Using Pebble Mosaics In Tile Designs

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 vibrant blues, reds, and greens or neutral 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

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 areas or submerged applications.

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

Cleaning & Maintenance: Taking Care of 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 rivers 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 acidic natural cleaners (citrus or 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 clean the spaces between an ungrouted stacked.

Working with Different Design Styles

For a rustic, earthy feel...

Warm, natural colors such as red, gold, brown, or green add a rich, natural element to your design. Color blends look natural, like they were plucked from a riverbed.

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.

A dark grout creates an earthy aesthetic.

An all-natural outdoor kitchen.

For a traditional aesthetic...

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...

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

Be careful with multi-color blends as these can look more busy and rustic.

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

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

For a unique touch...

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

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!

It’s easy to construct a completely custom design with pebbles.

Step 1: Plan, plan, plan.

Sketch out your concept. If your walls or floors are blank right now (or if you plan to tear out your tile), sketch out your design right on the surface! 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 installer does.

Order extra! For really custom or organic designs, it’s impossible to estimate the exact square footage of pebbles to order. Round up, and order extra. You may need to order as much as 20% extra to make sure you have enough pebbles to play with.

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.

Tile Lines Tip: After you trowel out your thinset, use the flat side of your trowel to flatten the ridges. You’re not scraping away the thinset, just evening out your thinset layer so you have less thinset oozing up between pebbles, which means less clean up before grouting.

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. Read our article on choosing a grout color.

Step 3: Enjoy!

Show off your custom work to friends, share pictures on, 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.

A Tile Lines Tip

When installing your sheets, push them right next to each other; don’t leave a grout line. The pebble sheets are designed to touch, and leaving a space between them will turn into an extra wide grout line, highlighting the seams between each individual sheet.

Choose your pebbles wisely…

Some pebble mosaic sheets are better than others. Look at the edges of the sheets: are they perfectly square, or shaped like a puzzle piece? A square sheet will look unnatural when grouted, whereas interlocking sheets will camouflage the seams between sheets.

So many 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.

Pebbles cut from marbe and limestone.

Porcelain pebbles are durable and low maintenance.

Cove Emerald flat cut pebbles

Flat cut Cove Black mosaic pebbles

Cove Seaside Stacked pebbles in a water feature.

Round yellow pebbles on a bathroom floor.

Terracotta-colored angular pebbles for this entryway.

Our tileable heat registers don’t quite work with pebbles, but with a color matching tile they certainly won’t distract from them!