Upcycling has been popular for years. It is a great way to take a dated, unfashionable or scruffy piece of furniture and freshen it up. Upcycling furniture saves it from being thrown away when it often has many years of use left in it and, is often cheaper than buying a brand new piece of furniture. Tiled tables are the ideal candidate for an upcycling project – many of them are made from solid wood but have become a bit dated now. Most tiled tables aren’t very colourful either – the majority seem to be in shades of brown, white and beige. The least attractive ones can still be bought cheaply. Here we will look at how to go about upcycling a tiled table.
Why Upcycle a Tiled Table
A tiled table offers a bit more of a challenge to an upcycler than a plain wooden table. To really overhaul and refresh the table, the tiles (or a glass top) can be replaced, which is a bit more involved than just re-painting. The benefit is that fewer people will try and upcycled tiled tables will be less common than other types of table.
Another advantage to upcycling a tiled table is that tiles are durable – they can cope with regular cleaning and, practical – they should cope with the heat of a plate or mug without the need for coasters or creating ring marks on a wooden table top. If you choose Floral Tiles for your replacement tiles, the images on the tiles will be UV resistant ie. won’t fade in the sun.
I should note that although tiles are durable and long-lasting (the number of 1970’s second-hand tiled tables available out there is testament to that), they aren’t indestructible and can crack if hit hard. The grout can also become discoloured over time, but we do have a couple of possible solutions for that, which we’ll come to later on.
Upcycling a Tiled Table: Where to Find a Tiled Table
If you are an experienced upcycler, you probably know exactly where to find them. I found tables on eBay and Schpock. Also Gumtree and Preloved are worth a try. Local Facebook selling groups and Facebook Marketplace have a huge variety of things for sale nowadays.
When searching online, you might notice that some types of tiled tables do have high price tags (often labelled Danish and/or Mid-Century). Some sellers may not realise the value of their furniture, so even if it’s cheap, it’s worth checking whether the table you are buying is possibly worth more kept in it’s current condition than upcycled.
For a much more interesting way to find a tiled table, visit your local car boot sales and charity shops. Second-hand furniture shops, vintage shops and reclamation yards can be a tad expensive nowadays but they are worth a try (and fun to look around).
You don’t have to limit yourself to tables which are currently tiled, either. Tables which have glass on can potentially have the glass removed and replaced with tiles (such as the one I upcycle in this blog).
Do measure the area of your table which will be tiled before buying. If it is an irregular size, you may need to do some tile cutting, which you may or may not be happy about. More information on tile cutting later on…
I bought a nest of three of these tables from eBay for £7. They are sold and quite heavy, made from teak, probably 1970s or thereabouts. The glass removed easily and underneath was a sheet of green faux leather glued onto a wooden base. I’m pretty sure the world can cope with one less of these…
Upcycling a Tiled Table: What You’ll Need
You probably have quite a few of the things you need already, especially if you are already an experienced upcycler. You may not have worked with some of the tile specific things, such as grout and adhesive, before, but it’s all pretty straightforward and I’ll describe them each in detail throughout the blog:
Some new tiles
Tile cutter, tile saw, tile nippers, tile file (all optional)
A hammer (if you are removing old tiles)
Grout, grout spreader (I used a serrated knife)
A spirit level
Sandpaper, paint, paint brushes
Newspaper, a couple of cloths, masking tape
Safety goggles, safety gloves
Upcycling a Tiled Table: Preparing the Table
The table I used for illustration in this blog was in fact a glass-topped table, so in order to prepare the surface for the tiles, I just removed the glass (if you do this, please store it somewhere no-one will get hurt by it) and then had to scrape away at the glued-on green faux leather for a while. I found that dampening it with hot water and washing-up liquid helped to soften the glue and then I scraped it away with a chisel. This is how the table looked at this point:
If your table already has tiles on, sadly you’ll probably need to break the tiles with a hammer in order to remove them.
Please be very careful when doing this. Obviously be careful not to hammer your fingers. Also you might find that pieces of tile fly into the air. These pieces can be very sharp – so please wear safety goggles, gloves and cover as much of your skin as possible to protect it from cuts and injury. Keep children, pets and other people away from the area until you’ve finished, swept and cleaned up everywhere any shards might have landed – which can be several metres away.
You will probably have to hit the tiles quite hard (testament to how durable tiled tables are). I used a small hammer because this concentrated the force on the tile and didn’t put pressure on the table itself too much. They will probably crack at first and then begin to break into smaller pieces which you can remove (these pieces can be as sharp as glass – use gloves!). There might be some stubborn areas where the adhesive is, you can try hitting these sideways with your hammer, or try a chisel. Whatever you do – be careful not to hurt yourself!
Choosing New Tiles for your Table
Many people upcycle furniture to achieve a ‘shabby chic’ style. As I found before I set up Floral Tiles, most of the tiles available were plain colours or geometric shapes. If you’re aiming to create something really different and striking when upcycling a tiled table, using Floral Tiles could be a good option for you. They come in 100mm or 150mm square sizes, with many different colours and floral patterns to choose from. Our tiles can really help you create a beautiful and unique table which will last for many years to come.
Floral Tiles have been independently safety tested for exposure to heat and release of some metals, including Lead. The images are permanent and UV-stable (they don’t fade in the sun). Some are based on antique illustrations – perfect for a vintage look – and some started out as watercolour paintings – giving a hand-painted effect.
To see all of the tiles in our range, you can visit our online shop here.
Upcycling a Tiled Table: Cutting Tiles
You might find that your table is of a size where you’ll need to cut some of your tiles. This is usually more the case with glass-topped tables than tables which were already tiled. Already tiled tables tend to have tiles of 100mm or 150mm square – so if you are using Floral Tiles, no cutting should be required.
If you do need to cut the tiles, fortunately a tile cutter which will cut Floral Tiles (which are 6.5mm thick) is inexpensive and easy to get the hang of. I paid about £11 plus delivery from eBay for mine. I recommend practicing on a few plain tiles before cutting your final tiled table toppers. You may have more luck than I did, but I wasn’t able to cut a small section off a tile (eg a couple of centimetres), without the rest of the tile cracking using a tile cutter. Read the small print of what your tile cutter can and can’t do before buying. Tile nippers or a tile saw are better for removing small sections of the tile. These can be bought for about £8 each from Amazon. A tile file will help to smooth the edges of your cut tile, again, about £8 or so from Amazon.
Upcycling a Tiled Table: Applying Tile Adhesive
You can buy a tub of tile adhesive online (Amazon, eBay etc), in DIY shops (B&Q, Homebase etc) and in some shops which stock craft supplies (I bought a 1.5kg tub in Wilko for about £5 – enough for about 6 side-table type tables). If you already upcycle furniture, the place you usually source your supplies from probably stocks tile adhesive.
Some tile adhesives are also grout, so you wouldn’t have to buy grout as well. I found a 750g tub of tile adhesive/grout two-in-one on Amazon for about £4 plus delivery. This will grout about 10 side-table type tables (grout only).
If your adhesive states different instructions to these, ignore these and follow the instructions on your tile adhesive.
Covering enough area for one tile at a time, I spread the adhesive with an old serrated knife from the kitchen, onto the table. My adhesive instructions said spread to a thickness of 3-6mm. I found 3mm was plenty.
Put the tiles into place gently – without pressing down just yet. Tile an ‘L’ shape, one row of tiles across the length and one across the width, before applying the rest of the tiles (this will help you make sure you have the right size gap between each tile). Once you are happy with the positions of the tiles, press down onto the tile so that it really sticks onto the adhesive. If a little adhesive comes up through the gaps between the tiles, that’s fine, just wipe it away with a cloth as quickly as possible.
Try to make sure each of your tiles is flat and at the same level as the others – a spirit level will help you do this.
Your chosen adhesive will tell you the amount of drying time required before grouting. For mine, this was 24 hours. Time for a rest, or to prepare the next table!
Upcycling a Tiled Table: Grouting the Tiles
This part is a bit messy, but fun. Once your tile adhesive is dry, you can fill in the gaps around your tiles with grout. For this, I used the same knife as for the adhesive. Spreading the grout diagonally across the gaps can help it to reach the right places. If you use too much, try to remove the excess soon, as it does start to dry quite quickly.
It’s not the end of the world if it does dry, it’s just easier to remove it while it’s soft. I used a cloth to wipe off the excess (suggest not rinsing out the cloth in your sink in case the grout hardens in your drains – use an outside tap if possible or just throw away the cloth afterwards).
To tidy up the grout in the gaps between the tiles, while the grout was still soft I wrapped my finger in the cloth and gently ran it along the lines.
You’re aiming for something like this:
The instructions on my grout said that the tiles could be polished after an hour. There were some lumps I hadn’t removed properly with the cloth, which were now hardened. To remove these, I gently scraped them off with a teaspoon. If you are using Floral Tiles, the images are permanent and can withstand the level of scraping required here without being damaged. However, as previously noted, tiles aren’t completely indestructible so apply only as much pressure as you need to.
Upcycling a Tiled Table – Ready for Painting!
So now your table is ready for painting. I’m sure you don’t need instructions from me on that subject, but one tip specific to tiled tables is to make sure you don’t get paint on the grout (I used masking tape to cover it), as it won’t come off and you may end up having to tidy it up by painting the grout back to it’s original colour.
Let’s just take a look at the finished table:
Preventing the Grout from becoming Discoloured (Optional)
There’s just one more (optional) step now. I mentioned earlier that the one disadvantage with a tiled table is that over time, the grout can become discoloured. One way to prevent this is to use an acrylic resin coating over the tiles and grout. This protective coating material can be bought as a spray or a liquid. It dries and hardens to create a protective coating over the tiles and grout (some manufacturers claim it is the equivalent of 50 coats of varnish). When choosing, pick one which can cope with the heat from a plate or mug.
If you prefer the more traditional, vintage style unvarnished finish to your tiled table, you could consider using coloured grout. Then any discolouration will be far less obvious than if you had used white grout.
Your Upcycled Tile Table is finished!
Let’s look at it with some pretty things on it and remind ourselves what it originally looked like:
I hope you’ll agree it’s a big improvement and this table now has a new lease of life. Instead of becoming landfill, this table can now be used as an occasional table, side table or coffee table for many more years to come. And as far as I know, it is the only one of it’s kind!
Hopefully you have enjoyed upcycling a tiled table and are keen to do it again. To give you more ideas of what is possible, here are a couple more I upcycled:
A reminder that we have dozens of tiles to choose from in our online shop, plus lots more tiles ideas and inspiration in our blog section. We’d love to see your finished tile tables, please send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on all the main social media sites, including Houzz and Instagram. Best of luck!