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How to Choose and Break Tile for Mosaic Projects

Azulejos tile pattern.

When it comes to choosing tile for mosaic projects, almost anything goes. Free tiles are great, so scour your garage, your shed and your friends' houses for leftover tile, especially if they are already broken. The beautiful thing about mosaic art is that the tiles can come from a trash heap, but the result looks like a million bucks!

Look for patterns or interesting colors that you may want to add to your collection. Even basic white, shiny bathroom tile can make fantastic mosaics. After you've searched your house and your friends' houses, ask a home improvement store manager what they do with their broken tile. You might get them for free or at a discounted price.

Decide on a project. If it's a flat, functional piece, like a tray or trivet, you will need to choose tiles of similar height. If you're making a three dimensional mosaic, such as a vase or flower pot, you can choose any tiles and even broken plates for a variety of color and texture.

Choose a suitable place to crack your tiles. An outside concrete surface or garage floor are some good options.

Lay out a large, old towel and place your tiles, color side down, on one half of the towel. Leave a few inches of space in between each tile, and cover the tiles by folding over the towel.

Put on your safety goggles and get your hammer in hand. Press the towel down around the tiles so you can see their outlines and strike the center of each tile with your hammer. Once you have felt and heard the tile crack, continue to strike the four corners for each tile.

Uncover the now broken tiles. Any tiles that are still larger than two to three inches can be hammered again to crack smaller. The smaller the pieces you use, the more intricate your design can be.

Sort your broken tiles by color or by shape. Put the sorted tiles into separate containers until you are ready to start a project. Remember to discard any remaining shards and scraps that you are not going to use.

Things You'll Need:

  • Tile
  • Safety goggles
  • Container for cracked tiles
  • Finger bandages
  • Hammer
  • Old towel


Keep small finger bandages on hand in case you get any little nicks or cuts. Choose tiles that match your decor so your finished projects can fit in to your home. Check out mosaic books from your local library to get an understanding of all the possibilities.


  • Broken tiles are sharp! Do not leave them unattended as children and pets can hurt themselves on broken shards. Cracking tiles with a hammer will ruin any surface that is not solid concrete. Never crack tiles on a wooden table, counter tops of any kind, precious paving stones, pool decks or patios. Always wear safety goggles when cracking tiles with a hammer.
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