently, large translucent glass subway tiles have been popular.  So, the glass itself is an acceptable material.  Always has been, always will be.  

Does glass tile break?  It can, but not here.

Accidental breakage isn't a problem for glass backsplashes because this is a vertical area that doesn't get as much abuse as countertops.  While you might slide a heavy item into the backsplash--big turkey pan, blender, mixer--chances that it will break are highly unlikely.

Try to mix glass with other materials.

Don't think that the entire backsplash tile field needs to be glass. One popular version is to install field tile of ordinary ceramic, with a glass tile six-inch off-set band. This is a strip, one or two inches wide, running six inches above and parallel to your kitchen countertop.

The glass isn't always mosaic, either.

Consider your full range of tile sizes. While glass mosaic tiles are a popular choice for backsplashes (Compare Prices on Glass Mosaic), not all glass tiles are mosaics. You can find glass tiles in a range of sizes--pebble, 2" x 2", 4" x 4", and more.

For easier installation, choose mounted glass tile.

There are two varieties of glass tile you should be aware of, both of which make a huge difference when it comes time to install: mounted and unmounted glass tiles.  Glass tiles are usually pre-mounted on mesh backing that gives the tile a bit more of a consistent look by ensuring they're evenly distributed. Usually, for mosaic tile, the tiles are about 3/4" squares, though this size can vary. For the DIY tiler, mounted tile is much easier to install.

Unmounted glass tile

Tiles that are stained glass usually come without the mesh backing. These take a bit more to time to install, so plan accordingly. The good news with stained glass is that you have greater options as to pattern and color since you will not be buying the glass in sheets and instead going from scratch.

With the paper off, the tile saw is returned to your rental center or best friend, and you're ready to grout. If you choose a lighter shade of grout, you should be aware that you will need to keep pace with cleaning it on a regular basis. The earth-tones and darker grout colors hide the dirt better.

Recycled glass is also available, an increasingly popular choice in the green remodeling circles. Not only do recycled glass tiles have the green "stamp of approval," they have a certain rustic character not found in new tile.