Over the past 50 years, the local tiling market moved away from sand and cement fixing to tile adhesive fixing. Today, manufacturers produce a wide range of different types of tile adhesives, which are designed for specific types of tiles and application areas. Knowing all the available options can be tricky. Keep it simple with this quick and easy reference guide to tile adhesives. 

Types of adhesives 

Type of adhesive Type of tile and application Curing time 
Cementitious standard setting Ceramic tiles 24 hours 
Cementitious rapid setting Ceramic, porcelain, large format tiles, tiling over existing tiles 2, 6, 12 or 18 hours, depending on adhesive used 
Polymer-based pre-mixed For fixing small or lightweight tiles onto flexible surfaces such as wood or drywalling, or upside-down tiling to window or doorway arches. 24 hours 
Epoxy-based Specialist products for use in areas where total imperviousness, hygiene and chemical resistance are important. From 10-48 hours depending on adhesive used 

Specialist characteristics 

Different formulations provide specialist characteristics for a tile adhesive: 

  • Improved flexibility: 
    • Ideal for fixing tiles to substrates where there is movement, such as upstairs, on stairways, suspended walkways or in areas where thermal fluctuations are expected. 
    • Provides flexibility, which is usually achieved by the addition of latex- or polymer-based additives. 
  • Reduced slip: 
    • Provides slip resistance on a vertical surface, to limit downward movement of the tile once pressed into the trowelled adhesive. 
    • Usually a fast-setting tile adhesive. 
  • Extended open time: 
    • Allows a longer working time after application of the adhesive to the surface. 
    • Ideal for fixing large-format tiles. 

Specifying the right adhesive 

When installing tiles, the choice of the tile adhesive is crucial – not just for perfect installation, but also for the durability of the tiling installation. Adhesives should be chosen according to the specific project data including the place of installation, the type of substrate and the type and size of the tiles. 

Choosing a fit-for-purpose solution is reliant on four role players: 

  • The client:  
    • Provides all the useful information on the use of the spaces and the stresses they are likely to be subject to, allowing the designer to determine the technical requirements. 
  • The designer:  
    • Draws up the layouts for the project, indicating tile selections and installation areas. 
  • The adhesive manufacturer: 
    • Takes the various factors indicated on the project layouts into careful consideration, and compiles a project specific materials and methods specification, incorporating the correct background preparation and priming systems, adhesive and grout systems, as well as the requirements for the intermediate tile panel movement joints and perimeter joints.  
  • The tiling contractor:  
    • Ensures that the tile adhesive is correctly stored on site.  
    • Installs the tiles using adhesives, and any additional products such as primers or additives, in accordance with the requirements of the project and the recommendations of the works manager. 
    • Has a qualified foreman on site to ensure that the tiling works are executed accurately. 

Identification made easy 

Once the requirements of the installation area are determined, further classification, designation and selection of the product can be done by referencing the European Standards EN12004. This is used by manufacturers as the benchmark for classification and performance testing of tile adhesives. A code is assigned to the tile adhesive, which provides information on the classification and characteristics of the product.

Issue: How to identify and specify the right tile adhesive. 
Solution: This quick and easy reference guide provides information on types of adhesives, special characteristics, role players and the identification of products. 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.ceramica.info/, Sika, TAL and Weber Saint-Gobain for the information in this editorial. 


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