How to Apply Tile Adhesive

Preparing and applying tile adhesive is a very straightforward job, and is often thought of as the simplest part to laying tiles. Be sure to choose the right tile adhesive for your project as the types and compositions can vary considerably. It’s important to take into account the colour of the adhesive with regard to the kind of tiles you are laying (use a white adhesive for tiles with any transparency such as natural stone tiles), the setting time (standard setting times average around 24 hours, while rapid-set adhesives can dry in up to 2 hours), and the type of the adhesive with regard to the surfaces and materials you are working with (some adhesives offer added flexibility, or varying bond strengths etc).

Once you’ve purchase the correct tile adhesive for your project, you then need to start mixing it, ready to apply. Always mix your adhesive in small amounts as you progress through the project, and never in one go, as it’s difficult to predict exactly how much you’ll at the beginning, and also how long it will take you to complete the job. The mixing ratio can vary between types of tile adhesive, so be sure to check the packaging for the correct amounts, and if you have any queries, just speak to your local tile specialist. The easiest way to accurately mix the correct quantities is to use a specialised mixing bucket, which will indicate quantities on the bucket itself. The mixing itself is best performed with an electric drill fitted with a mortar-mixing paddle. It’s important not to mix your adhesive too rapidly – suggested speeds are under 300rpm – as this may encourage unwanted air pockets to become trapped in the mixture. Once the adhesive is mixed to form a consistency almost like whipped cream with no lumps, allow it to rest for 5-10mins before applying it, as this can help to encourage any un-dissolved powder to mix effectively.

When applying tile adhesive, it’s best to use the correct trowel for the type of adhesive you’re using, and for the kind of tile you will be laying. Again, recommendations should be found on the adhesive packaging indicating which type of trowel is most appropriate for the job. The simple reason for this is that different types of tiles will require varying degrees of bond and purchase from their relationship with the texture of the adhesive, and this will be achieved using an appropriate trowel. Trowels differ in their shape, size, and most importantly, in the depth of their notches, which creates the texture when applying the tile adhesive to your sub-floor or wall. An example of how trowels may differ in type and use is for example when laying large tiles, it’s recommended to use a large-notched trowel, to create a heavier, deeper grain in the adhesive, where as a mosaic trowel, with much finer notches can be used when applying adhesive for a mosaic tiling job, to create a shallower, more intricate texture.

When it comes to the actual application of the tile adhesive, use a standard gauging trowel to deliver the adhesive onto the floor or wall which you’ll be tiling onto. Then once you have applied a generous amount of adhesive – enough to lay a few tiles onto – begin to level it out with your notched trowel to evenly cover the area you’ll be working on. Once you have spread the adhesive out evenly, begin methodically scraping the trowel through the adhesive at a 45 degree angle with the wall or floor surface, creating the appropriate lines of notched adhesive.

You should now be ready to place your tile onto the tile adhesive, taking care with heavy tiles, not to over extend yourself or do any damage to your back. Also, take care to ‘back-butter’ any tiles that have cracks in them, or happen to be particularly porous (like travertine tiles for example), to ensure they are adequately protected, and will form a good bond.