Tile Talk December 2018 | Reducing Large Glass Tile Breakage

Top 5 Tips for Reducing Large Glass Tile Breakage

This month we are going to talk glass, and how to reduce breakage. I have found that glass can always be a little tricky.  So many variables to consider when determining 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’m going to share what I have learned through trial and error along the way. 

For starters, it’s important to use the right accessories with glass. Drill bits need to be a high-quality carbide tip or diamond encrusted bit, both specifically designed for glass.  Don’t use porcelain or stone bits with glass, as this will lead to cracking and breakage. Use tile nippers and wet saw blades specifically designed for glass tiles.

Cutting/drilling:  the key is always lots of water, and don’t go too fast.  Steady moderate pressure at a low RPM, and lots of water.  Another tip: when drilling or cutting, use platforms that will disperse most of the energy away from the tile.  Styrofoam, carpet pads, etc that will absorb the disruptive vibrations during drilling helps a lot.  This technique will also help to prevent residual cracking “post-cutting”.


 

Substrate: since the thinset thickness is minimal, any protrusions or concave portions of the substrate that touch the glass tile will directly lower the breaking strength of the system.  This means that the substrate must be as flat as possible with consistent thickness of thinset throughout the entire system.

Thinset: using the wrong thinset leads to separation of tile to the substrate, 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 have trouble with the pace and efficiency of yield with 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 leading to a compromise in mechanical bond strength.  Drilling into these compromised mortar beds will result in an increased risk of cracks, chips, and breakage.

Our Admired Tile is a “fused” tile.  Glass fusing is the technique used to join glass pieces together by partly melting the glass at high temperature. This is one of the most popular production methods for glass tiles.  In the past, this was my favorite type of glass, as it was easier to predict during handling and cutting.  Another advantage is that the 8 mm thickness (5/16”) will allow for a stronger tile, with higher breaking strength compared to the thinner 6mm, which is a common thickness with mosaic glass.

8×24 glass in Light Grey Tidal from the Admired collection.

This tile requires 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.  So, a product like Mapei Adesilex, mixed with the Adesilex latex admix is advisable.

To sum it up, here are Ken Ahn’s Top 5 Tips for Reducing Large Glass Tile Breakage: 

  • Use the right accessories with glass.  Drill bits need to be a high-quality carbide tip or diamond encrusted bit, both specifically designed for glass.  Don’t use porcelain or stone bits with glass, as this will lead to cracking and breakage.  Be sure to use tile nippers and wet saw blades specifically designed for glass tiles.
  • When cutting and drilling always use lots of water, and don’t go too fast.  Steady moderate pressure at a low RPM, and lots of water.  Another tip: when drilling or cutting, use platforms that will disperse most of the energy away from the tile.  Styrofoam, carpet pads, etc that will absorb the disruptive vibrations during drilling helps a lot.
  • A flat substrate is key. Since the thinset thickness is minimal, any protrusions or concave portions of the substrate that touch the glass tile will directly lower the breaking strength of the system.  
  • Use the proper thinset. Using the wrong thinset, leads to separation of tile to substrate, causing voids and gaps.  This leads to a compromised substrate with a low modulus of rupture and areas of compromised breaking strength.
  • Consider choosing a “fused” tile. This type of glass is easier to predict during handling and cutting.  Our Admired collection is a “fused” tile.   

The right tools, lots of patience, and thoughtful approach will lead to success.  No shortcuts.