Carly Rubach

Tile a Coffee Table

By - Mar 4th, 2012 04:00 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

I went into this coffee table tiling project thinking it would be a breeze but I hit a few bumps along the way. Lucky for you, I’ll tell you what I did wrong so you can get it right the first time.

My initial trouble came with gathering the materials for the project — namely the tiles. I figured a local Home Depot or other hardware store would have a pretty nifty selection of colorful 4″ by 4″ tiles. Boy was that foolish. I found a small selection of tile but nothing with pop or pizzazz, and I was looking for pizzazz! So, I reached out to a local artist who directed me to Wits End Mosaics based out of Pulaski, Wisconsin. I ordered my smaller 1″ by 1″ tiles from here and my 4″ by 4″ tiles from Tierra y Fuego via Once I realized that I needed to order my materials online, I was eager to get the process moving.

Since this tutorial is a bit more detailed, let’s begin!

Tiled Coffee Table


21 – 4″ by 4″ tiles (# depends on size of table)

82 – 1″ by 1″ tiles (# depends on size of table)

Tile adhesive

Pre-mixed grout (I got most of my materials from Brady Street Hardware — this is one of my favorite places in town because the employees always direct you to what you’re looking for and if you ask, they usually have some tips to help you with your project).

notched spreader

sanding sponge




Measure the table top area that you are working with.

I then recommend using a program like Adobe InDesign to map out the pattern because you need to be sure you’re working with accurate measurements. Create your square or rectangle shape and then start copying “building blocks” to fill in the space. Make sure you account for additional spacing for the grout (1/8″-1/4″).

I decided to go with one solid tile color because I was looking for simplicity and flexibility with utilizing the piece now and in the future. Tierra y Fuego has so many beautiful decorative Mexican tiles that I would recommend using if you have more courage than I do.

First, sand down your table if you will be painting or staining and also sand the table top that you will be tiling.

Since I was working with a mirrored glass top, I first needed to apply a primer coat of the tile adhesive to the glass. This was indicated by the product instructions. Check the application instructions before using the adhesive. I just had to mix 1 part water with 2 parts powder mixture. And keep in mind, a little goes a long way and when the adhesive dries, it dries hard and sticks to your mixing bucket.

Let the primer coat dry (if you need to prime) and then take a deep breath because laying tile on a fast-drying surface is beyond frustrating.

Mix your next batch of adhesive and use your spreader to work in small sections at a time. Apply your adhesive and begin laying tiles. Try to lay one row lengthwise so that you can make sure you have your spacing down. Next, lay down one row of the width of the table. I did not do this and was scrambling and cursing and angry. I think this method will allow you to shift things around before they dry and ensure a consistent look.

Continue applying adhesive and laying tiles until you are finished. My adhesive said to let dry for a few hours before grouting.

I had a difficult time with grouting–took me about half the table to get into a rhythm. Use your spreader to fill all of your grooves with the grout. I worked in sections with this step too.

Once you fill the cracks of a designated area, take a damp towel or cloth to wipe the residue off the tiles. I found this would disturb some of the grout, so I’d just take my finger to fix any whoopsies.

Continue this process until grouting is complete.

Go back with your damp cloth and wipe down the tile, you might have to hunker down and get real detailed with the corners so your tiles really sparkle. Take a dry cloth at the end to clear any remaining debris.

If you have no intention to paint your table, you’re done!

If you are painting, make sure you use painter’s tape to protect your new table top. Prime and paint your table as you see fit!

I hope you consider this decorative method to give your coffee table a unique edge. Happy grouting!

0 thoughts on “TCDIY: Tile a Coffee Table”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unbelievable, such beautiful looking table made by tiles. Thanks for sharing this tips and tricks for making it so beautiful.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Like you, when I went to Home Depot looking for tiles for a backsplash for my kitchen sink, there was nothing, who would have thought this? Good article and project!

  3. Anonymous says:

    […] out this tutorial on how to transform a planter […]

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us