We’ve been spending more and more time trying to make this home a little more kid-friendly. The wooden step stool that I built for Pete’s daughter a few months ago has proven 100% useful, since it fully enables her to reach the sink and soap and all of those essential hygienic cleaning accoutrements on the bathroom counter. Phase 2 to that step stool was to create a Julia-height mirror, installed lower on the bathroom wall so that she didn’t have to strain herself to look into the mirror above the sink, which you’ll recall from when I hung it, is positioned a little high so that us adults could see ourselves without ducking down low. Now that it’s complete, this DIY mirror project lands itself among my favorites due to resourcefulness and smokin’ good looks. I think you’ll like it too.
- Mirror. Mine was free. It’s a scrap measuring 20″Hx12″W that had been cut off the original bathroom mirror back in February when I had it trimmed to size.
- Plywood and hardibacker. Thickness can vary however you think is best, so long as the backing of your mirror can support the weight of your frame. Mine was also 100% free, leftover from other projects.
- Mirror adhesive. And no, industrial strength adhesives won’t do. Something about it eating through the glass backing. A tube of the right mirror adhesive by Liquid Nails was just $5.
- Tile. Remember that big box of salvaged tile I bought up from ReHouse recently? Bingo. I used 1/10th of my $5 haul, or every last marble hexagonal tile, which equates to 50-cents in priced-to-move tile.
- Mastic. Or Thinset. Whatever you prefer given the placement of the finished product. Don’t use mastic in super-moist-inside-of-the-shower places.
- Screws. Cement screws are ideal, just keep them short enough to not go all the way through the board.
I started the project by gathering together my materials, cutting the piece of scrap plywood to size so that it was just a bit larger than the mirror itself, and gluing the piece of mirror directly to the piece of plywood using the mirror adhesive. As I mentioned in the materials list, don’t rely on the construction adhesives for this connection; allegedly, the glues will deteriorate the mirror backing on the glass, which is probably why you sometimes see mirrors with big black spots or transparent areas of missing shiny on the side of the road on trash day. After gluing, I placed the rest of the box of reclaimed tiles on top of the mirror and let it sit overnight.
I had a plan for the frame itself involving all of those fun little marble hexagon tiles that I had salvaged; many were dirty and still had grout along the edges, most are imperfect and chipped, but they were symmetrical, plentiful, and really pretty. I washed them all by hand in a soapy dish with a tooth brush and a razor blade.
They cleaned up well. Most fortunately, the tiles didn’t have excessive mortar stuck to the back side, so they had a lot of potential in my eyes.
With the tiles clean and the mirror glued securely to the frame (I had let it dry a complete 24 hours), I made a secondary surface out of a leftover sliver of Hardibacker. Whether adding this additional cementboard surface was imperative, I’m not sure, people have glued tiles to crazier things than plywood, that I know. I figured that I had the board, the tile would be heavy, and I really wanted to create a good surface for them, so I proceed in what I assumed was the best way possible.
Hardiboard itself is a bear to cut when you’re dealing with a full sheet, and exponentially harder when you’re dealing with narrow pieces. This was no “score and snap” project, I ended up bringing out the Craftsman multitool with a carbide circular blade (and a face mask, and glasses, and ear protection) to saw through it. This wasn’t fast since it was still a tiny blade cutting through cement, and I’m sure it’s not what manufacturers and doctors recommend, but it was accurate.
With the pieces of cement board cut to length to frame the mirror itself, I squeezed out the rest of the mirror adhesive and positioned each piece in place.
The good ol’ glue it and screw it technique at its finest. Well, almost at its finest. I have leftover screws from our bathroom project that are specifically graded for being used in tiling projects, but they were longer than my frame was deep, so I surrendered to using 3/4″ wood screws which I-know-I-know aren’t perfect, but they’re definitely securely attaching the cement board to the plywood that it rests upon.
Positioning the tiles around the frame was the next puzzle. Quite literally. I did want the pattern to be symmetrical, and I did want to make the best use of the tiles that I had (which was not enough, until Pete went back and got 18 more for f-r-e-e), so I ended up positioning the whole selection of tiles like this:
They looked pretty good, and in what was a happy surprise, I only would end up needing to cut three individual tiles. Since they would be cut in half, the three tiles would productively fill the 6 spots that I was left with. The mirror itself was designed to hang vertically, so tilt your head and imagine that the inner top and bottom of the frame will be cut flat, which I imagine will be much easier when it comes to mirror cleaning.
Sorry about the shadows, but I’m not sorry to have assembled this entire thing on a beautiful morning beneath the pergola on the deck. I did jam a piece of newspaper over the mirror itself, because the sun’s reflected glare was quickly burning through my SPF’ed skin.
Cutting the tiles outside in the sun was a nice first-time-ever experience too. We used this wet saw once outdoors, but it was January and the water was freezing. In more recent projects, like when I made the jewelry hook, I cut all of the tiles in the basement, which was still a pretty chilly place to be cutting mass amounts of tile and getting soaked by the spray.
The finished layout looked great and fit together very well. The pieces that were more prominently damaged and chipped began to flow together, becoming less obvious than if standing alone, but still contributing to the whole frame looking like a well-aged and beautiful piece.
Tiling the pieces into place was the easiest and quickest part. I had bought a container of AcrylPro for $8; these mastic formulas are a bit easier to work with than thinset mortar, that’s for sure, and this mirror would be fine with it since it’s not in a heavily moist space (it’s not hanging on the inside of the shower). Also, even though I bought the smallest container carried at the store, I only used 1/20th of it on this project, so surely there’ll be more to come with tiling in my future now that I have paid-for mastic chilling in the basement.
As simply as the package puts it, you just scoop out the adhesive, spread it on, and let it set. I used a 3/16 notched trowel as recommended by the adhesive manufacturer, and knowing that the smaller the tiles, the smaller the notches you need to effectively secure the product. My notched trowel happens to be older than I am, probably, and was a garage sale find that probably only cost us 10-cents.
I worked in small areas, moving the carefully placed tiles out of my way and then putting them back in place over the notched mastic with a lightly buttered backside. And yes, our Christmas tree is officially dead. It’s tragic.
The thought process also included keeping the mastic light so that it wouldn’t squish up between the tiles themselves, and keep the tiles close enough together so that visually, they didn’t look all gapped and in need of grout. Because there was no intention of grouting these beauties.
Quite quickly and easily, the frame itself was done and left to dry.
Another 24-hours came and went, and I was finally brave enough to bring the mirror and its heavy frame into a vertical state. Using two heavy-weight D-rings instead of a wire or a single hook, I hung the frame directly on the wall on two hooks. Hanging each D-ring independently takes a little more work (making sure your placement is level and all) but it ends up feeling a lot more secure, and that’s important if a kid’s going to be holding the edges or smashing her nose against it for fun.
I love it. I’ve said that already, right?
Making fair use of an otherwise blank space in the bathroom, the new mirror fits perfectly and is hung specifically to a height that’s most accommodating for a short child, and my own hips. And you can see that, now in its vertically-hung state, having a flat top and bottom of the inside of the mirror will bode well on days that I clean the bathroom; what I’m getting at is that gravity won’t allow windex or dust or toothpaste spray to get wedged in the space between the mirror and the marble.
If you’re not familiar with the orientation of my bathroom, this little frame was hung on the wall opposite the mirror, meaning that I can see its pretty reflection in the main mirror itself.
And close-up, it’s imperfectness is completely charming and wholly unique.
Hurray! Have you ever seen something so marble-icious and child-sized in your life? I’m so pleased!
P.S. My favorite headboard DIY is featured over on DIY Network. What’s better than an infusion of shiplap and hexagons? Check it out here!