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Reducing Large Glass Tile Breakage

Let’s talk glass tile. Specifically how to reduce breakage when working with large glass tiles. Cutting large glass tiles presents challenges with many variables to consider when determining the causality of breakage or underperformance.

My experience with glass tiles (for the most part) has been a misinformed understanding of handling, drilling, installation, tools, and cutting techniques. So, I’ll share what I have learned through trial and error.

Use the Right Accessories

Using the right accessories is vital when working with glass tiles. Drill bits must be high-quality carbide tips or diamond-encrusted bits specifically designed for glass. Using porcelain or stone bits when cutting glass leads to cracking and breakage. Use tile nippers and wet saw blades specifically designed for glass tiles.


The keys are using lots of water and move slowly. Use steady, moderate pressure at a low RPM and lots of water.
Bonus tip: When drilling or cutting, use platforms that disperse most of the energy away from the tile. Styrofoam, carpet pads, etc. that absorb the disruptive vibrations caused during drilling significantly helps. This technique also helps prevent post-cutting residual cracking caused by residual stress.
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Since thinset thickness is minimal, any protrusions or concave portions of the substrate that touch the glass tile directly lower the breaking strength of the system. The substrate must be as flat as possible with consistent thinset thickness throughout the entire system.


Using the wrong thinset separates the substrate from tile, causing voids and gaps. This leads to a compromised substrate with a low modulus of rupture and areas of compromised breaking strength. There are installers who need help with the pace and yield efficiency of glass tile installation because it is much slower (for inexperienced installers). This can lead to thinset overextending “pot life” or raked-on thinset “skinning” over, thus compromising mechanical bond strength.  Drilling into these compromised mortar beds increases the risk of cracks, chips, and breakage.


Our Admired tile is a “fused” tile. Glass fusing combines glass pieces by partly melting the glass at high temperatures. This is one of the most popular production methods for glass tiles. I’ve enjoyed working with fused glass, as handling and cutting are more predictable. Another advantage is that the 8mm (5/16”) thickness allows for a stronger tile with higher breaking strength than the thinner 6mm, a common thickness with mosaic glass.

8x24 glass in Light Grey Tidal from the Admired collectionAdmired Tidal Light Grey | 8″x24″

This glass tile requires a thinset specifically formatted for glass. In addition, because of the large size, the thinset must be mixed with a liquid latex admix; water cannot be used. This is very important. A product combination of Mapei Adesilex and the latex admix is advisable.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Sheesh! Can you sum it up for us, Ken?” The answer is yes, I can.

Top 5 Tips to Reduce Large Glass Tile Breakage

  • Use the Right Accessories
    • Drill bits: High-quality carbide tip or diamond bit.
    • Tile nippers and wet saw blades specifically designed for glass tiles.
  • Cut and Drill Using LOTS of Water
    • Take your time with the cut.
    • Steady, moderate pressure at a low RPM and lots of water.
    • Use platforms to disperse energy away from the tile and absorb vibration; Styrofoam, carpet pads, etc.
  • Flat Substrate is Key
    • Take measures to get your substrate as flat as possible-it’s worth the time and effort.
    • Evenly distribute thinset.
  • Use the Proper Thinset
    • Use a thinset specifically formatted for glass. Recommended: Mapei Adesilex
  • Consider “Fused” Tile
    • More predictable during handling and cutting.
    • 8mm thickness increases breaking strength.  Admired glass tile is a favorite.

Thoughtful approach leads to success. Reduce large glass tile breakage by utilizing the correct tools and cutting procedures, properly preparing the substrate, selecting adequate setting materials, and considering fused tile.

Until next time…

Ken Ahn, Quality Assurance & Technical Manager