This past weekend I had a couple come into our store with a distressing situation. They had been to a different tile store to purchase some materials for a new bath remodel they were working on. Admittedly, they were novices to the tiling world and had done some reading online before their purchases, but learned a bit too much it seems. Unfortunately, in the world of tile, terminology can be your worst enemy sometimes. They thought they were asking for one thing, but got something completely different and incorrect for them. I gave them a quick rundown on the different terms, what they mean, and where they apply...and I figured it might be good to share with all of you as well.
So yes, this isn't quite a decor themed blog like I usually do, but hopefully you'll find it useful just the same!
This is a mix made partially of portland cement. A form of adhesive that comes in both modified or un-modified, and gray or white. It comes in powdered form, usually in 50-lb bags. Needs to be mixed before use. This type of adhesive provides the strongest, most durable bond and I would highly recommend it for just about any tiling job you could think of.
Pre-fortified thinset with all the additives mixed in. Just add water for these types. For the average homeowner, VersaBond will provide the best results and covers you for most jobs. Sometimes you may need specialty thinsets such as FlexBond for going over plywood substrate or Marble & Granite for stone tiles.
Can be used with just water, but you can add your own mix of additives, like liquid latex, to make it into a stronger mix than a pre-modified thinset. This is primarily used by contractors or pros, as they may want to mix their own set. The only time I would sell this to a DIY'er would be for going underneath DITRA, as this is the recommended thinset by the manufacturer.
Gray is the older style of thin-set and the popular choice for most professionals. However, you’ll want to be weary of the decision. Take caution using gray when applying a light color grout, or a porous stone. Depending on the color and pourousness, the gray color may show through the grout/tile. For these applications, white is the best to use.
Think glue. It’s water soluble and can keep well in an air-tight bucket. Needs much more time to dry, and can lose its bond if exposed to water again, so do not use in areas where it may be exposed to water. Best for small tiles so it can dry easier, and in applications where water is not an issue. Very “sticky” so easy to apply for novice tillers.
Mastics do not cure like thinsets would. They are much easier to use, yes--but the extra time taken to mix a thinset adhesive is well worth the effort. Also, take caution using mastics on porous stone tiles, as it does have a chance of staining the tile itself. These types of tiles are better left for thinsets.
A mix between traditional powder thin-set and mastic. This is basically mastic with sand added to it. While it does share the thin-set name, it is still not recommended for waterbound areas. Has a similarly higher drying time to mastic. This tricks many people into thinking it is a thin-set, but it is not. Read the labels carefully.
This is more of a term, and may differ with who you talk to and your region. Thin-set is a type of mortar (you’ll typically use thin-set to “set” thin mortar beds, thus the name) Mortar can mean different type of concrete work, such as brick mortaring, which uses larger sand than thin-set does.
Thinset is the best to use no matter what the job, as it is ultimately stronger, unaffected by water, and provides a cement-like bond. However, it’s tougher to work with, especially in vertical applications, and sometimes requires precise mixing amounts.
Mastic is easier to work with due to it’s stick, however, it will not dry to the same strength and is not water tough. Should never be used in bathrooms or areas prone to water or steam such as showers.
- Non-Sanded for grout lines 1/8” or less
- Sanded for grout lines 1/8” or more.
Just like the name implies, Sanded grout contains silica sand that helps it resist shrinkage and cracking, as well as making it more rigid.
As a general rule of thumb, sanded is traditionally used for floor installs and non-sanded is traditionally for wall installations. However, make sure that you stay within the suggested guidelines for spacing at all times.
As always, I reach out to you...my loyal DIY and Mr. Jay fans! Please share with me your own local "tile slang" if you will. If there are terms you've heard used before, or things you would like to add, please do! You're feedback is always appreciated