Creating A Mosaic Patio
Design your own mosaic inlay for a creative custom patio.
E-mail This Page to Your Friendsx
A link to %this page% was e-mailed
Mosaics can be found just about anywhere these days vases, tabletops, walls and even in the garden. Host Ken Bastida shows how to install a beautiful sunken patio using broken ceramic tiles and warm Saltillo pavers.
Homeowner Becky Davis enjoys making mosaic tiles and wants to incorporate some into a bare area in her front yard (figure A). The mosaic patio will personalize the space, says landscape designer Dan Berger. The front yard, though, is so narrow that if he built the patio on grade it would be too close to the sidewalk. So he designs a patio that is sunken and builds up a mound in front of it to separate it from the sidewalk, which also adds depth to the front yard.
To give a seating area a sunken feel, you don't have to dig out a deep pit. You can just dig out an area about one foot deep and surround it with low mounds of landscaping to create the effect of a private, sunken garden.
Berger estimates that a professional would charge about $4,500 for this custom-designed, sunken mosaic patio, but do-it-yourselfers can save a considerable amount; the materials alone cost only $600. The mosaic is easy to do and a lot of fun. Pouring concrete and laying the pavers makes the project a little more difficult, so Berger gives it a 3 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (hard). The project takes about three to four weekends to complete.
Step One: Preparing the Site
Begin by marking out the shape of the patio with landscapers spray paint. This project is a curved, semicircular design that is 17 feet long and 9 feet out from the house at its widest point.
Dig out the area to one foot deep. Slope the surface 1/4 inch for every foot of length away from the house for proper drainage. Heap the soil into small piles in front of the patio. The mounds add height to the front yard and give more privacy to the seating area.
A frame for this relatively small patio is easy to build. Nail the end of one piece of bender board to another to extend around the curved perimeter. Stake it in place and check that it's level all around (figure B).
Spread out a couple inches of fine crushed rock called "quarter-to-dust" (25 cents per square foot, available at building supply stores). Line the patio area with a grid of 3/8-inch rebar, securing the poles together with tie wire. Use dobies (small pieces of concrete) to elevate the rebar so that the concrete will go underneath it.
Mix up some concrete and pour it inside the frame. Spread it out evenly using a piece of lumber to level it out. Smooth out the surface with a trowel (figure C) for an even finish. Let the concrete dry for 24 hours before removing the frame.
Step Two: Making the Mosaic
You can incorporate a variety of materials ceramic tiles, stained glass, pebbles, found objects into your mosaic design. Tiles cost anywhere from 10 cents each at salvage yards to $2 and higher at home supply stores.
Start by sketching out your design onto a large piece of plywood. For this project, Davis designs a sun that is four feet in diameter. To break the tiles, place a few in a shallow box and cover them with a cloth. Hit them with a hammer several times to create lots of pieces of various sizes and shapes (figure D).
Starting anywhere on the design, lay the tiles on the plywood. Use a small knife (such as an Exacto) to position the tiles how ever you want them, leaving small gaps between them (figure E). Vary the size, shape and color of the pieces as you go, but remember: there's no right or wrong way to do it.
Figure F shows the mosaic laid out. To move the mosaic design without spilling the pieces, use carpet masking material, which is sticky on one side ($40/100-foot roll at home supply stores).
Unroll the masking and place it sticky side down onto the entire mosaic design (figure G). Smooth the masking out by hand and ensure that it is in contact with all the tiles. Store the mosaic inlay in a safe place until you're ready to install it in the patio.
Step Three: Paving the Patio
Berger chooses Saltillo tiles, which are a warm and subtle color, so they won't detract from the mosaic tiles. They cost about $1 each at home supply stores.
Mark where the mosaic design will go in the patio. Mix up a batch of adhesive bonding mortar ($16/bag). Working in small sections, spread it out onto the concrete with a notched trowel. Set a tile firmly in the mortar (figure H). Continue setting tiles and make sure that they line up evenly. Use tile spacers to keep the spacing consistent between them.
When you reach the edge of the mosaic inlay area, mark the curve onto the tile (figure I) and cut it to size for a perfect fit. After finishing the tile work, allow the mortar to set up overnight.
Step Four: Mortaring the Mosaic
So that the mosaic will be flush with the Saltillo files, cut and mortar a piece of 1/2-inch-thick tile backer board ($10/sheet) inside the inlay area (figure J). Trowel a thin layer of mortar onto the board. Get a friend to help you set the mosaic in place over the mortar. Keep the plywood elevated to avoid contact with the mortar. Carefully slide the plywood out from underneath it. Press the mosaic tiles into the mortar and slowly peel the plastic away from the tiles.
With the mosaic in place, it's time to grout the tiles. Working in small sections, spread a standard grout mixture into the gaps between the tiles using a sponge trowel (figure K). Clean off any excess grout with a damp sponge. Smooth the grout over the mosaic, too, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. Allow the grout to dry. Apply a grout sealer with a small paintbrush or a sealer applicator. Clean off any smears within the first five minutes or so. Then let the grout dry for at least 24 hours. Figure L shows the completed patio.
Planting: A Mosaic Patio
Because the front yard is shady, Berger selects flowering plants with a lot of texture and foliage color that are shade tolerant and low-maintenance. He selects chooses plants in colors that match the mosaic tiles. Also, to keep the area low-maintenance, he adds hand-sized cobblestones to the mounds around the plants. His planting plan includes:
Chinese fringe flower 'Sizzling Pink', Zones 8-9, a compact woodland shrub with purple foliage and small pink blossoms
Yellow calla lily 'Sunshine,' Zone 11, with spotted leaves and striking flowers
Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n Gold', Zones 5-9, a shrub with bright green leaves edged in gold
The warm, earthy pavers are the perfect frame from the colorful inlay. The colors of the tiles are reflected in the surrounding plants, which give the front garden a much brighter and welcoming feel.
This "polka dot garden" adds curves and creativity to an ordinary square backyard.