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All You Need to Know About Tile Adhesive

All You Need to Know About Tile Adhesive
March 4, 2022

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Porcelain, ceramic, and stone tiles are popular in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, where traction and water resistance are essential. During the tile installation process, your choice of adhesive is essential to the longevity and durability of your tilework. Your tiles may not be securely bonded to the subfloor or backer board if you use the wrong adhesive. This can lead to tiles becoming loose over time, requiring repair or replacement.

Types of Adhesives

There are several tile adhesives to choose from for your home renovation project, each with its specific applications or advantages. You’ll also need to determine which form of adhesive best meets your needs.

  1. 1. Thinset Tile Mortar

Mortar is a paste used in masonry to bond bricks, stone and concrete blocks, and tiles to each other and other surfaces. Thinset tile mortar is one of the most commonly used adhesive agents in tile installation, composed of Portland cement, silica sand, and humectants. You’ll apply thinset tile mortar using a notched masonry trowel. Thinset tile mortar is available in two different states: standard and pre-mixed.

  • Standard thinset tile mortar

Standard thinset tile mortar is a dry powder that you mix in a mortar pan with water until it gains the consistency of a workable paste. Standard thinset tile mortar begins to dry and cure as soon as you’ve mixed the paste. This is ideal if you only need to apply mortar to a small area; the fast curing rate means a faster drying time.

  • Pre-mixed thinset tile mortar

Pre-mixed mortar is ready to apply immediately; however, it’s heavier and more expensive than standard mortar. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, the pre-mixed product is easier to handle and apply. Pre-mixed thinset mortar is also preferable for jobs requiring you to lay tile in multiple rooms because there’s no curing time to worry about. Thinset tile mortar is known for its strong bond and resistance to moisture, mold growth, and heat, making it ideal for tilework in bathrooms and showers. Because pre-mixed thinset won’t expand or contract due to temperature changes, it won’t deteriorate in particularly hot or cold environments.

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  1. 2. Epoxy Tile Mortar

Epoxy tile mortars are chemically resistant and provide high compressive strength, providing a solid bond between the tile and the substrate. As epoxy-based mortars are less resistant to temperature, it’s important to consider the average temperature of the installation location. When the ambient temperature is high, the curing process accelerates. When the temperature falls, the curing process slows. Ideally, the temperature during installation should not fall below 60°F or exceed 90°F. Because epoxy mortars are more expensive and cure faster than thinset mortars, they are challenging for DIYers to work with.

Grouting tile seams

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The Difference Between Adhesive and Grout

It’s important to understand the difference between tile adhesive and grout. Tile adhesives are mortars designed to bond the tile to a substrate, ensuring they remain securely in place. Grout, while similar in composition, has higher water content, allowing it to flow more freely. The purpose of grout is to fill in gaps and cracks between tiles, bricks, and other masonry units. Grout is not a bonding agent like mortar. While both are essential in construction, neither one is a substitute for the other. If you need to remove grout during repair or replacement work, a tile saw is one of the best tools for the job.

Flooring Evenness

If you intend to lay mortar and tiles on a specific type of flooring, it’s generally a good idea to use a layer of marine grade plywood at least 15mm thick or tiling backer board and tile leveling spacers to ensure an even surface. Thinset mortars can compensate for variations in the levelness of surfaces; however, this use has its limitations. Adjustment and measurement tools, such as straight edges, tape measures, and spirit levels, are critical for achieving an even surface.

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The Importance of Primer

Many surfaces, such as plaster or concrete absorb the water from your tile adhesive, reducing the bonding strength and longevity of the tiling project. Applying a primer seals the substrate and prevents moisture absorption. It is also an excellent solution for surfaces that are too smooth or dusty to provide enough traction for the adhesive to bond to. It’s good practice to add two coats of primer, one vertically and another horizontally, to give you ample bonding surface area.

worker cutting a white tile

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Find the Right Tile Adhesive at Contractors Direct

Choosing the right tile adhesive directly impacts the quality and longevity of your tiling project. Contractors Direct has everything you need to start your project, from mortar and other tile adhesives to trowels, tile cutters, spacers, and wedges. For all your tiling needs, explore our online catalog.