Jimmy Reed has worked with tile since he was a
pre-teen helping his neighbor. Now, as the president of Rock Solid
Tile in suburban Los Angeles, he has truly made his mark by
installing glass tile in pools and spas, known to be one of the
most difficult uses for the material.
Here, we showcase three projects that have benefited from
Reed’s meticulous touch.
Beautiful in bronze
The bronze glass mosaic was chosen to complement the client’s
Mediterranean style home.
“The tile really lends itself to that type of architecture,
because it’s got a rustic feel, but it also has a nice
finishing touch as well,” Reed says.
The material also enhances the aquascape, by American Heritage
Landscape in Canoga Park, Calif.
Metallic-tinged tiles make the perimeter-overflow spa and large
spillway waterfeature all the more striking by reflecting the sun.
But to properly install these crisp features required extra
“We use a combination of laser levels and spirit levels, and
we constantly check and recheck as we go,” Reed says. The
crews check first with a laser level, mark it, then double check
with the spirit level. Not only does this make sure that each
measurement is accurate, but this process also uses one tool to
check the other, thus confirming that neither has been
knocked out of alignment.
After the pool and spa were completed and the water running, Reed
went back onsite to ascertain that the edge of every tile was
level. “If there are any slight little corners that are
sticking up and interrupting the even, reflective flow of the
water, then we can adjust them [by] wet sanding with glass
sandpaper, and then polishing them,” Reed says.
To make the spa more comfortable for users, Reed decided to alter
its contours. He and his crews rounded out the transitions from
wall to coping, and from bench to foot well. “All those
radiuses were exaggerated and soft — they were very big
radiuses, as opposed to a 2- or 3-inch radius,” Reed
When setting the float to create these contours, Reed carefully
calculated the size of the rounded areas so that only full tiles
would be needed. Crews began setting the tile from the top, worked
their way down and finished with a full tile at the bottom of the
wall. “The key to a successful installation, regardless of
the difficulty, is proper planning, meaning always thinking at
least one step ahead in regard to surfaces being flat, plumb,
level, and measuring out transitions in relation to the tile grid
measurements,” Reed says.
When installed over a radius, mosaic tiles want to spread apart as
they wrap around the curve. To combat this, Reed and his crews had
to gently push the mosaic pieces together, so the spacing would
remain consistent between the flat planes and radiused areas.
“If you just lay the sheet over that radius, then on that
curve, the grout joints will be open wider,” he says.
The pool itself has a step that features a wavy outline across part
of it. Reed’s crews created that shape using a template
during the float stage. To make the pieces of mosaic conform to
this pattern, crews cut the sheets of tile into strips, then
snipped part of the paper between individual tiles so that the row
could be maneuvered around the contours. On the straight part of
the step, Reed was able to plan so that only full tiles were set.
On the curved section, crews installed from the front of the step
to the back, so if any cuts were necessary they occurred in a
This backyard renovation, designed by Collin Sainty, currently of
Durie Design in Mona Vale, NSW, Australia and Los Angeles, was set
in a lush space with low light. To help brighten the area and blend
together the tropical theme, the designer chose this aqua/green
tile blend. “They wanted something that would pop a little
more,” Reed says.
The original pool was a deep, basic rectangle built in the 1950s,
and for this project, Reed also designed the interior to include
full-width stairs and a bench running around the entire
“[We wanted] to make the pool look a lot more inviting and
usable,” he says. “Now, instead of just a giant pool
with a bunch of water in it, you have a party pool with all the
benches and steps [that] relates to the patios and lounges in the
This change also served a second purpose. The team wanted to make
the 10-foot-deep pool more shallow, and Reed also believed the
vessel should be squared off as much as possible, eliminating the
coved transitions from wall to floor, with the exception of the
deep end, to create a better aesthetic match with the surroundings.
Building the benches out approximately 20 inches from the wall and
bringing the floor up 2-1/2 feet made it easy to then square the
meeting of those two planes.
In designing the benches, Reed measured them out so that all whole
tiles could fit in the pool. “You can see there are zero
cuts,” he says.
In the stars
While the pool shape is fairly basic, the intricate mosaic interior
turns it into a piece of art.
The client wanted the pool to have an astrological theme, with the
sun, moon and stars, as well as clouds and his children’s
zodiac signs. Additionally, the homeowner wanted the color blend to
be laid down in a gradient format, so it gets darker the deeper it
goes into the pool.
Reed set the tile so that each 12-by-12 sheet was slightly darker
than the next. The blends were numbered, with No. 1 being the
lightest. “So we know that, as we’re going around the
pool, we’re using No. 1 on the entire perimeter of the pool
at the top. Then our next tile down is No. 2 going horizontally
In most of the pool, they could move around the perimeter,
installing one blend at one level, then moving to the next darkest
blend as they moved down one sheet at a time. In some areas,
though, they had to install from top to bottom so they could see
what blend they ended up with on the floor.
This created something of a logistical problem on the floor: The
3-foot-deep wall in the shallow end finished with a significantly
lighter tile blend than did the bottom of the 8-foot wall on the
deep end. Reed needed to somehow meet the two different blends on
the bottom of the pool. He did this by using the lighter tile to
form a cloud pattern in the shallow end. The darker blend then made
up the sky, giving the perfect background for the sun, moon and
stars. Tiles were individually cut to create the pattern.
The silver lining defining the shape of the clouds was designed
with white gold mosaic tiles, set individually. The moon was
created with the same material, while the sun was comprised of
yellow gold tile.
Because the square tiles had to wrap around the curved contours of
the freeform pools, they couldn’t be set in a grid. Instead,
crews set the tiles to create level, continuous horizontal lines,
but offset them.
“We ended up cutting each sheet into strips and, in our
installation, manipulating them laterally in order to get a good,
nice, smooth installation throughout the pool,” Reed says.
“So all our horizontal lines are level, but our vertical
lines are all randomly offset.”