How to make coasters and trivets from vintage tile from the ReStore


retro crafty DIYNow that I’m working full time for Pam, she’s been pushing me to come up with more Retro Crafty projects to feature here on the blog. On a recent trip to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, I was perusing the bathroom tiles when inspiration struck. I’ve been hoping to hit the motherlode of pink retro tiles to use in my master bathroom remodel — but alas — I’ve only managed to find one or two tiles at a time. That got me thinking — how could you use one or two lone bathroom tiles — if not for repairing a vintage bathroom. Then it hit me — coasters!

vintage bathroom tiles from the ReStore

For this project you will need:

  • Your favorite colors/patterns of lonely vintage tiles (I got all of mine at the ReStore for 20 cents each). A 4×4″ bathroom tile is good for a coaster. If you find cool decorative tiles slightly larger — 6″x6″ — these could make for great trivets. You could also piece several tiles together using this same method to create a platform for houseplants that protects the floor underneath from spills.
  • Thin plywood to use for tile backing (I used oak — which I had sitting around from another project)
  • Oak lattice (I used .5 inch by .25 inch and got an 8 foot piece for about $3 from my local big box store)
  • Wood Glue
  • Gorilla Glue (or other glue that bonds ceramic and wood)
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Stain (I used leftover stain from another project)
  • Clear sealer or Polyurethane for the wood
  • Saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Clamps
  • Safety glasses!
  • Brush for stain/Polyurethane
  • Optional — felt or cork pads for bottom of coaster to protect table top

Step 1 — Create the plywood base

  • Step-1-mark-plywoodTrace around your tile onto the plywood.
  • Safety-First kate in safety glassesREMEMBER: Any time you are using power tools it is a good idea to take safety precautions — like wearing safety glasses!
  • saw-plywoodUse your saw of choice to cut out the coaster base squares. I am using my Dremel tool with a mini saw attachment — no need to break out the big guys unless you want to!

Step 2 — Measure, mark and cut your lattice to trim the tile

  • measure-tile for-trimMeasure your tile to determine your trim length for each side — you will need to add the thickness of your trim piece (in this case it is .25 inch) because it will overlap.
  • mark-trim to cutMark the trim where you need to make the cut.
  • mini-mitre-sawCut the trim with your saw. I’m a fan of a mini mitre saw like the one sold in this kit (affiliate link). also available at craft stores. I got this little guy in art school for about $12 and I have used it hundreds of times since then.
  • cut-wood with mini mitre saw and boxMake sure to hold the wood firmly while sawing. Repeat this process until all 16 pieces are cut (4 for each tile).
  • tile-coaster-parts-dry-fitLay your pieces out — or dry fit — to check and make sure they are lining up and make any tweaks as needed. Note: You could also make a 45 degree cut on the end of each trim piece for a picture frame look.

Step 3 — Sand and stain

  • sand base edgesMake sure to sand the edges of your base to smooth down any rough parts. Depending on the grade of your plywood, you might need to do an all over sanding.

sand-side pieces

  • You’ll also need to sand the edges of your trim pieces where you made the cuts to remove and rough pieces.
  • stain-base of coasterChoose your stain color — I went with a light stain to compliment the pastel tiles — and apply following directions on the can. You only need to stain one side of the base — the other side will not be seen when the coaster is complete.
  • -stain-sides piecesStain all sides of the edge pieces.
  • wipe-stainAfter the stain has had a chance to penetrate the wood, wipe off any excess and let dry.

Step 4 — Assemble the coasters

  • glue-tile-to-boardOnce the stain is dry, it is time to assemble the coasters. I used Gorilla glue to attach the base to the tile because it bonds to wood and glue together. It expands as it drys, so be careful not to use too much glue or you’ll have a mess on your hands! (On that note, be careful not to get it on your hands — this stuff is on par with super glue — be sure to follow directions)
  • glue-tile-to-boardPress the tile to the glue-covered plywood and make sure they are lined up properly.
  • clamp-tile-to-boardOnce I was sure everything is correctly aligned, clamp the tile and board together and let it sit for 30 minutes. Note: Some tiles needed more than one clamp to hold the tile to the board while the glue was setting. The flatter the base of your tile, the easier this part of the process will be.
  • glue-sides-to-baseOnce your first application of glue is dry, you can attach the sides to the coaster. I used wood glue for this (since Gorilla glue expands. and I didn’t want to have glue coming out from all sides of the trim). Apply a thin bead of wood glue to each side.
  • glue-sides-to-base-2Wood glue sets up slower than Gorilla glue, so you might have to hold the side in place for a while before moving on to the next piece.


  • glue-sides-to-base-4Continue to work your way around the tile — gluing and attaching each piece. Once all four sides were on, I clamped them and allowed them to dry until the glue set up.
  • Once everything is dry, brush a clear sealer or polyurethane on the wood to protect it from drink moisture and spills. You can also put cork or felt  on the underside of your coasters to protect the table top.

vintage tile coaster-setThis project can be reinterpreted into several different applications. You could make coasters — like I did — or perhaps use vintage tiles for a trivet or make a large vintage tile tray with several tiles to use under your houseplants.

finished-DIY Vintage tile coasterIf you can’t have your own colorful retro bathroom, making vintage bathroom tile coasters is a great way to show your love for retro bathroom tile.

  1. shellyinphx says:

    I once salvaged broken pink tile from a demolished ’50s
    drive-in’s bathroom and made trivets for my family! They didn’t even think I was (totally) nuts.

  2. Something I can do with both the tile and the cork (thanks, Marta!) left over from our bathroom reno project. Like you, we had trouble finding a lot of any color and went with a multi-color solution, but we still have lots left over that didn’t work in our final design. Really appreciate the detailed instructions and photos.

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