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.
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 colours, 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 colour, 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.
Powdered tile adhesives rated as S1 or S2, where S2 offers more degree of flexibility. In general, an S1 adhesive such as our Rapid Setaflex Grey 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, such as our Trade Flexirapid Grey, are unrated but they can still be used on floors with limited movement or vibration.
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 colour of your grout and the desired flexibility and working times. There’s a few other points to consider while we're on the subject of tile adhesive. Let’s have a look in further detail:
No-one wants to tile an uneven floor - it’s difficult to get your tiles perfectly level and you’ll end up wasting adhesive. Use a 2m straight edge to check how flat your substrate is; if there’s any deviations more than 3mm then we’d recommend pouring a coat of self-leveller to provide a flat, level surface. Uneven walls can be made flat by using a good plasterer (if you're using small ceramic tiles) or by fitting tile backing boards.
Dust and dirt can interfere with the adhesion of the tile and might find their way into the grout, so take care to sweep your substrates before tiling. There’s a good reason why plenty of tilers swear by their Henry Hoovers!
As we touched on above, it’s important to consider the weight of tiles and adhesive when tiling plaster or plasterboard walls. Fresh plaster can bear 20kg per square metre, while plasterboard can take 32kg per square metre. As a general rule, you’ll need to allow 2 - 4 kg per square metre for the adhesive and grout, on top of the weight of tiles. This weight can vary; small ceramic tiles are usually quite light, but larger porcelain tiles can weigh over 20kg per square metre. Where possible, we'd advise fixing wall tiles to unplastered walls or better still, tile backing boards. These can usually bear between 40 and 60 kg per square metre. Please contact us if you need to know the weight of any of our tiles. We’ll assume your floors are strong enough to bear the weight of tiles - after all, if they’re not, you shouldn’t be walking on them!
It's vital that there's a full bed of adhesive between your tiles and substrate as any voids could lead to cracked tiles further down the line. It's often a good idea to 'back-butter' the tile with adhesive, to ensure a full and even coverage - this is especially true with larger floor tiles. Don't be tempted to 'spot-fix' tiles by applying a dab of adhesive to each corner!