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I'm renewing our old outdoor concrete staircase going to the garden. I've decided to install glass mosaic as surface finishing. I've got advice from the specialized shop regarding water-proofness of the seams and appropriate bedding.

Now I'm wondering whether I should install a protective 'nose' profile on each step (embedded in the thinset at placing time).
Would the mosaic be resistant enough on it's own or should I consider some alu profile?

As illustration, here's a mosaic sheet resting on a step. Mosaic to be placed on concrete staircase

-kr, Gerard.

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  • Side note, but you have you tested to see how slippery the tiles are when wet? Glass tiles wouldn't be my first choice for outdoor steps. Apr 26 '14 at 15:16
  • @OrganicLawnDIY I was worried about the same thing. Then I realized that many swimming pools use similar materials in the pool and surroundings. The guy at the shop said that the large number of joints with these small mosaic tiles (2.5 x 2.5 cm) will work as anti-slip.
    – maasg
    Apr 27 '14 at 7:34
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Absolutely. Those tiny tiles will chip or pop off as soon as somebody smacks it with something. I assume you are thinking of some nosing like this and where I live, I would certainly go with something with some grip.

Not knowing what kind of traffic the stairs get and what your climate is like (how often it freezes - how often they are wet), it's hard to make a more informed recommendation, but those thin small tiles will not take much abuse.

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  • I went back to the shop to discuss about the edge. I went with a simple low profile straight border. There're not many options for thin tiles like glass mosaic (4mm thick).
    – maasg
    Apr 28 '14 at 9:06
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Unless you're going to be getting a lot of heavy traffic on these stairs (like dragging things up and down them), you should be fine without putting a nose on them. As long as the tile is set and grouted properly these aren't going to go anywhere.

Just to give an idea of the longevity and wear resistance, there's a house near where I live that was built in the early 20s with a similar type of tiling on the front stairs, and based on the other architectural elements appear to be from the original construction. Most of the places where you can tell that tiles have replaced in the past are at the bottoms of the risers, not the nose. If you're worried about losing a tile here and there, just store the extras from the installation somewhere in case you have to make repairs.

That said, a more important consideration would be traction. This type of tile can get really slick when it's wet and even worse when it has snow on it. It is much more common to use a complementary stone surface on the treads and mosaic on the risers to give better footing and make them easier to clear snow and ice from.

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