Laying Salvaged Tiles

Reader Contribution by Kyle Chandler-Isacksen
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Several years ago when we were living at the River School Farm in Reno we learned how to make use of salvaged tile with this simple and effective technique. It surely has been mentioned somewhere on the web before but we love it so much and just made use of it again that I wanted to share it myself.

We recently built a small sunroom off of our mudroom out of salvaged lumber, mortar, grout, and tiles. Our 1948-built house has terrible orientation to the sun so winters, even in super sunny Reno, are very dark for us. This little sunroom (about 100 square feet) houses our laundry sink with our wringer as well as Katy’s pottery kick wheel and gives us a place to soak up some rays as we read, work, exercise, or eat while we let the fire die down inside. We plan to finish two of the walls with earthen plaster when the weather warms and better finish the wood walls with some salvaged pallet pieces.

Finding Tile

There are several tile stores in Reno and it took Katy all of 15 minutes to find four that had tile they were happy to give away. One store even has it stacked up in their parking lot along with slabs of granite and marble available to anyone who wants to swing by. We were also fortunate that another store had grout to give away. What’s available is a wonderful hodgepodge of last year’s styles, showroom samples, slightly damaged tiles, or those returned by customers. We spent an hour or so visiting the stores and collecting what we liked. There were several packs still in their original, unopened packaging. Most were some sort of tan color in a variety of sizes and some still had price stickers on them for $7 or $8 each!

The Technique

The key is to pick enough of one size (say 12 inches x 12 inches) to fit in a row in the space you are tiling. Our rows were a little over 9 feet long so nine of the 12-inch square tiles made a row. We also picked up some 6-inch, 16-inch, and 20-inch tiles along with little decorative “fillers” — shiny pebbles, glass rectangles — anything that can make up the odd leftover spaces you want to fill if you don’t have a tile saw or just like the look of it, like us. We laid out the tiles without mortar to see how they looked and fit. When we got it like we wanted we took up a row or two and laid them out in order atop the adjoining rows. Then we spread out the mortar on the plywood and laid them in place. Voila!

The result is a beautiful, free, durable tile floor using recycled tiles that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

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