What Type of Adhesive Should You Use for Tile Installation?

What Type of Adhesive Should You Use for Tile Installation?

One of the most crucial materials for tile installation (besides the tile, of course) is tile adhesive, or the medium that adheres the tile to the substrate. In today’s blog post, we’ll talk about the three most common types of tile adhesive and help you determine which may be the best choice for your project.

Why Does It Matter What Kind of Adhesive You Use?

The main reason you should give some consideration to choosing the right kind of adhesive for tile installation is longevity. When you use the correct adhesive to install your tile, it’ll be much more durable, potentially making the difference between your newly tiled floor or wall lasting years or decades.

Applying tile adhesive during installation

Different types of adhesive come with varying levels of strength, water resistance, and chemical resistance. In addition, some types of adhesive are more challenging to apply than others, which may play into your decision. For example, it’s recommended that only professionals install tile using epoxy mortar, as it can be difficult to work with.

Types of Tile Adhesive

Below, learn about the most common types of tile adhesive and discover their benefits, drawbacks, and recommended applications.

Thinset Mortar

Mixing thinset mortar

Thinset mortar tends to be the default choice for the majority of indoor and outdoor tile applications. This type of adhesive is made of a mixture of Portland cement, silica sand, and moisture-retaining agents, which combine with water to form a mud-like consistency. 

Thinset comes in both modified and unmodified varieties. Unmodified thinset uses the ingredients listed above, while modified thinset also contains liquid latex polymers. Both types come as bagged powders that you’ll need to mix with water. Once mixed, you’ll use a notched trowel to apply thinset mortar to your substrate.

It can be important to note that thinset and mortar aren’t necessarily the same thing. Mortar refers to a type of adhesive used for various building materials beyond just tile, whereas thinset is categorized as a tile-specific type of mortar.

Benefits of Thinset Mortar

  • Resistant to moisture and mold growth
  • Can level minor surface imperfections
  • Heatproof
  • Dimensionally stable (doesn’t contract or shrink)
  • Creates a strong bond
  • Easy to work with

Drawbacks of Thinset Mortar

  • May require latex additives for maximum strength
  • Can be prone to cracking
  • Must use the entire batch or discard the excess, as it begins to set after mixing

Thinset Mortar Applications

  • Floor tile (kitchens, bathrooms, living areas, etc.)
  • Wall tile (kitchens, bathrooms, living areas, etc.)
  • Shower floors, walls, and ceilings
  • Bathtub surrounds
  • Countertops
  • Areas that require water-resistance

Premixed Thinset Mortar

Premixed thinset mortar

The major difference between regular thinset mortar and premixed thinset mortar is that the premixed kind comes in large tubs and is ready for immediate use, no mixing required.

Benefits of Premixed Thinset Mortar

  • Easy and convenient
  • Recommended for DIYers
  • No mixing required
  • Reduced slippage due to quick dry time

Drawbacks of Premixed Thinset Mortar

  • Heavy
  • More expensive than regular thinset
  • Challenging to adjust placement due to quick dry time
  • Not ideal for areas where moisture is present

Pre-Mixed Thinset Mortar Applications

  • Small spaces (small bathrooms, utility rooms, mudrooms)
  • Backsplashes
  • Ceramic tile installation

Epoxy Mortar

Epoxy mortar

Unlike thinset mortar, epoxy mortar doesn’t contain cement. Instead, it comes with two to three separate components (typically epoxy, sand, and coarse aggregate) that must be mixed immediately before application.

Advantages of Epoxy Mortar

  • Can grout more quickly due to quick setting time
  • Doesn’t require latex additives
  • Impervious to water
  • Strong bond
  • Can be applied to damp surfaces
  • Has high compressive strength
  • Sticks to resin-backed stone tiles
  • Resistant to chemicals
  • Resistant to compression

Drawbacks of Epoxy Mortar

  • Sets very quickly (pot life of around 45 minutes before it cannot be used)
  • Requires higher temperatures during installation (usually 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • More expensive than other types of mortar
  • Has a strong odor

Epoxy Mortar Applications

  • Porcelain, ceramic, glass, and stone tiles
  • Pools and surrounding areas
  • Commercial and industrial settings
  • Spaces that require chemical resistance
  • High-traffic areas
  • Areas that are consistently damp or wet

Choosing the Right Adhesive for Tile Installation

Installing tile

While the information above can serve as a helpful guide, we always recommend following the tile manufacturer’s instructions when determining which adhesive is right for your project.

One element we haven’t yet covered is the color of the adhesive. Thinset mortar, in particular, tends to come in two colors: white and gray. As a rule of thumb, white mortar is best paired with white or light-colored grout, while gray mortar tends to look best when used with gray or dark-colored grout. However, anytime you’re working with tile that’s transparent or translucent, white mortar tends to be the best choice.

If you don’t have much experience installing tile and are working in a smaller area, then premixed thinset mortar may be the best choice for you.

Meanwhile, regular thinset mortar can be a universal choice that works for a wide variety of indoor and outdoor applications. While it’s more challenging to prepare for application than its premixed counterpart, it may still be a valid choice for many DIYers.

For projects in high-traffic commercial and industrial areas, epoxy mortar is the best option. If you’re a DIYer with quite a bit of experience, then you may be able to complete tile installation with epoxy mortar on your own, but we highly recommend hiring a professional if your project requires this type of adhesive.

Find the Perfect Tile for Your Next Project at Tilezz.com!

Here at Tilezz.com, we have a wide range of tile options to suit all styles and preferences. With porcelain, ceramic, glass, and natural stone tiles at a variety of price points and in different shapes, sizes, and colors, there’s truly something for everyone. Plus, we make shopping for tile online as simple as possible with fast delivery, insured shipments, and easy returns. You can take a look at our product range here, or visit our blog for fun inspiration posts and helpful informational articles.

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