How to Choose The Right Tile Adhesive
Picked your perfect tiles? Woohoo! But don’t sit back just yet – at the risk of sounding like a party pooper, that’s the fun bit done. Now we’ve got to think about adhesives and installation. After all, your new tiles are only going to look their best if they’re fitted correctly.
We use tile adhesive to stick our tiles to walls and floors – it’s essentially Prittstick for porcelain. There’s a myriad of different substrates (that’s the technical term for walls and floor surfaces) and tile types out there, so it’s vital that the correct adhesive is chosen to ensure your tiles stay in place for years to come.
We always recommend seeking the advice of a professional tiler, who will be best placed to pick the correct adhesive for your project. However, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you make the right choice if you’re choosing adhesive yourself. As with everything, if you need any extra advice just get in touch and we’ll be delighted to help.
What types of tile adhesive are there?
There’s two different types of tile adhesive, ready mixed pastes and powdered adhesives.
As the name suggests, ready mixed pastes can be used straight out of the tub so they’re pretty easy to use. But with ease comes limitations – in general, pastes can only be used to fix smaller ceramic tiles to walls.
On the other hand, powdered adhesives need to be mixed with water into a slurry which takes a little more time and effort. However, they offer a far stronger bond and in general, can be used to fit ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tiles to almost any substrate.
What substrate are you fixing to?
As we mentioned above, there’s a whole host of different substrates that tiles can be fixed to. Let’s look at the most common options:
Small ceramic tiles are often used for walls and splashbacks and in most cases, a ready-mixed paste will be suitable for the job. If you’re fixing a larger ceramic tile (larger than 30 x 30 cm) or any size porcelain tile to your walls, you will need to use a powdered adhesive. These come in different colors, setting speeds and flexibility options, which we’ll discuss below.
It’s important to ensure your wall can bear the weight of tiles and adhesive. Where possible, we’d advise tiling directly onto plasterboard rather than fresh plaster. We’ll discuss weight on walls in more detail below.
Although it’s sometimes possible to tile directly onto floorboards, we usually advise installing a layer of marine grade plywood (minimum 15mm thickness) or a tile backing board on top. These will give you a stronger, more stable surface to tile onto.
Ready mixed pastes can never be used to tile floors, even if you’re using ceramic tiles – instead, you’ll always need to use a powdered adhesive. The main things to consider when choosing the right powdered adhesive are color, flexibility and the open, or setting time. We’ll come onto these shortly.
As with timber floors, you’ll always need to use a powdered adhesive. Newly laid floors will need to be sufficiently dry before you can tile – generally concrete bases need a minimum of 6 weeks.
A closer look at powdered adhesives
Not all powdered adhesives are born equal and there’s numerous options to pick from, depending on your project. Let’s look at some of the more common options:
Most adhesives are available in either white or grey. Generally, when using a lighter grout you’d use a white adhesive, and vice versa.
Even in your home, floor tiles experience a lot of stress from foot traffic, underfloor heating and movement in the subfloor. The adhesive bed can absorb this stress to reduce the chances of your new floor cracking; the more deformable (or flexible) the adhesive, the more peace of mind you’ll have.
Powdered tile adhesives rated as S1 or S2, where S2 offers more degree of flexibility. In general, an S1 adhesive will be suitable for most applications; in areas subject to lots of vibration or movement, you might want to use an S2 rated adhesive for extra confidence.
Some adhesives are unrated but they can still be used on floors with limited movement or vibration.
Powdered adhesives are often classified as either ‘standard’ or ‘rapid’ setting – this refers to the working time you have to use the product. The faster the adhesive sets, the sooner you can get onto grouting and finishing your room.
As the name suggests, a rapid setting adhesive will set much faster than a standard adhesive.
In many cases, it makes sense to pick a rapid setting adhesive. However, there’s plenty of times when you’ll prefer to use an adhesive with a longer opening time – when tiling a floor in a tricky, herringbone pattern for example, or when laying large format tiles to a wall and you want to ensure a flawless finish.
So to recap, when tiling any floor and many walls, you’ll need to use a powdered adhesive. The exact adhesive choice will depend on the color of your grout and the desired flexibility and working times.