Just in case we are talking about the same subject: The restored table is a porcelain-mosaic-low-leg-coffee table. Forty-eight-by thirty-two-inch rectangular shaped table. The task ahead is not suited for the faint of heart! Enclosed you notice the intricacies of this enterprise:
The plywood backing was buckled and rot by years of New England weather exposure. Many mosaic pieces were lose and even lost. The first of course was to log an exact rendition of this table trough this original photograph. You will be able to compare the "before" and "after" at the project's end.
The second step undertaken was the complete removal of the old backing as well as the mortar-cement holding the mosaic design together. We positioned the table upside-down and tore apart the backing without destroying the mosaic pattern. To preserve its original lay out is the key ingredient to the overall success!!
The third step: The rod iron table legs and frame are disassembled from the table top. We realized then, the rust had taken a toll on the ferrous exposed iron and we proceeded to wire brush the rust with steel wool. Right after, we applied a rust oleum based black oil coat of paint to the table's support frame.
Now the fourth step is to secure a brand new backing: We decided to utilize a Hardy Backer TM tile backer board. The main reason was because this material is completely water-proof! Therefore, the next step will be to find out how to anchor this backing to the table frame. We used self-screwing machining screws and rivets to achieve this purpose. We grinded the exposed razor-sharp tips to avoid any potential cuts handling the door once finished.
This next step is the crown and jewel of this project: In the previous step we turned the table upside down and removed the debris between the mosaic pieces, namely, the old mortar cement holding the pieces together. But we had to achieve this by preserving the original lay out. So we carefully, inverted the table and tediously cleaned up the materials to the best of our ability. We used tile cutting pliers, a chisel and a brush to remove the debris and old tile fragments.
One by one these pieces will be cleaned up from old cement and reset back to their original position. At this point we have a "negative" layout of the mosaic composition, pattern and original design. To bring it back to the upright position we used a new 48" by 32" plywood section cut to the same table size. We used a leaf blower to easily remove the lose fragments and discard them. We placed some masking tape at the plywood perimeter and placed the new table backing upside down on top of the inverted mosaic pieces. Immediately, we taped both sections and were ready to invert the table to check how everything fits! There is the table ready to flip.
At this stage about 90% of the original design still remains so it is a matter of guessing the remaining 10%. Some additional cleaning still remains and that's our last chance to perform this operation.
We rearranged the pieces so they are fitting correctly as compared to the original picture template and later, we also protected the surface with a green cushioning layer (below). We needed to invert the table once again and apply a layer of thin-set cement behind the mosaic pieces.
The table needed another flip still. We use the plywood again to invert the table on its belly, carefully taping the perimeter with masking tape so none of the mosaic pieces moved from their location. The last step was to apply a layer of thin-set cement behind the mosaic pieces and then butter the top of the tile Hardy backer TM. We are using a notched trowel with a small indent so we are not mudding too much cement on the little mosaic fragments and the tile backer board.
Once we accomplished this we positioned both halves together for the last time and inverted the table for the final time. Now the mortar holds the mosaic pieces and it is only a matter to clean up the excess mortar and to move the mosaic pieces slightly so they match their original disposition.
To further preserve our creation we suggest to either seal the mosaic surface top with any outdoor tile sealer or to custom cut a temperate glass piece with beveled corners and place it on top of our re-finished mosaic surface.
And voila! We are ready to reap the fruits of our labor.