How to Build a Tile Mosaic Patio

In addition to serving as a lasting outdoor living space, a tile mosaic patio can be the standout feature of your landscape. The intricate designs and woven colours of a tile mosaic can transport you to an exotic island or a field of wildflowers. For a truly personalised feature, you can build your own mosaic pattern. The surrounding landscape, atmosphere you want to create and inspiration for the design, like a painting or place, will guide your choice of colours and patterns.

Create the patio layout based on available space and your budget. Use a tape measure and ruler to measure the site and create a scale diagram. Make a list of the existing colours in your landscape from the flowers and foliage to the walkways and house's exterior.

Select the material and style of tile you want. Concrete tiles are coloured, cut into uniform shapes and moulded to resemble natural stones like cobblestones, pebbles and bricks. Travertine and slate tiles are cut from natural stone and offer a strong, naturally weather-resistant surface. Travertine tiles have natural hues of white, beige and grey, while slate colours are typically dark grey, blue and black. Consider using painted ceramic patio tiles for a brightly coloured mosaic.

Designate the patio site with wooden stakes and string tied around them to provide a guideline for your work.

Excavate the area to 10 inches below ground level with a shovel until the floor of the expanse is flat.

Dig a slight slope into the floor so rain water runs away from the house. Dig 1/4 inch deeper for every foot of distance from the house. Dispose of the displaced dirt.

Run a plate compactor over the floor of the site three times to stabilise the earth.

Add 4 inches of ¾-inch compacted aggregate and, using the compactor, compact it until the rocks are compressed together.

Spread another 4 inches of aggregate evenly over the surface and compact it.

Set metal or plastic edge restraints around the interior walls of the site and attach them end-to-end.

Sink 12-inch nail spikes through the slots in the restraints with a hammer to fasten them to the ground.

Lay 1 inch of sand bedding over the aggregate and drag a straightedge over the sand's surface to smooth it.

Sort the mosaic tiles by hue, size or shape.

Dry-lay the patio tiles beside the patio site in a mosaic pattern. You can begin by laying darker hues together and gradually placing lighter hues for a faded look, or mix the dark and light colours for a more textured look. Number the back of the tiles with chalk to help you place the tiles in the right order.

Set the tiles in the sand bedding with no more than 1/8-inch space between them. Use a bubble level to check that each section is even before moving onto the next. Continue setting the tiles according to your pattern until the patio surface is completely laid out.

Pour fine-grained sand over the patio's surface and lay a rubber mat on top of the tiles.

Run the compactor machine over the tiles to pack the sand between the joints. The sand will pad the tiles, preventing them from chipping or moving as they settle.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Ruler
  • Patio tiles
  • Wood pegs
  • String
  • Shovel
  • Plate compactor
  • ¾-inch aggregate
  • Edge restraints
  • 12-inch nail spikes
  • Hammer
  • Sand bedding
  • Straight-edge
  • Chalk
  • Bubble level
  • Fine-grained sand
  • Rubber mat
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About the Author

Aurora LaJambre is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. For over five years she's covered topics in culture, lifestyle, travel, DIY design and green living for print and online media. Her publication credits include "WOW Women on Writing," "Six States" and She graduated from New York University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing.