Although more common for countertops, backsplashes, and walls, mosaic glass tiles on floors can imbue a room with a sense of lavish luxury. Invoking the elegance of an upscale spa, these luminous tiles can elevate the style and sophistication of any space. However, they can be a costly option and maintenance may be difficult in high traffic areas, so this is not the right flooring for every application. It’s important to understand the characteristics of the material before you make a decision.
These tiles can come in virtually any size and are available in standard as small as 1/2 x 1/2 inch. Squares and rectangles are the most common shapes, but specialty tiles come in a variety of forms. Some installations will combine glass mosaics with other types of tiles, such as metal or stone, using the glass as accent pieces.
- Elegant design: Probably the biggest benefit of using mosaic glass in a flooring application is the beauty that can be achieved with a proper installation. You have a choice between solid and multicolored tiles, which can then be arranged in simple or intricate patterns. Some stores will also sell repeating patterns, which can be used to create complex pictures and designs.
- Easy to clean: Glass tiles are resistant to stains, mold, and mildew. They tend to show dirt very easily so you will always know when it's time to clean. They are resistant to chemical damage and they aren’t porous, so you don’t have to worry about grime sinking into the tile. They are also very easy to clean and can be wiped down with a damp cloth or mopped up with warm water. In the case of soap-scum buildup in a bathroom, a mild vinegar solution can be used.
- A "green" product: It takes roughly half the energy to produce a glass tile as compared to a ceramic tile of similar size. You also have the option of using recycled glass tiles, which are made from reclaimed glass refuse.
- Luminous appearance: All but the darkest glass tiles will tend to reflect light rather than absorb it. This can make the mosaic pieces seem to glow with a luminous radiance that you can’t find in any other flooring material.
- Durability: As long as your glass tiles have passed the stringent ASTM standards required to be approved for use as a flooring material, they should be durable and resistant to cracking under anything less than a sharp direct force applied with a hard object such as a hammer. Scratches are another matter—glass tiles will scratch.
- High cost: One of the biggest drawbacks of using mosaic glass tiles is the price. You may find a bargain for $7 or $8 a square foot but the really attractive colors are going to be closer to $30 or $40. Repeating patterns can cost as much as $100 for a single square foot of the design.
- Difficult installation: Unlike ceramic or natural stone tiles, glass mosaics are particularly difficult to install. If you are not careful, the adhesive will show through the tile. Unless you are very experienced with laying tile, it's best to hire a professional—someone with experience working with glass mosaics. This may be expensive, but the cost of the material is so high that you don’t want a mistake to ruin the installation.
- Susceptible to scratches: While glass mosaics are durable and resistant to stains, they are susceptible to scratches. Over time, scratches will accumulate in a glass mosaic floor, and after several years the installation will need to be replaced. There are some colors and finishes that can be purchased which will hide damage from scratches.
- Breakage: While glass flooring tiles are quite durable, there are occasions when dropping something heavy from a great height will crack or chip a tile. This can then become a hazard for anyone walking on the floor with bare feet, as broken edges can be razor sharp. Unfortunately, glass tile repair can be quite expensive.
- Slippery: While textured finishes can be applied to the tiles, and grout lines can create some traction, glass is still a relatively smooth surface. In some environments, especially wet ones, it can pose a slipping hazard. The use of a non-slip throw rug can offset this somewhat.
Glass mosaic tile flooring is expensive to buy, difficult to install, and costly to repair. Over time, scratches on its surface can degrade the look of the tiles, requiring you to replace it entirely. However, if you have the money to do it properly, mosaic glass tiles can create some of the most beautiful floors possible.