Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Mosaic a Bench

Finding the Right Piece to Mosaic
This project started when my husband and I were walking from our apartment to a park in Santa Barbara and saw this garden bench sitting on the curb, waiting to be transformed.

After having been watching some home improvement shows, we knew we could turn this rough beauty into a work of art. We didn't think too much about it and we picked it up, walked back to our apartment and left it there until the next step.

The bench was in overall good condition but it definitely needed some loving. We cleaned it thoroughly, sanded all the surface (especially a portion that had some zap on it), and added a bit of wood to one of the legs so that it would sit steady.

A good friend of mine had told me about her recent mosaic projects and I thought this bench would look beautiful with a mosaic top. It even had a ledge all around to provide the ideal framing for the tiles!

When the bench was clean, I stained it a dark cherry wood color that I thought would much the rest of my furniture nicely. It is very important to do the sanding and staining steps in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoor to prevent inhaling toxic particles or chemicals.

Choosing & Finding your Tile
The next step was to find tile to use for the mosaic. For this I went to the tile stores in town. After I explained what I was working on, the clerk at the store directed me to the bins on the back of the store that had all the tile samples from the previous season. They told me I could take as many as I wanted so, with the help of a friend, I loaded up on as much tile as I could carry and then trained home.

I also went to Home Depot to buy a couple of color ceramic tiles. Later, I went back to the tile store to see if they had any yellow tiles because I didn't find any elsewhere. Turned out they did and they let me take a couple for free!

So far I had the tile and the bench was ready, but I didn't have a design.  Inspired by my hikes in Santa Barbara I decided to do a lizard mosaic with a background that resembled the Spanish tiles that are all over Santa Barbara. I looked for a lizard image that I liked online and, voila, I was ready to go!

Doing the Work with Tools
Ceramic tiles can be broken with a hammer but, stone tiles need to be cut with a heavier duty tool. To cut perfect pieces to fit nicely in each space, I bought a pair of mosaic tile cutters. When using these cutters, it is VERY important to wear eye protection as each time you cut a tile, there is the potential for shards to fly all over the place.

Stone tiles for the lizard. I had to buy a couple of color tiles from Home Depot to add the colorful background

After you have your design, you can start laying down the tile pieces where you'd want them to go. Once it's all ready, start glueing it using Weld Bond glue. Put a little bit of glue on each tile piece and apply pressure on it after setting it down on the surface.

Let it dry for 24-48 hours. You want it to dry well so that pieces don't come off in the next steps.

Before grout
Before grout
Choose a color of grout that fits your project well. White grout is striking, but harder to keep clean. Black grout creates a more formal look, but depending on the color of the mosaic pieces, they may not show up as well. Apply grout to the table, smoothing it between the pieces of the mosaic. Press the grout into the spaces to eliminate air bubbles, and extend the grout to the very edge of the table. When all spaces are filled, wipe off the excess grout with a damp cloth.

After grout
Allow the grout to dry completely. Buff the mosaic with a dry cloth to remove any haze left behind by the grout. Then apply a spray sealant to keep the grout from staining. I used penetrating seal (safeguard) and applied it with a piece of cloth.

After grout

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