Address in a Box

Here’s a personalized gift you can craft in multiples, yet still make each one unique. The house-number tiles and the field of tiles and treasures between them combine to create a custom design.

You can use small tiles or break larger ones with a hammer or tile nippers. For this project, I peeled pieces from a sheet of 1/2-in.-wide mosaic tiles.

1. Measure the box that will contain the tiles and mark the dimensions on a flat work surface. Arrange the tiles to fit within the dimensions, leaving 1/16- to 1/8-in. gaps between tiles and around the perimeter. (An alternative approach is to create the tile layout and then build a box to accommodate the finished design.) Use a tile saw (power or manual) or nippers to cut tiles to fit as necessary.

2. Once you’ve laid out the tiles, carefully cover them with strips of painter’s tape so you can lift them into the box as a group. (If you’re using a mixture of materials of varying thicknesses, you will instead need to “butter” each piece with the adhesive and place it individually into the box so you can selectively build up the heights of the thinner materials.) Before applying adhesive to the box, mask off the frame sides above the height of the tiles.

3. Apply adhesive using a 1/8-in.-notch trowel]; then set the sheet of tiles in the box and gently press them into the adhesive. Starting at one corner, hold down the tiles as you slowly peel off each strip of tape. Check the spacing between the tiles and adjust any that may have shifted during the transfer. Before the adhesive starts to set (in 15 to 20 minutes), clean residue from the tile fronts and any globs from between the tiles. (A toothpick works well.)

4. Allow the adhesive to dry for 48 hours before applying grout. Cover the top surfaces of any textured tiles with masking tape to keep grout from collecting in the cavities. To work grout into the joints, you can use a grout float, a rubber scraper or your fingers (protected by plastic gloves). Wipe across the entire surface with a damp (not wet) sponge to remove extra grout. Wait five minutes and gently clean the tiles again with a sponge. After a light haze forms (in about 15 minutes), buff the tiles with a soft rag. Wait a few days; then seal the grout.

Supply List
House-number tiles
Mosaic tiles (or tile scraps, stones, shells, broken pottery, etc.)
Wooden box (built or purchased)
Latex-modified thinset mortar
Unsanded grout (or sanded if gaps are wider than 1/8 in.)
Grout sealer
Painter’s tape
Flat sponge
Tile cutter and/or nippers
Grout float, rubber scraper or plastic gloves

Want more?

Check out more tile tips.
Watch a video about removing a tile.