A kid-friendly house needs a kid-friendly bathroom. The wooden step stool that I built a few months ago is 100% useful (editor’s update 2023: we still use it a decade later). The next phase involved making a small mirror that could be tastefully installed at child height.
I set out to make a nice mirror using a scrap piece of mirror glass and vintage marble hex tiles sourced locally at a salvage shop. How’d I do?
To make your own custom mirror frame like mine, you’ll need need:
- Plywood and Cement Board. Thickness can vary however you think is best, so long as the backing of your mirror can support the weight of your frame.
- Mirror-formulated adhesive. And no, industrial-strength adhesives won’t do. It may eat through the mirror backing.
- Caulking gun
- Utility knife or multicutter
- Tile. I sourced a big box of salvaged tile from ReHouse in Rochester, NY. Bingo.
- Tile mastic. Or Thinset. Either works, depending on the placement of the finished product. Don’t use mastic in super-moist-inside-of-the-shower places.
- Notched trowel
- Screws. Cement screws are ideal, but keep them less than 1″ (you don’t want them biting through your board).
- Circular saw
- Tile saw (optional)
- Eye protection
1. Cut Plywood to Size
Cut the plywood to size so it is 1-2″ wider and longer than the mirror itself.
2. Glue the Mirror to the Plywood
Employ the caulking gun to squirt glue along the plywood and the back of the mirror. Then, place the mirror on the piece of plywood and press it firmly to disperse the adhesive. As I mentioned in the materials list, don’t rely on the construction adhesives for this connection; the glues may deteriorate the mirror backing on the glass, which is probably why you sometimes see mirrors with big black spots or transparent areas on the side of the road on trash day.
3. Allow Adhesive to Dry
After gluing, I placed the box of reclaimed tiles on top of the mirror and let it sit overnight.
4. Organize Your Tiles
I used vintage marble hexagon tiles from a salvage shop, so unlike new tiles, many were dirty and still had grout along the edges. Most were imperfect and chipped, but they were symmetrical, plentiful, and really pretty.
To prepare salvage tiles, take the time to wash them by hand in soapy water. Use a toothbrush and a razor blade to loosen and clean any dirt and mortar.
They cleaned up well. Most were clean without excessive mortar stuck to the back side, so they had a lot of potential in my eyes.
5. Cut Strips of Cement Board to Size
Next, cut a secondary backing for the mirror using cement board, like 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. But, I figured if I had the board, I should use it. The tile would be heavy, and I wanted to create a good surface to support them.
Cement board 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 pre-covid mask, and glasses, and ear protection) to cut the strips I needed to surround the frame. 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.
6. Glue and Screw Cement Board to the Edges of the Frame
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. Use heavy-duty adhesive, or use whatcha got. This is going to be screwed in place, too, so you don’t have to put all your trust in the glue.
Yes, the good ol’ glue it and screw it technique at its finest. Once the glue is holding the cement board in place, place screws through the top so they secure into the plywood.
7. Dry-fit the Tiles
Positioning the tiles around the frame before you mortar to determine their fit. I ended up positioning the whole selection of tiles like this:
Mine looked pretty good. I opted to cut three individual tiles in half using a tile saw, and those six half tiles would fill the remaining spaces in my mirror puzzle.
Using a wet saw outdoors during the summer is very nice. When I made a jewelry hook, I cut all of the tiles in the basement, which was still a pretty chilly place at the time.
The finished layout of the tiles 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. All in all, the vintage tiles contributed to the frame looking like a well-aged and beautiful piece.
8. Use Mastic to Secure the Tiles
Tiling the pieces into place was the easiest and quickest part. I bought a container of AcrylPro for this project. Mastic is a bit easier to work with than thinset mortar, that’s for sure. This mirror would be fine using mastic as it would not be in a heavily dampened space (like inside a moist shower).
I only used 1/20th of this container, so keep in mind that one container of mastic can go a long way.
How do you use Mastic?
- Scoop the adhesive out of the container
- Spread it on your tiling surface with a notched trowel
- Position your tiles and press them firmly into the adhesive
- Let it set, undisturbed
I used a 3/16 notched trowel as recommended by the adhesive manufacturer. My tiles were smaller, so smaller notches were helpful in effectively securing the vintage marble hex tile.
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.
I worked to keep the mastic light so it wouldn’t squish up between the tiles themselves, but in a way where they were close enough to not need grout. There was no intention of grouting these beauties.
9. Allow the Adhesive to Dry
Quickly and easily, the frame itself was done and left to dry for 24 hours.
10. Attach D-rings for Hanging
After 24 hours, 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 child height (and my own hips).
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.
Close-up, this vintage tile mirror’s imperfectness is completely charming and wholly unique.