Tile adhesive is the substance used to hold the tiles to the setting bed. Typically there are two major types: organic mastic and thinset adhesive. Organic mastics are made with either latex or petroleum and are ready-to-use.
Thinset adhesives are powdered and need to be mixed with liquid before they can be used. While organic mastic is much more convenient to use, thinset adhesives actually have a higher bond strength as well as weight bearing strength.
Wall Tile Adhesive vs. Floor Tile Adhesive
Wall Tile Adhesive: Organic mastics are usually the preferred choice when it comes to wall tile adhesive. This is because of the fact that they will actually start to hold the tile even before they cure. This means that there will be much less slippage involved making it the easier option which is very important because unlike floor tiles, wall tiles are set vertically and tiles slipping downwards before they set can be a problem.
Floor tile adhesive: Organic mastics are the most commonly used floor tile adhesive because of the fact that there is no mixing involved and are therefore more convenient. They are usually a little bit cheaper too. However, when it comes to floor tile adhesive thinset adhesives are actually superior and should be the preferred choice. The fact that they have a stronger bond and can handle more weight makes them perfectly suited for floor tiles which obviously will get much more wear than wall tiles.
Other Types of Tile Adhesive
Flexible tile adhesive: A flexible tile adhesive is needed when installing tiles in a place that will receive slight movement or vibrations such as on top of wood floors due to temperature changes. This is extremely important because many types of adhesives can crack in this type of situation. The best flexible tile adhesive is by far a latex thinset.
Water proof tile adhesive: This would be used when doing an installation in an area that will frequently be getting wet like in a main bathroom or a kitchen countertop. These will be a thinset but which type depends on the surface you are setting your tile on.
Heat resistant tile adhesive: This is what you will need when installing fireplace tiles. You need a heat resistant adhesive because very high heat can easily damage a normal adhesive. Never use organic mastic where there will be high heat. You need a thinset which can handle at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Choosing the Right Tile Adhesive
The 3 Questions you need to ask yourself in order to choose the best tile adhesive:
You always want to make the most durable installation you can and using these 3 questions will help you to do so:
1) How much use will the area get?
You need to ask yourself if it will get heavy duty use or light duty use and purchase an adhesive that can handle how the tile will be used.
2) Will it be wet or dry?
This is an important question and answering it correctly will determine if you need a waterproof adhesive or not. A main bathroom would be considered a wet job whereas a kitchen floor would be a dry job.
3) What is my setting bed (setting surface) material?
The material that you will adhere you tile to will also be important because some adhesives work better with some materials than others. Here are the best based on setting bed material:
Mortar: For both dry and wet installations the best choice would be a latex thinset adhesive and if that’s not available a water-mixed thinset could work be used.
Concrete Slab: For both dry and wet installations choose a latex thinset. Other options for dry installations are organic mastic or a water-mixed thinset.
Plywood: For both dry and wet installations an epoxy thinset or a latex thinset which is specifically made for plywood.
Backer boards: For both dry and wet installations use a latex thinset or a water-mixed thinset. On only dry installations you could also used organic mastic.
Drywall: A latex thinset is the best choice but a water-mixed thinset or organic mastic could also be used.
On Top of Old Tiles: For both dry and wet installations use an epoxy thinset or a latex thinset.
How to Remove Tile Adhesive
Many times tile removal is the only option when a tile has cracked or broken or if there is water damage. After removing a few or all of the tiles it is extremely important to remove all remaining tile adhesive from the setting bed.
If you do not, when you install your new tiles they will be higher than the rest of the tiles. However this is a very easy task. Just take a putty knife, margin trowel, or utility knife and simply scrape off all of the existing adhesive.
When replacing tile adhesive remember to use the same exact adhesive that was used originally. Unfortunately sometimes this isn’t possible, and if that is the case try to use the same type. So if organic mastic was used, use that. If a thinset was used, use a thinset.
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