Natural stone has a lot of depth and beauty to it when used on its own. It also comes in a wide range of different colors, finishes, and styles to complement a number of different homes. Even so, many people like to mix stone with other materials including glass, ceramic, and metal, to help enhance the look they’re after.
In mosaics to large format tiles, natural stone can be mixed in a number of different ways with other materials. The key to doing this successfully lies in ensuring that that the surfaces are level once the installation is complete.
Most natural stone tiles measure roughly 3/8-inch in thickness. Other materials may be this thick, but frequently things like glass, metal, and some machine made ceramics are thinner. So when mixed with or laid next to the stone, the other material appears to be depressed into the installation. This may allow the edges of the stone to show up at an unnatural angle and can potentially ruin the look of the installation.
To solve this problem, a dry layout should always be performed prior to installation. During this dry layout, you can easily see where the stone tiles may be thicker than the surrounding materials. Installation can now proceed in one of two ways; you can install the stone tile and leave a gap for the thinner materials to be installed later once the first layer of thinset has dried, or you can back butter the thinner tiles as you go.
If you choose to use a gap, you’ll still need to back butter the thinner tiles, but the first layer of thinset helps add a degree of control so there is less chance of the tiles sinking too deep or causing lippage. Back buttering as you go can be faster, but calls for additional control to ensure that the right amount of mortar is used and the tiles beaten in properly.
When done right, mixing your stone with a material like glass or metal can bring out the beauty and the depth of the stone to enhance the whole room. Pay close attention to tile thicknesses to ensure you get the look you’re after.