How to Decorate With Tile on Desks and Dresser Tops

Laurie Brenner

A desk or dresser with a damaged top doesn't have to be tossed or refinished; instead, you can fix it by adding decorative tile atop it. After decorating the top of a desk with a tile layout, add a piece of tempered glass across the top or a desk pad for those occasions when you need to hand-write a document. The chosen design determines the types and sizes of tiles you need to create the look you want. You can tile a desk or a dresser top following traditional tiling methods, or opt for a mosaic that creates a piece of artwork -- it all depends on the decor of the room or space.

Choose the Tile

Tile mosaics use tile shards to create an artistic one-of-a-kind piece.

Small 1/2-inch to 1-inch square tiles in a solid color work well to cover a badly damaged desk top or dresser, but tile all the dressers or desks in the room to create a unified look. But, for a one-of-a kind piece, colorful broken tile shards create an interesting design or a picture that has a European or Spanish flair to it. You can also choose small tiles in several different colors and mix and match them as desired. Or, repeat patterns atop the dresser or desk. Stick to color schemes that work with your existing decor for the best results.

Create the Design

Measure the dresser or desk surface and transfer the measurements to scale on a piece of graph paper. When you work out your tile design in advance, it makes it much easier during the final installation phase. And when you create an artistic mosaic that depicts a picture, it will help you to have a physical representation of the design laid out to refer to as needed, so you know where the colored tiles go on the desk or dresser top.

Prepare the Surface

To ensure the mastic or thin-set adheres to the surface of the item chosen for tiling, remove the final finish and the stain. You will place the tile up from the wood base. Strip the finish, wearing gloves and protective breathing gear, working in a well-ventilated room, with a paint or stain stripper, if needed. After the stain has been removed, sand the item with varying sandpaper grits, starting with the coarser grits, such as 100-grit sandpaper and working up to the finer grades.

Set the Tile

Cover a square foot area with mastic or thin-set, raked with a toothed trowel, and set the tiles in place, using your drawing as a guide. Set tile spacers between the tiles as you lay them to ensure there's room for grout. After finishing one section, move on to the next. After completing the layout, let the thin-set and tiles set for at least 24 to 48 hours. Cover the entire surface with grout to fill in the spaces, removing the excess grout from atop the tiles with a clean but continually rinsed sponge. Let the grout sit for another 24 to 48 hours; clean and seal.