How to Make a Tile Chess Board

Updated February 21, 2017

Playing chess on a homemade board adds a new dimension to the game. This project requires only a few easily available materials. It can be done in a day, and will continue to provide beautiful entertainment for years to come.

Lay grid tape over the entire surface of the wooden board (substrate), if desired. Keep the grid lines even and straight, to use them for a pattern when installing the tile.

Dip the trowel into the mastic, and use the trowel to transfer mastic to the surface of the board.

Apply a thin layer of mastic over the entire surface of the board, using the wide flat bottom of the trowel.

Turn the trowel so that the notches point down into the substrate.

Pull the trowel toward you over the face of the substrate, drawing long skinny notches in the mastic, spaced evenly across the surface of the board.

Notch only in one direction.

Lay the tiles onto the mastic one by one.

Press each tile firmly into place on the mastic.

Alternate between black and white tiles.

Line up the edges and corners of each tile with its neighbours, and press the edges tightly together.

Tap each tile into alignment vertically and horizontally, with the board and with its neighbours, using the rubber mallet and your hands, as necessary.

Skim excess mastic from the top and sides of the board when all the tiles are installed. Clean the trowel with water and rags, then draw the flat edge along each surface to ensure that no drips of mastic remain on the board, and that the tiles rest together tightly and flush.

Clean the surface of the tiled board thoroughly with a damp sponge, removing any loose bits of mastic or chips of tile from the surface.

Allow the chessboard to rest and the mastic to cure for at least 24 hours.

Seal the cured, clean, dry surface with tile sealant, if desired.

Pour a quarter-sized amount of sealant onto the surface of the chessboard, and wipe it evenly over the entire surface with clean, lint-free rags.

Wipe away excess sealant immediately.

Allow the sealant to cure for at least 24 hours.


Work quickly and efficiently to avoid allowing the mastic to dry out. Most mastic will dry out within 30 minutes of application in open air, but conditions like humidity, and manufacturers' recommendations, both vary.


Tile work can get messy, so protect your skin and clothes along with your work area. Wear thick rubber gloves and an apron if necessary, and use dust sheets or plastic sheeting to cover the work area.

Things You'll Need

  • 64 square tiles, 1 inch (32 white, 32 black)
  • Wooden board, 8 inches square
  • Grid tape (optional)
  • Thin-set tile mastic
  • Small notched trowel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Water bucket
  • Sponges
  • Tile sealant (optional)
  • Rags
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About the Author

First published in 2000, Lewis Levenberg writes for journals and blogs across the country. In addition to extensive experience with construction and renovation, he has worked with academic authors on their social media marketing and in retail. His education includes a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.