7 Problems With Glass Tile Backsplash & Solutions (Explained)


Glass tile backsplashes offer good and beautiful backdrops in a kitchen. They are durable and stain-resistant. These customizable backsplashes allow you to have limitless design options. However, there are several disadvantages of glass tiles you should be aware of.

Here are the most common glass tile backsplash problems:

  • Show-through imperfections 
  • Cutting and installation damage
  • Cracks due to temperature fluctuation
  • Scratches
  • Difficulty reinstalling outlets and switches
  • Cleaning difficulties
  • High cost

Read on to learn more about these problems and the solutions for addressing them. 

1. Show-Through Imperfections

Glass tiles are translucent, so black lines along the tile edges and imperfections with the thinset application can show through the backsplash. 

If the tiles are not set perfectly against each other, the space between their connecting edges can appear as black lines.

If the thinset behind is not even and smooth, it can create air pockets and voids. You can see them through the clear or light-colored tiles, and it also prevents the tile from sitting flat against the background.

Solutions

Installing glass tiles perfectly is an art. Ensure that your installer knows The Council of North America’s (TCNA) standards for installing tile correctly. 

If you are not using a highly experienced glass tile installer, you can do it yourself with time and attention to detail. 

Do the following:

  1. Map out your plan for the backsplash design you intend to create. 
  2. Apply the thinset adhesive with a notched trowel. 
  3. Then, backcomb or back-butter the trowel to level and even out the ridges and bed for the tiles on the wall. 
  4. Apply thinset in the same manner on the back of the tiles in a thin layer. It must be even and perfect on both surfaces. 
    • When the tile’s thinset is pressed onto the wall’s thinset, they will bind, removing any voids or ridges and preventing them from showing through the glass.
  5. Practice on a piece of scrap wood or thick cardboard and tiles to get the feel and motion for creating an excellent thinset layer.

You may purchase glass tile with white backing as a protective layer during handling. To remove this backing, do the following:

  1. Place the tiles in a bucket and cover them with warm water. 
  2. Add a squirt of dishwashing liquid to help release any adhesive. 
  3. Let the tiles soak for 10 minutes and then remove the backing. 
    • If adhesive remains, repeat the process and rub the backs with a soft cloth to remove it. 
  4. Rinse clean and allow the tiles to fully dry before installing.

Choosing Thinset

Choose a thinset mortar that is a bright white to boost the vibrancy of clear and translucent tiles. Bright white thinset also offers a uniform appearance behind the backsplash. 

The best adhesive is a mortar with a high polymer content. This offers superb bonding, resistance to impacts, and reduced water absorption.

All thinset used should be from the same brand and batch to ensure color consistency behind the tiles.

Additionally, refer to the product label, and choose mortar that resists shrinkage upon curing. If mortar shrinks while drying, it will create voids and air pockets.

Choose glass tiles that do not have metallic, painted, or mesh-covered backsides. These will not bond well to the thinset.

2. Cutting And Installation Damage

It can be hard to install glass tiles on your own if you do not have precise glass cutting tools such as a wet saw, a manual scoring wheel, a bar cutter, and wheeled mosaic cutters. 

If using tools that are not designed to work on glass, the material will crack and splinter, rendering it useless and unattractive with jagged edges. 

Cracking can happen on both small and large glass tiles for walls

Solutions

Practice cutting glass with the right tools before you install the backsplash. Become an expert! 

Buy ten percent more tiles than what the project needs to accommodate errors and cracked or broken tiles.

This video demonstrates how to cut glass using a two-bar tile cutter:

Some people that work with glass often will score the tile and then snap them.  

To do this complete the following steps:

  1. Mark the cut with a straight edge and a washable marker. You must use precise measurements.
  2. Use a bar cutter to slowly score the tile along the line.
  3. Using your fingers, snap the tile along the score line.
  4. Smooth the edges with a rubbing stone before installing it.

If you decide that glass tile installation is not for you, seek out a professional with experience. 

Ask for references and examples of their work to ensure you have the best person to create your backsplash.

3. Cracks Due To Temperature Fluctuation

Glass tiles are non-permeable and resist moisture. However, if they were installed in such a way that heat from direct exposure to sunlight or appliances can reach the thinset through the seams, cracking can occur. 

Solutions

Consider installing glass tile only where the sunlight or stove top does not heat the wall.

Use a polymer-based thinset that can handle temperature fluctuations better. Temperatures over 120°F can reduce the bonding strength of the mortar. 

Silicone caulk should also be used on joints since it can accommodate any movement from flexing tiles.

Apply thinset during installation in ideal temperatures from 60°F to 80°F.

4. Scratches 

Once glass tiles are installed, they are strong and difficult to break. However, they can be scratched on the surface, causing grooves that debris and grease can settle into. This will make them appear damaged or dull.

Solutions

Make sure your tiles are sealed along the grout lines, by using a commercially made sealer for use with glass.

Clean them with non-abrasive soft cloths or sponges. 

Use care when prepping food and using appliances near the glass tiles.

5. Difficulty Reinstalling Outlets And Switches

When designing a glass tile backsplash, the outlets and light switches must be accommodated. The screws and covers for the outlets and switches can hit the glass and crack it with the turning pressure.

Solutions

Ensure you have created a cutout space that will accommodate the covers when you install the tile. 

Keep in mind that the glass tiles create a thicker surface and you may need longer screws to grip the threads of the cover plate connection holes. Or, you can use a pair of diagonal cutters to strip the lower threads of the screw to get the screw to go in deeper.

If you need to drill into the glass to create a hole, use a diamond-tipped core drill bit designed for use with glass. 

Do the following to drill a hole in glass tile:

  1. Wear protective glasses and ventilate the room. 
  2. Drill a small starter hole as a guide. 
  3. Use turpentine to lubricate the hole and drill at a slow speed. 
  4. Then, insert the drill bit at a 45-degree angle, turning it to 90-degrees as it enters the tile to prevent cracking. 
  5. Pull the drill bit out at a slow speed to avoid damage.

If you have anchored fixtures, such as lights that go through the tile, your hole should be ⅛-inch wider than the anchoring screws. This will reduce the stress of the weight of the fixture on the tiles to reduce the chances of cracking.

6. Cleaning Difficulties

Backsplashes protect the walls from food prep splashes, grease, and other debris. 

Glass materials, such as windows and glass tiles, need to be aggressively cleaned and buffed, especially when removing grease and oily fingerprints. Otherwise, the glass will appear smudged and streaked. 

Water spots will also dry and settle on the glass, leaving a cloudy or dirty appearance.

Solutions

Use a glass tile sealant over all of the tiles and grout. This will protect and make the glass tiles much easier to clean. Follow all product labels to ensure the sealant is applied correctly.

If you are installing glass tiles in focal points of your backsplash, opt for locations that are not behind the sink or stove top to reduce the amount of grease and water stains on them.

To clean the tile, use a wet, soft cloth and mild detergent. Rinse the surface and buff it with a soft cloth to remove water spots. 

The glass tiles will not be hard to maintain if you clean them regularly.

7. High Cost 

Glass tiles can be up to double the cost of ceramic tiles per square foot. 

The total cost of glass tile will depend on various factors. These include quality, manufacturing costs, and availability. If glass tiles are imported or the raw materials to produce them are in high demand, the cost will go up.

Design, style, and pattern will also affect the cost upon installation. A glass sheet and larger tiles will be easier and faster to install. Smaller tiles and designs will require more time and effort, thus increasing the labor costs of installation.

If the glass tile backsplash becomes damaged once on the wall, it will require extensive removal and replacement. You cannot simply tile over a glass tile backsplash with another material if you choose to completely change the look of your backsplash.

Solutions

You should shop around. You may be able to find quality tiles on sale or premade glass mosaic tiles for design. 

Consider using glass tiles as a focal piece in the backsplash and use a different material, such as ceramic tile, for the remainder of the backsplash.

Measure the area that needs the backsplash and make a budget. Your budget should include installation and any shipping fees. 

Use this information to guide you in making your decisions on what and how much glass tile should be used in your backsplash.

Pros and Cons Of Glass Tile Backsplash

This article has reviewed problems and solutions for glass tile backsplash. These issues could also extend to glass tile used in other places, such as in the shower

The table below shows a brief overview of the pros and cons of glass tile backsplashes:

ProsCons

  • Custom design to represent personal aesthetics

  • Reflects light and makes the area brighter and appear larger

  • Stain-resistant

  • Mildew-resistant

  • Easy to clean (if sealed)


  • High cost per square foot of material

  • Shows smudges, grease, and water spots easily

  • Installation issues that show black lines, cracked tiles, and uneven thinset

  • Need for experienced or highly-practiced installation

  • Damage after installation will be difficult to remove or repair

In Summary

The majority of the problems with glass tile backsplash are a result of improper installation. 

Glass tiles must be installed on evenly applied polymer-based thinset and cut with glass precision-cutting tools.

You should practice cutting and installing glass tiles before doing the project or hire a professional with specific experience with glass. 

That said, glass tile backsplashes are not going out of style any time soon. We hope this article helped you decide if glass tiles are part of your next kitchen remodel project.

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