Fiber Tile

Here is an idea for a dramatic bathroom or kitchen lighting project which takes advantage of fiber optics' capability to work safely in wet areas. Glass tiles are increasingly popular as a way of providing a feature or accent in a ceramic tile décor, and now you can take advantage of their translucency to come up with a way of permanently integrating lights into a tiled wall.

The concept is simplicity itself -the optic fibers are simply butted up to the edge of the glass tile - and installation is straightforward too.

All you need is the basic set of components and tools which you'd need for a standard tiling job, along with an appropriate lightsource and fiber optic harness from our range of DIY kits. In most instances, a customised kit will probably be the best solution for this type of job, so we'll work with you to calculate how much fiber you need.

This will depend on the size of the tiled area and how close it is to wherever you plan to put the lightsource -this could be in the attic above or in an airing cupboard for instance.

The first decision you'll have to make is whether the fibers are going to run behind the tiles or whether they will go through the wall. If you've got a stud wall and can drop the fibers down within the cavity from the attic above then the fibers illuminating each glass tile can emerge from a hole in the wall directly behind the tile.

More likely, however, that you'll have to run the fibers behind the tiles so that they are embedded in the tile adhesive.

The most challenging part of the project is simply getting your measurements right. The tiles where the fibers will shine have to be positioned first, so you need to ensure that you've worked out exactly where they'll need to go. That way, when the plain tiles are added there'll be a neat fit with exactly the right gap between each tile. This isn't rocket science, but you need to get it right for the best effect.

Since you want the fiber ends to but up against the edges of the glass tile, use a little tile saw to cut angled grooves in the tile with the cut-out.

The fiber is laid in the groove and stuck with your adhesive of choice - generally use a hot melt glue gun, but you can use silicone or another adhesive (not superglue, since it doesn't work with fiber optics). Don't use too much adhesive, since you want the tile to be flush with the surrounding ones.

The fiber should extend just far enough so that it will butt up against the side of the glass tile once that is in position.

In this demonstration just six 1mm fibers -three each on two opposite sides of the glass tile were used for the effect. To increase the amount of illumination you’d simply add more fibers- you could have fibers on all four sides if you wanted.

The glass tile is 3 cm square, which means 1 fibers per cm length were used, but this is entirely a matter of taste and trial and error. A standard 75 watt lightsource, but if your budget permits, you can use a brighter lightsource. However, this is essentially an accent or mood lighting project, so achieving a really bright light is not the real aim here.

Take care when placing the glass tile in position to avoid getting grout between the fibre end and the edge of the tile. This is where having cut the fiber to an exact length will pay off. So, it' a good idea to have the lightsource switched on while you do this job so that you can spot immediately if any grout does creep in between the fiber end and tile.

The demonstration patch of tiles with the single illuminated glass tile. As the color wheel in the lightsource rotates, the light shining in the glass tile will cycle through yellow, green, red, purple, blue and white. To stay with white light simply remove the color wheel, but the effect is nicer with the color transition. As always, fiber optics are hard to photograph, and this does not really show the effect very well - it's brighter in real life.

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