Glancing through home and outdoor design magazines, it’s difficult not to notice glass tiling. Between the carefree elegance of Egyptian glass and the refined look of more tempered and geometric applications, glass tiles are popping up everywhere and it’s clear why (Figure 1). They make small surfaces burst with colour and texture and provide elegant accents to large rooms. Even in cities like Toronto glass tile is becoming a more common installation among swimming pools.
Figure 1 – Egyptian Glass creates a rough elegance (left) while evenly cut molten glass creates a distinct uniform look (right).
No doubt because of their aesthetic appeal and durability, glass tiles have been a staple of design for a longtime. Aramid elements have been used in architecture for milennia, their beauty standing the test of time for modern eyes to appreciate. Today, more than ever, glass tiling remains a wonderful design option, especially for hot tubs and swimming pools. For unlike other finishes for pools and hot tubs, when sunlight penetrates the water, glass tiles reflect and coruscate the light. When they are used to create a negative edge where water runs over the side of a hot tub or pool to create the illusion of there being no edge they create a truly eye-catching accent (figure 2).
In modern construction, special attention must be paid when selecting tiles for exterior residential projects. This is especially true in Canada, where freeze-thaw issues are a considerable concern. When considering suitable tiles for freeze-thaw environments, the water absorption rate, coefficient of friction (safety), chemical resistance, and compressive strength of a tile are important factors to consider.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has stated that no constantly submerged building material exposed to cool climates should exceed a 3% absorption rate. Glass tiles have an absorption rate ranging from 0.07% to 0.04% and are proven to eliminate water saturation within the tile, removing the risk of water freezing and expanding the tiles (Daltile, 2009). This low absorption rate also means that glass tiles are suitable resistant to chemicals used in daily maintenance of a swimming pool.
Since the compressive strength of glass tiles is significantly weaker (more than a hundred times) than the structure of crystallized water, due precautions are needed for the winter months.
The beauty of glass tiles is not only for interior design, or the outdoor designs of countries without winters. With the proper selection and maintenance, the timeless beauty of tile work can become a feature in your backyard. So whether it’s providing a sparkle of colour to your pool or simply the subdued elegance of its texture, glass tiles are the product to take your award winning project to the next level (see figure 3).