The pros and cons of tile adhesives

Tile adhesives or sand-cement mixture?

When it comes to tiling of commercial and residential spaces, a lot of thought goes into the materials that will be used to bring out the desired aesthetics, however, little thought is given to what is required to piece these materials together.

The type of adhesive you use is crucial for the construction process, not only because it determines whether or not you would get the desired presentation of your project, but also because it determines how much money you will use during, and even beyond the construction process.

Traditionally, most contractors have relied on the conventional sand-cement mixture which comprises of ordinary cement and sand as an adhesive while putting together most construction material.

This is what they have recommended to most of their clients, primarily because this combination is cheap and readily available. It is a combination, however, that does come with its fair share of challenges, challenges that have pushed industry experts to develop more sophisticated adhesives commonly known as tiling cement adhesives, as replacements.

Daniel Khatia, a tiling expert and General Manager of Eurofix Industries, which produces tiling cement, says these products, specially formulated from ordinary cement, selected fine sand and additives, have proved more superior in functionality due to their enhanced properties.

For instance, while sand-cement mixtures can be used on a limited number of surfaces, tile adhesive can be used for a variety of surfaces. They can, for instance, be used to lay tiles on existing tiles, on polished cement, on wooden substrates, or on other special substrates.

There are many types of tiling cement adhesives which one can choose from depending on the type of tile being used and the amount of bonding strength that is required. What one would use for cabro, mazeras, or marble floors, for instance, is not the same as what one would use for ceramic or wooden floors.

“We, for instance, have granite and marble adhesives which can be used for tiles that are more than 40cm by 40cm in size, then we have other tile adhesives which can be used for tiles that are 40 by 40 and below,” notes Khatia.

He observes that the advantages that modern tiling cement adhesives hold over the traditional mixtures go beyond the tiling material. In the application process, while a thick layer of sand-cement mixture must be used to lay tiles or to adjust the floor level to gain its bonding mechanism, a much smaller amount of tile adhesive cement is required to lay a similar number of tiles.

“About 6.5kg of tiling cement is what is required to cover 1 square metre of tiles, however, you would require almost double the amount of ordinary sand-cement mixture to cover the same size, but still, this won’t get you the same result because after six to 12 months, the tiles will have started popping out,” says Khatia.

There is also the fact that using more sand-cement mixture would increase the load to the building structure. The recommended layer of tiling adhesive cement, however, is a lot thinner, which means that the building structure bears a lighter load.

Khatia also points out that there is wastage of material in the traditional sand-cement mixture, bearing in mind that the mixture lacks additives to help it retain water. Without these additives, the mixture dries faster than the application, so it is a delicate balancing act. Since it dries fast, it becomes difficult to adjust the tiles after they are laid.

Tile adhesives, however, are ready mixed, you just have to add a bit of water. A 25kg bag of tiling cement uses just about 5-6 litres of water, way less compared to sand-cement mixtures.

“The process of mixing the sand and cement is also, dusty, messy, tiresome and time-consuming and is health hazard to the workmen. The tiling cement is easier to work with, you simply add water and apply the paste. Using a notched trowel would help you apply the correct amount as it has set parameters,” noted Khatia.

Another advantage that the tiling cement adhesive has over the conventional sand-cement mixture is that you do not need to chip wall or floor surfaces before applying it. If, for instance, you are working with smooth surfaces, workmen will have to make them rougher so that tiles can stick.

“That process is tedious and time-consuming as it gives technicians extra work. As for the tiling cement, you do not need to hack the surface. Whether it is smooth or rough, the only thing you need to make sure of is that it is dust-free, then start the application process,” notes Khatia.

The advantages don’t stop here, working with the sand-cement mixture means that tiles need to be soaked in water for at least one day before being laid. If you do not do this when working with the traditional mixture, tiles will fail to adhere properly.

Tile adhesive cement, however, has bonding properties which allow one to directly apply tiles without soaking, saving time. The tile adhesive cement also has anti-sagging properties which prevents it from flowing down when applied to the wall.

While working with sand-cement mixture, you have to apply it in lump on the back of tiles, this means you have to work with one tile at a time, reducing efficiency. Doing this creates voids underneath the tiles and water can seep through, creating the white stain problem – water penetration makes the tiles fragile. The sand-cement mixture is also prone to shrinking once it dries, leaving a hollow space below the tile surface. This results to the hollow sounds you hear while walking on tiled floors.

“These are the weaker areas of flooring and they can cause tile chipping, cracking or debonding, so you may have used less money initially while setting up the tiles, but you will use a lot more in the long run on maintenance and repair,” notes Khatia.

To avoid this, go for tile adhesive cement, because it is water repellant, a factor that reduces penetration of water into the tile.

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