Important: This is without a doubt, the most important statement! “Poorly prepared substrates and the use of improper setting materials are the cause of practically all major installation failures. Certain types of substrates and job conditions require ‘special treatment.’ These treatments are neither expensive, time consuming or complicated. To ignore or deviate from them would be the equivalent of play Russian roulette.”

Here is a description of installation materials:

·        Thin-set mortar – is a mixture of Portland cement and sand used to adhere the tile to the substrate.

·        Latex Portland cement mortar* – is the same as the thin-set mortar except that a special latex or acrylic is added. The latex gives the mortar flexibility and additional bonding strength. The flexibility is required when going over substrates that may experience minor movement. The additional adhesion strength is needed when setting tile over hard-to-bond surfaces

·        Mastic – is a pre-mixed adhesive paste similar to a vinyl adhesive.

·        Membranes – are used to separate the tile and mortar from the substrate. They are made to resist tile damage caused by minor substrate cracks, minor movement and water damage to the substrates.

·        Cement Backer Boards – are lightweight concrete sheets that are used to cover wood subfloors. They are also used as underlayment for “wet” areas such as shower walls and tub enclosures. 

*Caution: Not all latex and acrylic additives are designed to do the same job. For example, some are not recommended over wood. Some are for interior use only. Some are not suited for going over cut-back adhesive, etc. The best way to handle this is to have your supplier develop a cross reference list that matches the proper setting materials with the job conditions.