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Dreaming of sitting at a patio table in the sun!

The best time to plan a project is when you have the time or inspiration! Replacing the tile on a patio table may sound like a summer project, but planning it in the other three seasons is certainly appropriate.

I got into my own business because I love working with my hands. If you do too, you can re-tile your own table. Before there was A Home and Garden Handyman, some dear friends asked me to help them re-tile a beautiful patio table. The table had begun to shed some of its natural slate tiles due to every home owner’s enemies, time and weather, specifically the frost/thaw cycle. For the new tiles, they took the opportunity to choose a tile palette that picked up the colors of their patio chairs nicely.

As a mass-produced product, this table was molded to a mosaic of tiles rather than tiles laid on a table.

Each tile was laid out in and the table poured into the pattern

This prevented the simple replacement of individual tiles. I quickly discovered this while trying to remove a couple of tiles. Each was a unique thickness, but the overall surface of the table was level!?

I had come prepared for battle with tiles. I used a rotary hammer in hammer only mode with a tile removing blade bit to persuade the tiles to part ways. These can be purchased or rented if you have no other demolition or concrete drilling in your future.

After removing the tiles, the underlying “table” was a series of various depth pockets surrounded by resin "grout." To get a flat and even surface again, I affixed a layer of cement backer board. I used “Wonderboard ” brand. Less than two full sheets covered this 5' x roughly 5' table. This goes down on a layer of thin set mortar to fill in the voids, and is fastened with screws to the face of the table, just like if you were covering a floor or a counter.

Now find and mark your center x and y axis to find your starting row and dry lay out the tile to to test for fit. I also cut out the umbrella pole hole at the center of the table. My friends had purchased the materials for the job, with the expectations of doing it themselves originally. This gave me an opportunity to try out a product I had not used before, a double-sided adhesive designed to replace a thin set adhesive. This is a boon for vertical installations like back splashes as it avoids sagging tiles. It may present a challenge if you need to adjust or re-position a tile, it is very sticky! Place the tiles very gently if you are not sure of your positioning.

dry laying out the tile pattern to check measurements.

This way you can pull them back up. Having laid out the pattern prior to putting down the adhesive, the tiling moved quickly till I got to the edges and had to start making cuts. I had purchased a wet tile saw when I tiled my own kitchen floor. It did a great job cutting the simple straight lines that I needed. This too can be rented or purchased if you see a future in tiling! I had a few more projects in mind!

A wet tile saw is a great way to get clean straight cuts

With the tiles on, the next step was to grout the joints. I used a premixed grout designed to be more flexible and water impervious without requiring to be sealed after the fact. It is relatively more expensive than a self mix bag per pound, but when you factor in the extra time of sealing the grout later and the added durability of the premix, it pays for itself. The grout went on beautifully. If you are grouting for the first time, don’t be put off by what looks like a complicated process. You simply trowel some grout onto the tile and with a grout float, work it into the space between the tiles pulling it diagonally across the surface of the tiles. Once you have scraped off the excess with the edge of the float, you wipe the top of the tile with a clean damp sponge. This gives a uniform level and finish to the grout. Rinse and repeat. Depending on the weather, the grout may set or harden quickly. This table was done on a balmy summer day in the shade of a canopy! (I love that memory on a cold January night!) Do as much as you can work in the set time described on the grout container or bag. Move to the next section and rinse and repeat. It helps to have a couple of sponges and a couple of buckets of clean water. When you have finished grouting, wipe the whole project down with a terry cloth to remove any remaining grout haze. Let the grout set and then, like a summer drink, set an umbrella in it and sit back and admire your custom tiled table! You will enjoy it for years to come.

Many thanks to my friends who saw my potential and commissioned the work! It is always a pleasure to work on a project that turns out to be beautiful and functional!

Let your patio tile reflect your inspiration! Finished table in its natural habitat. Note the shed in background. Another blog to follow

If you are motivated to and interested in re-tiling your own table, don’t be put off by the scale of the project, just set it out of the way so you can tackle it over time. If however your interests and ambitions are elsewhere or you just lack the time and tools, you could have A Home And Garden Handyman do it for you!

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