This is an easy way to fabricate a tile panel for any number of uses. In this particular instructable I'm making three tile panels to cover the range hood 7" vent pipe.
The great part about this technique is that you can fabricate the panels in your garage or shop so that you don't totally besot your house with mess.
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Step 1: Site Prep
Measure the area you'll be covering and clear any mess out of the way.
Originally our hood pipe was hidden in a soffit. I removed this soffit and covered the hood with a removable three sided box and painted it the same color as the wall. The part against the ceiling and wall was finished with a white painted cove moulding.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Choose your tile and backing material. Your tile can be any tile you like, whatever size that you like. . . . but . . .you'll have to plan well before building your tile panels. Your backing material will be either plywood or a concrete board and you'll have to consider where you are making this panel, how heavy it will be, and how far it will have to travel before it's mounted. Choose the sturdiest backing for your project.
Don't ever be mundane. You could get really nuts and use a welded wire mesh to make curved and humped designs for a chandelier or decorative wall hanging. Glue the tile to the mesh with adhesive and then once, dry apply a mortar or grout to the back to really grab and hold the tile.
I used 1x1 tumbled slate.
My backing is 1/4" plywood subflooring.
The adhesive I used was a water resistant construction adhesive. When in doubt use water resistant. You can also use thinset mortar on drywall and wood, but I usually stick to construction adhesive for these and leave thinset for concrete and concrete board.
You'll need something to spread the glue/thinset around. Here I used a small notched trowel.
Step 3: Dry Fitting and Gluing
I measured and designed my tile panel so that I wouldn't have to cut any tiles. First I dry fit the tiles to the backing board. The only cutting that needed to be done was the mesh material that held the 12x12 tile panels together.
Once you have everything fit the way you like it, spread your glue and adhere your tiles to the backing panel.
Step 4: Grouting
After the adhesive dried for 24 hours I spread out some paper to grout on. Try to make only enough grout that your project requires. There are plenty of instructions for grouting out there so I won't go into detail here except to say that you'll use your grout float to mush the grout into the joints, you let it sit for ten minutes, then you'll be cleaning the grout off of the tiles for many ringings out of your grout sponge.
Step 5: Mounting
To mount these panels I took a tile/glass drill bit and bored through the tiles and plywood backing. I also choose to use an old countersink bit to sink the screws below the level of the tile's surface. The screws I used were stainless steel finish screws.
You can drill your holes in areas that can be covered with wood or pvc mouldings. I didn't bother. The two holes on the bottom of the panels are out of view and the two at the top are exposed, but unnoticeable. You could us grout or color matched grout caulk to fill the holes over the screws. You could even drill your holes between the tiles in the grout lines and then cover them with grout.
Step 6: Another Example
Here are the two panels in my laundry room. These are 2x2 tumbled slate tiles. The reason for these panels is because there are a lot of wires running behind them---electric, cable, internet---and also plumbing and a gas line. If a change needs to be made or something added, I can unscrew the panels, remove the drywall behind them (I didn't mud the part behind them), and access those things. Quite handy.
These panels are mounted on 1/4" cement board, the Hardibacker variety. I made them in the garage---attached the tiles, grouted, and applied a gloss finish---and the only mess that was made in my laundry room was drilling the holes (I had to do it in the room to make sure I hit studs) and applying the grout caulk along the bottom and in the corner. There are six screws holding up the larger panel and four holding the smaller. You might be able to find them if you look closely, but I never see them because they blended in so well. The large panel was maybe 30 or 40 pounds. It was quite easy to install.
Go forth and make.