New floors inside and out.

bathroom floor

We have had a busy first few days of May, finishing off two projects. In the bathroom we finally got to the last stage of the renovations, laying the mosaic floor. We got all the tiles for the floor free from a skip outside our local tile shop. Because the walls are light and include some subtle colour we wanted the floor to be quite dark and neutral as a contrast. For the wall mosaics we used ready-mixed tile adhesive as it is easy to use for precise applications of small tiles but for the floor we opted for a heavy duty cement based floor adhesive that we mixed up ourselves. This is more economical and we believe stronger for walking on. It is important to only mix up what you can use in about 45 minutes as it starts to set after that.

bathroom floor grout

Spread it on a small area and put down your bigger pieces first and adding smaller pieces where they are needed as you go. Some tiles are thinner and need a bit of adhesive added to the back as well. Use your fingers and the palm of your hand to check that all the tiles are level and you end up with a smooth, kind to bare feet floor.

bathroom floor on tile

bathroom floor pieces

bathroom floor hand

Let the adhesive set for a few hours or overnight before grouting. It is important to add the grout and keep smoothing it down, pressing it into all the gaps and crevices. When you are happy with the results let it set for a couple of hours before carefully wiping it with a damp cloth. You want to remove the excess grout but be careful enough not to rub too hard and take away too much grout from the joints. If you have never grouted anything before it might be good to start in a not so visible place of the floor to get the hang of it. Let the floor grout go off and do another wipe or two to get rid of all the excess grout. After that all you need to do is polish it with a dry cloth until it shines and admire your handiwork. We are happy to have made a beautiful strong floor that should last our lifetime, for next to no money, mostly with materials aimed for landfill.

bathroom floor grouting

bathroom floor clean

 While working on the bathroom we also made good use of the few sunny spells to put down paving stones on our outdoor area in front of the house. When we moved in we planted a beautiful old hawthorn tree, which we rescued from behind our shed, in the middle of our front yard. It is an ancient custom in Sweden to plant a tree for prosperity and luck in front of your house and since half of us originate from Sweden we wanted to honour this tradition. Around the tree we wanted a circle of paving stones and we were lucky to get some cheap from a neighbour who had them left over from a project. We started off with a small recycled mosaic circle set in cement and grouted with hypertufa.

mosaic circle

After that we dug down to slightly deeper than the paving stones height and added some sand for a smooth bed.

adding sand


circle with sand

The paving stones went on and were tapped down with a sledgehammer but we were not too bothered to get them all even as it adds character when they are slightly uneven. We added a dry hypertufa mix of one part cement, one part compost and half a part of sand to all the cracks. It is good to tap the stones slightly so the mixtures settle in and more can be added. We then watered all of it with a fine spray to wet the mixture and wash it away from the surface of the paving stones. Later we will add a little more hypertufa mix as it has sunk down from being watered and add a mix of yoghurt, moss and sugar to get the moss growing rapidly in between all the paving stones for a natural look. The total cost for this project was about €25.

bathroom floor 035


bathroom floor 029

Light at the end of the bottles.

We have been hard at work for over a month and finally we are starting to see the results of our efforts. One of the main reasons for our bathroom renovation was to raise the ceiling. It was so low that an adult was unable to stand up in the bath to take a shower. It always had a slightly claustrophobic feel to it. So the old leaking, low roof had to go.

 No roof

Along with a raised ceiling we wanted more light and our choice fell on a wall made out of old wine bottles and jars. Recycled glass is an environmentally friendly, free, beautiful resource. It is easy to come by and easy to use. What is not to like about it. We drank the odd bottle of wine, collected bottles from friends and ate a lot of pasta sauce and mayonnaise for a while. The walls in our bathroom are very thick so we only needed to pop a jar on top of each bottle and tape to secure. It is good to have a similar height to your glass bottle bricks as it makes the building a lot easier. You will need to play around with the different bottles and jars to get them to an equal height.  Make sure all bottles are clean and dry before taping them together.


After removing all the layers of the old ceiling and roof, we built up next to the window and on each corner with cement blocks that could easily take the weight of the new roof and filled in the sections in between with our made up bottle- bricks.


bathroom blocks

To save on cement we put insulation on the middle of the block in the same way we did on our bottle wall in our extension. You can read about all our construction techniques in the building category. The bottle bricks acts as double glazing in themselves so makes for a very well insulated wall.

bathroom bottles

over window

We filled in between the bottles with cement and smoothed it out on the inside and out. After that all that we needed to do was put on a 50/50 mix of PVA and emulsion for two layers followed by two layers of emulsion. We went for white and added some sand to the paint in the ceiling to get a similar look to the bottle sections and the ceiling. We added mosaics to the pillars and are very happy with the results. The result is a bright, personal and very cheap bathroom. About 80% of our tiles came from a skip so the main cost for our walls was for the few concrete blocks, cement, the tile adhesive and grout. But the best feeling comes from knowing we have impacted as little as possible on the environment by using mainly bottles and other recycled materials. It takes more time than tiling and building in a conventional way, but if you decide to do something similar, we think you will be very happy with the results. Please post pictures in the comments if you make something inspired by this post. We would love to see it.


bathroom painting

bath bottle

bath bottle 015

bath bottle 007

Wish upon a star mosaic.

whole wall

We have been hard at work for the last two days, tiling another wall in the bathroom. We had a lot of small mosaic tiles, about half of them found in a tile shop skip, and we wanted to incorporate some of them into the design on this wall. We also had some hexagon mirrors bought at IKEA and a round mirror with a shell mosaic around the edge. We played around with these components until we decided on a shooting star design.

 shooting star

The trail of the star was perfect for adding the small tiles to in curved lines, alternating colours and structures. We added a sections of mixed light coloured tiles each side, as a contrast to the busier colours and tomorrow we will do a slightly darker area of tiles all around the star. We are hoping this will make the star stand out in a pretty way. The entire wall will be grouted in a medium grey grout and it should bring all the areas together and create a beautiful whole. If you wish to see more of our mosaics just go to the mosaic category on the right hand side.

star mosaic start

star mosaic half way

A shooting star is very practical to have around as every time life gets a bit difficult or sad you can make a wish.

star mosaic wish

star and mirror

Bathroom Mosaic.

 bathroom mosaic

As part of our extensive bathroom renovations, we have now reached the tiling stage. Two days ago we started knocking all the old tiles and plaster of the walls, and yesterday it was time to get tiling. If you have read any of our other posts in the Mosaic category, you will know that we always keep an eye out for old, thrown away and salvaged tiles and mirrors. Most of the tiles for our bathroom come from free sources and saves us money as well as being good for the environment. For this project that has a lot of small pieces, it is easiest to use the ready mixed tile adhesive in a tub. It stays flexible for a long time and makes for easy positioning and a smooth surface. When digging in the garden we have found a lot of turquoise patterned old tile pieces. Our guess is that they were once in the house, perhaps in the very same room we are now tiling, as it used to be a small kitchen and not a bathroom originally. It feels good to put them up on the wall again, in a slightly different way.

bathroom old tiles

 It is important to have a design idea and here we started with the round mirror, building outwards with different tiles, like a mandala. Most of these components came out of a tile skip behind a shop.

bathroom mirror

For the bottom part of the wall we went for a swirl pattern. At first we tried just sticking the pieces on in a random design, but it looked quite ugly and had to be redone. We are looking forward to finishing this mosaic up today and have it grouted in a couple of days. It makes a huge difference to any design once it is grouted, bringing all the elements together.

 bathroom swirl

bathroom mosaic

This is the mirror above the sink,that we tiled and grouted a while back. It casts a great shadow on the wall don’t you think?

Mirror reflex.

Our house was built in 1924 and the bathroom bit was added at a later date, we think sometimes in the 1950’s or 1960’s. When we took all the tiles of the wall and knocked away the plaster we found a lovely old sash window. This was the original outside wall and we will now use the window as a feature in the bathroom, adding some shelves to it for both beauty and practicality. We had to knock out the glass as it had been glued over with old Christmas wrapping paper and painted at some stage. The window frame is in perfect dry condition, with no sign of woodworm, so we will build the shelves in a box behind it.

Knocking through.

Sash window

Tiling your memories.

Fireplace detail 3

Before moving into our home in January 2013 we needed to fix the fireplace in the kitchen. It is an open fire that has a back boiler and the hot water it produces can be used for baths and to heat the radiators. Unfortunately it had not been properly installed so there was a huge cavity next to the boiler and fumes could escape into the kitchen. The fireplace was nicely tiled but all of it had to come down, due to the repairs we had to carry out. So we were left with a blank canvas. We wanted to reuse the white tiles that had been on there and the ones taken of the kitchen walls as well as some white tiles friends had given us. We also wanted to incorporate a lot of pieces of broken plates and china. Every time we go for a walk we always keep an eye open for pieces of broken crockery. We have found some lovely pieces in the garden of our house as well, when planting trees and shrubs. They are especially nice to include as they belong to the history of the house. Some of them could go back to the 1920s when the house was built. As we are a family of six with no dishwasher, we also get quite a few broken pieces of our own. In fact our dinner plates are all old, some from our parents and grandparents and whenever we see a nice old pattern in the charity shop we buy it, even if it is just one or two plates. In this way it does not matter when a plate breaks as we will be happy to recycle it in a mosaic project, and there are always replacements at the ready. Including old crockery, coins and memorabilia really makes your tiling project unique and personal. Our apologies as some images are slightly out of focus, but they will still give you an idea of the project.

 Fireplace 1

There were a couple of pipes going from the back boiler to the tank and we had to build a cover for them. When it was done it looked so much like a house, that we had no choice but to make it into one. To bring some energy into the design we decided to make swirls and spirals from all the small crockery pieces, representing movement and gusts of wind. All our white tiles were used as a calming background to the colourful swirls.

 Fireplace 2

For a job like this, the readymade tile adhesive you can buy in a big tub or bucket is the best thing. We used small plastic toothed spreaders, which you can get in your tile or hardware shop. It is a fiddly job but very meditative and rewarding. Keep checking that your work is flat by putting the palm of your hand against it. Only spread the adhesive over a small section at a time.

 Fireplace 3

When it was all set and dry we used the powdered grout, mixing some grey and white for a nice colour. Follow the instructions on the package and keep wiping all your little pieces carefully when the grout is half hard to remove it from the tops but leave it in the gaps. A second grouting might be necessary. We also added a big Ash log for a mantle piece.

 Fireplace finished.

Fireplace detail.

We found the lovely metal tiles around the frame in a tile skip outside our local tile shop. They were happy for us to take away as many tiles as we wanted, but please remember to bring gloves and ask politely if you are planning an excursion. We really hope you will get inspired to try a mosaic project of your own. A table top, flowerpot or pot stand will get you going and then there will be no stopping you.

Fireplace detail 2

Mosaic for free.

summer 2014 046We have always been in awe of beautiful mosaic and when we bought our home in the autumn of 2012, we were thinking about how we could afford to incorporate them into our living spaces. We needed to renovate both the kitchen and bathroom, as well as tile several floors. At first we asked friends if they had any leftover tiles and we were lucky to get a lot of tiles that way. We then went to a few tile outlets and shops in our area and bought a few especially beautiful ones and tiles on sale. All of these shops were happy for us to take a look in their skips and that is when the real adventure began. We could not believe how many tiles are being thrown out. We found the lovely sheet mosaic shown in the center of the picture. It is lovingly handmade from  natural stone, and had been chucked out because one corner had a few stones missing. We also found all the surrounding tiles in a skip. In this way we have been able to make a floor for our kitchen, several walls in our bathroom, (a project in the making) and a tiled fireplace and splash-backs for the kitchen. The next big project is a 40 square meter floor for our new extension, entirely made from salvaged tiles.

We can highly recommend a visit to a tile skip in your area. Bring along some heavy duty gloves, ask politely for permission and be careful of all the razor sharp edges, but above all have fun and dream about what you can create with your beautiful finds. You will be doing the earth a big favour in the process.