Making mosaics

Okay, crafty types – I’ve got in mind a mosaic project. I want to make tall (6 foot or more) sticklike decorations for the garden. I’m thinking PVC pipe for the base – but none of my preliminary research is giving me anything on applying mosaics to a plastic surface, just wood (obviously no good for an outdoor project), concrete, glass, and metal.

Is there some reason PVC wouldn’t work – probably scuffed up to improved the bond – or is it just that no one has ever thought of this before?


Bueller? Anyone?

Without any real evidence, my guess is that it just won’t work. PVC pipe flexes, at least a bit, and can get hard and brittle in cold weather. My guess is that your mosaic would eventually peel off or disasterously fail. Offhand, though, I can’t think of any substitutes.

Thanks – that’s helpful. Well, not as helpful as “I’ve done it and it’s fine” would have been, but helpful in the sense of “you really don’t want to do this and there’s a reason,” which is better than doing it and having the disastrous failure.

Sounds like metal pipe would work, but it’s so much more expensive. Hm. Maybe there’s some fence posting or something that would be less expensive than copper tubing…

dons thinking cap

You will have to key the pipe first by sanding it, then how about applying a layer of contact cement and sprinkling it with sand to make it a really rough surface for the grout.

Flexible grouts are available, but PVC pipe might flex more than you can reasonably expect them to cope with. You could bed and grout the tesserae with white silicone sealant. Another possibility is to prevent them flexing by filling them with concrete after installation (if you do this, I’d recommend filling them in layers, allowing each to cure before pouring the next, otherwide it might just all burst out of the bottom.


Make a mould out of some very thick-walled plastic pipe, split lengthways, then strapped back together, suspend some steel rebar down the axis and cast a concrete pillar; when it is set, remove the pipe and apply your mosaics to the (incredibly heavy!) concrete pillar.

I’m planning a Big Mosaic Project ™ myself, and I bought a book so I wouldn’t screw up and use the wrong material. From my book:

It also talks about various adhesives, which you can peruse to find out which one will be best for an outdoor environment.

Maybe a metal pole is what you’re looking for?

Kalhoun – great minds, eh?

Yeah, as I said, I’ve been reading up on this – and I’ve also seen the “anything will work, as long as it’s clean” thing – but then no specific mention of plastic, which seemed conspicuous by its absence.

Mangetout – interesting ideas, but they seem more ambitious than the whim I’m riding at the moment. The weight of something like this if I went the concrete route seems, well, unwhimsical. I’m not ruling it out, though – I see a browse in the local DIY universe in my immediate future. I was in one Sunday, but all I did was look at PVC pipe, to check prices, diameters, etc.

Hm, metal pole – maybe they sell components for light standards and the like, that would be a lot less than copper…

I am interested in mosaics but I haven’t tried it yet. Anyway, if you’re looking for a metal pole perhaps you could find something in a junk yard or in the dumpster at a construction site? Maybe you could drive around the neighborhood and see if anyone is tearing out their chain link fence amd would let you have the poles?

I’m not sure that metal would be a good idea; thermal expansion is likely to be a significant problem.

Hm. What about if I got a pole of some sort and used it as an armature to wrap chicken wire or something like that around, using the chicken wire as the base for a concrete sort of thing? I’m thinking of very sticklike objects, no more than a couple of inches in diameter.

PVC will work fine. Attach the tiles with something called “Liquid Nails”. Comes in a foot-long caulk tube at any hardware store.

Actually, PVC *does not *shrink or expand with cold and heat. That’s one of it’s key assets as underground piping.

PVC sheeting is now being used for major permanent artworks, those that have to hang high up in the lobbies of banks, etc. because it’s lighter and more easy to deal with than the prior wood or masonite strata.

Ahh… for some reason, I was thinking of a landscape of 10-foot long poles with something like the girth of telephone poles.

Today, twicks’s garden – tomorrow, the world!

I thought the same thing. It would seem that scuffed up plastic would work, but maybe aluminum would be a better choice.

Just a little something to interject…My aunt is an artist. She took cinderblock and covered it with cement and stuck a gagillion seashells and colored stones in it (made a little wall in her yard). It is just awesome. Doesn’t have much to do with your project, but I just wanted to share.

My first-ever project along these lines was a little birdbath: Took a 12" clay pot and its saucer, spray-painted them tan, grouted a pattern of shells to the inside of the saucer, then glued the saucer to the upside-down pot. It turned out really cool. I’ve never seen a bird near it, but the cat loves to drink out of it.

I love that! I’m going to do a 4" frame around my kitchen window. I’m scared to death to start it. I think I’m going to put it on thin particle board and then mount that around the window. Does that sound feasible to you?

That sounds very cool. I think I’d go for something a little more substantial than “thin particle board” – plywood or whatever – to take the weight of the tile (or whatever) plus the grout (or whatever). But working flat seems like a good idea. Leave spaces in your design for where you’re going to screw it to the wall, and then you can add those last few objects once it’s up. (Plus, what will you do around the edges of your base? More tile? Or molding?)

I’ll probably put molding on it so I can paint that wall without worrying about the edges of tiles/grout etc.

My biggest problem is finding time to do it. I’ll probably wait until the weather is good and haul the whole project out onto the deck.

Oops, Ty Cobb – somehow missed your post before. Thanks for the info! PVC pipe definitely seems like the cheapest, lightest, and easiest way of doing this.