Dear Joe, I want to put ceramic tile all around the backsplash of my kitchen. I have bought the tile but I don’t know what kind of glue to use. Should I use the stuff that comes premixed in the bucket, or the powder that is in the bag. I have different people telling me different things and I don’t know what’s right. I appreciate your help. Love your column,
Thank you so much for your question and for reading.
I am glad you asked. This is a great question for first time tilers. What you need to know about the two different types of adhesives is that one of them will work for every application and one will only work for certain applications. Knowing the appropriate usage is very important.
First off we’ll address the powdered thin set cement. This is a Portland cement based adhesive and comes either modified with latex additives or unmodified. These additives aid in adhesion as well as making the cured product more flexible. If you have a water proof substrate and a non-porous tile you must use an unmodified mortar. These adhesives are ideal for any tile over 4 inches either wall, or floor, indoors or out, but difficult to use on tiles smaller than 2 inches. Though, it will be necessary to use this if your tile will be exposed appreciable amounts of water.
For your kitchen backsplash on the other hand, which will not be exposed to a lot of water, which is on the wall, and I am assuming is a tile smaller than 4 x4, the premixed latex tile adhesive is ideal. This adhesive benefits from the additional surface exposure that a small tile provides to allow it to dry. A few days drying before grouting, is also helpful to allow it to cure sufficiently. Just be sure you don’t use it on floor tiles, outside tiles, in showers, or for tiles larger than 4 inches. It is a much simpler product to use if you have no experience, but it has limitations which you need to respect in order to do a quality job.
So if you are not sure of what you’re doing, feel free to make a couple phone calls. Ask for help at your local building supplier, or call a tiler and ask if you can watch for an hour and pick his/her brain for some pointers and advice. If you’re still not confident, then you can always ask that same tiler to come and give you a quote on the tile job you need to have done. They should be happy to offer you a complimentary estimate for your ceramic project.