Most people don’t realize that what setting material you use to install your tile is as important as the tile itself. Using the wrong setting material or an inferior setting material could end up being a disaster. Unfortunately I’ve heard some horror stories about floors coming up, cracking, and tile falling off walls. So how do you guard against tile disasters? First make sure the surface you are tiling over is properly prepared to accept tile. The best source for this is www.tcnatile.com (Tile Counsel of North America). They publish the industry guidelines for all types of tile installation. Next step is using the proper setting material. Read the bag or bucket and this will tell you what surface you can tile over plus what type and size of tile will work with that product.
Be very careful when buying setting material at the big box stores. I cringe when I’m on line to check out at Home Depot and see DIYers or contractors buying the cheapest setting material. Better yet, when I sell a bag of thinset to a contractor and he tells me he can get the same thing from Home Depot at half the price. Usually my answer is, “I’m sure you can but do you want to get a call in a month from your customer saying the floor is coming up?” Ok I realize that’s being a little dramatic or is it? If you buy VersaBond from Home Depot at $15.97 a bag why not spend $7.50 more a bag and buy the VersaBond Flex or $15.00 more for the Flex Bond? Here’s why you should, the more expensive thinset has more flexibility and bonding strength which means an installation is much less likely to fail due to various structural issues. Plus you are only spending 23 cents more a square foot for a much better product. Makes sense, right? Now let’s compare apples to apples using some basic specs! The popular VersaBond Flex sold at Home Depot has a shear strength of 400 psi after 28 days when used to install a porcelain tile. A product we sell called Bostik PM has the exact same specs and is $4.50 a bag less than the VersaBond Flex. My higher priced thinset called Single-Flex is equal to Home Depots Flex Bond and is about the same price. So you are not saving more at the big box stores, in fact you are saving less which means you will be doing less. Sorry, I could not resist!
The end result is be smart and do research on the tile setting products and methods of installation. Not only could you pickup some time saving tips but you will have peace of mind knowing you used the best products. If you are hiring a contractor ask what setting material they use and how long they have been using it. The answer to those question might tell you something about the quality of their work. Either way it always good to know what is under your tile.