Using Pebble Mosaics in Tile Designs

Round, yellow pebbles grouted with an off-white grout on a floor

There's no simpler way to say this: pebbles are popular. 

 

Whether your design is clean and modern or classical and traditional, whether your color scheme incorporates blues, reds, and greens or cream, black, and white, whether you want a small accent or a bold feature wall, pebbles are a fantastic design element.

Where to use Pebbles


Pebbles in an exterior kitchen, covering the floor, sides of the counters, and backsplash behind a built-in barbecue grill

The most common location for pebbles is in bathrooms. Specifically, shower floors. Pebbles help create a natural ambiance, which is perfect for a creating a relaxing space.

 

But pebbles can be used almost anywhere! Use them to add a natural element to a backsplash, a rustic flavor to a fireplace, a dramatic element to a feature wall. Pebbles can be used outside or inside, on floors, walls, or countertops, in high-temperature installations or submerged applications.

 

When it comes to pebbles, you're only limited by your imagination.

Cleaning & Maintenance: Taking Care of Pebbles


Stacked sea foam green pebbles in a water feature with water trickling down the pebbles

Many people worry about maintenance with pebbles, specifically on a shower floor. Will soap scum and hard water build up over time on the pebbles? In actuality, your grout creates little channels between your pebbles that, when combined with their rounded shapes, allows water to easily flow to the drain.

 

Your main concern with maintenance should be cleaners and sealing. You should always seal your pebbles upon installation, usually before grouting (to protect them from potential discoloration). This will help repel oils and dirt in the shower and help prevent stains. We recommend a 20-year penetrating sealer such as Miracle 511 Impregnator, 511 Seal & Enhance, or 511 Porous Plus. 

 

When cleaning your pebbles, choose a cleaning product that won't damage the stones or strip your sealer. A stone friendly cleaner such as Miracle 511 Kleen & Reseal or Tile & Stone Cleaner will protect both pebble and sealer. Most pebbles are hardy enough that, even with a strong bathroom cleaner, you won't see any noticeable wear within the first 5 years of the installation. But some pebbles, especially travertine or onyx pebbles, are acid-sensitive. Harsh chemicals (bleach, ammonia) or natural cleaners (Simple Green, vinegar) can erode the stone and ruin your installation.

 

The texture of your pebbles plays a large role in how easy to clean they are. A pitted travertine pebble will gather dust and dirt faster than a smooth polished pebble. It will be harder to keep the spaces between an ungrouted stacked pebble than a grouted flat pebble. Keep these factors in mind when choosing pebbles for your project.

Working with Different Design Styles


For a rustic, earthy feel...

Multi-color pebbles on a shower floor with black grout

Warm, natural colors such as red, gold, brown, or green add a rich, natural element to your design.

 

Emphasize texture, shape, and depth. Pitted travertine pebbles, mosaics with size variation, contrasting grout colors, and angular pebbles are all great ways to add more interest to your installation.

 

Use pebbles in harmony with other natural-looking elements: travertine, slate, and stone-looking porcelain tiles all coordinate well with pebble mosaics.

 

For a traditional aesthetic...

A tile backsplash with a center of 1" square marble and glass mosaic in cream and grey tones, framed by a pewter border, with an outside field of light off-white and grey round pebbles

Light, subtle tones are ideal. Nothing too loud or distracting.

 

Incorporate stone or metallic pencil liners for definition, a soft color palette for atmosphere, and traditional materials such as tumbled travertine, marble, crackle glass, or ceramics.

For a more contemporary design...

Close up of black flat shiny pebbles

Avoid multi-color blends as these tend to look more busy and rustic.

 

Utilize cleaner-looking products such as solid-color mosaics or flat pebbles. Tighter grout lines with color-matching grout will help create a strong, harmonious look.

 

There are a number of pebbles available in neutral, subtle colors such as grey, taupe, brown, black, white, and cream.

 

Pebbles are a great way to add a sophisticated natural element for a spa-like atmosphere.

 

For a unique touch...

White marble porcelain tile with a black pebble border.

Consider an unusual color or finish, like an emerald green or metallic pebble.

 

Pull your pebbles off the sheet for drops or inserts, or to act as a border or liner.

 

Integrate interesting elements such as our custom cut fish and leaf tiles, glass tiles, bits of ceramic, or custom art glass.

 

Consider uncommon shapes or patterns: why not place pebbles between each rectangular tile in your offset brick patterns? Or have a pebble border around a patch of hexagon tiles?

 

Pebbles are a great way to accent an interesting tile: metallic porcelains, exotic marbles, and colorful slates all look good with pebble accents.

 

Customize your design!


A custom pebble tree and shower pan with slate wall tiles and a basalt bench.
This unique shower features a custom pebble tree and a pebble-covered shower pan with slate wall tiles and a basalt bench.

It's easy to construct a completely custom design with pebbles!

 

Step 1: Plan, plan, plan.

Sketch out your concept. If your walls are blank right now (or if you plan to tear out your tile), sketch out your design right on the wall! This will help you visualize your final design and figure out how much material you need. 

 

Choose materials that work with your style and design. For example, if you want fine details, a smaller pebble would be preferred. Why not use a fish or bear-shaped tile?

 

Make sure your timeline lines up. Some tiles or pebbles may be 2-3 weeks out, so planning in advance will help insure that your tile shows up before your houseguests do.

 

Step 2: Installation

Before you even put your pebbles in, cut your field tiles. It's easier to fit pebbles around tile than it is to fit tiles around pebbles.

 

Install your wall material before your floor material. Any thinset or tiles that are dropped during vertical installation can damage your floor material, so it's best to save the floor for last.

 

For large areas of pebble (such as this pebble tree shower floor), you can use full interlocking sheets for a quick installation and a seamless design. 

 

For more detailed areas (such as the tree branch), simply peel the pebbles off of the mosaic mesh and push them into a layer of thinset (you'll usually use a 1/4x3/16" V-notch trowel for small or medium pebbles, or a 1/4x1/4" Square Notch trowel for large pebbles). Work from your lines inward so that you have a clean border.

 

Choose a grout color that complements your design. There's a lot of grout in pebble designs, so choosing a grout that's darker or lighter, more green or more blue, etc. will have a significant impact on the overall look of your installation.

 

Step 3: Enjoy!

Show off your custom work to friends, share pictures on Houzz.com, or just sit back and relax in your newly remodeled space. 

 

Make sure you use the proper cleaners on your pebbles and grout (and natural stone tiles, if you have any). Using a harsh chemical can damage your stone, discolor your grout, or strip the sealer from your pebbles, leaving them susceptible to staining.

 

Look at your options!


There are numerous pebble mosaic manufacturers with a wide range of pebble shapes, sizes, colors, finishes, and textures to choose from, and we can help you find the pebble option that's right for your installation.

 

Have a question or comment? Let us know!

Note: Please fill out the fields marked with an asterisk.