A Guide to Tile Adhesive and Grout Types

A Guide to Tile Adhesive and Grout Types

Tile Work
Flooring
By Mateos Glen Hayes February 24, 2022

If you want to replace your tiles and refresh your bathroom, you’ll need to find the right material to get the job done. The right adhesive will make your tiles last and stay in place for a long time with little to no maintenance required. Tile adhesives and grouts need to fulfill a lot of requirements to do their jobs well; they need to keep tiles solidly in place for decades but must also be easier to work with.

A strong tile adhesive is no good if it cures too fast or too slow since this will make it difficult if not impossible to use properly. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that fulfill those criteria and can be used for all sorts of tile applications, from bathrooms to kitchen backsplashes.   

Tile Mastic Glue

Tile Mastic Works Well With Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles Alike

Tile Mastic Works Well With Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles Alike

Also known as ceramic tile adhesive, it is made of acrylic copolymers and calcium carbonate. It has a quicker drying time than most other tile mortars thanks to its sticky consistency. This makes it a pretty attractive option if you want to install tiles vertically since it will set before they can slide around or fall.

This adhesive works best with glass, ceramic, or porcelain tiles, but it does come with some caveats that limit where you can use it. For one, unlike waterproof tile adhesives, this mortar does not work well in areas with lots of moisture, as such bathrooms are not a good place to use mastic glue. This also means that this adhesive doesn’t work well for filling the gaps between tiles. 

Epoxy Tile Adhesive

Epoxy Is One of the Most Durable Mortars

Epoxy Is One of the Most Durable Mortars

This is a waterproof tile adhesive, and as such is ideal for use in wet places such as your bathroom or the outdoors. It sets after only a couple of hours and will bond with basically any tile material you can think of including lesser-used metal and stone. Plus, epoxy tile adhesive has high durability that allows it to last for a long time with no maintenance.

Of course, even epoxy tile adhesive has a couple of disadvantages that are worth bearing in mind. It starts setting after just 45 minutes, meaning that you can’t take your time with it. It also requires warmer temperatures between 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit to work properly. Having said that, it’s quite straightforward to use and all you have to do is mix two or three components and get tile-laying.

Glass Tile Adhesive

Glass Tile Mortars Also Work With Other Materials

Glass Tile Mortars Also Work With Other Materials

Glass tile adhesive may sound like it’s only for glass, but it can be used with marble or stone tiles as well. It is made to work best with smooth non-porous materials such as glass and comes in different color shades that allow it to match the grout you use and give a color background to your transparent glass tiles.

If you want to install glass tiles on a vertical surface, but would prefer if they don’t slip or fall, this is the best mortar for the job by far. This formula provides a stronghold that will keep glass tiles securely in place for years to come and will prevent any and all sagging.  

Thinset Mortar

Arguably the Most Versatile Mortar Type

Arguably the Most Versatile Mortar Type

As with tile cleaners, there is more than one type of thinset mortar and each one will be better for certain uses than others. In fact, thinset tile adhesives and grouts are the most popular form of tile glue in use because of their general versatility and their many other qualities.

Their simple composition allows thinset mortars to hold off mold, moisture, and the ravages of time. Heat-resistant tile adhesives are ideal for multiple applications. There are a few different types of thinset mortar to choose from, and they take between 24 to 72 hours to set fully. 

Standard

Available in a wide variety of colors, standard thinset mortar is a powder that is meant to be mixed with water before it can be activated. This takes a bit of time but once it’s done, standard thinset mortar can easily bond with ceramic, porcelain, and even natural stone. It works best with larger tiles — such as those larger than 11”x 11” — and can be used for flooring and walls alike.

One defining quality of the standard adhesive is that it is pretty versatile and durable. This makes it well-suited for areas with lots of foot traffic or if you want to install heated floors. Standard thinset mortar is able to hold up well to temperature changes which cause it to expand or contract.  

Unmodified 

This is for lovers of old-school building materials. Unmodified mortar does not use chemicals but is instead made up of simple materials such as cement, water, and sand. Adding more cement to the mixture makes the mortar stickier — although you can also use polymers or latexes to achieve the same effect. This is worth considering if you need the mortar to bond well, such as when installing tiles on a vertical surface. 

Modified 

Unlike unmodified mortar, its modified cousin includes chemicals in its mixture. Typically containing polymer agents or latex, modified mortar uses these chemicals to increase the hydration of the cement in the mixture, therefore allowing the mortar to bond more easily.

This allows a thinner layer of thinset to go a long way since you’ll get a stronger bond without having to lay it on thick. This is a great thinset variant to use in a high moisture area since moisture will only make the mortar stronger with time. Moisture hydrates the cement, causing crystals to form that allows the cement to become much stickier.

Cut Out the Guesswork With a Premixed Mortar

Cut Out the Guesswork With a Premixed Mortar

Pre-Mixed

But if you’d rather not mess around with mixing various materials to make a good mortar, you can cut out the guesswork with a premixed thinset mortar. This variant of thinset also comes with a good range of colors; and since it’s ready to go out of the box, it is perfect for handyman tasks around the house such as backsplashes or tiles lining your fireplace. It can also come in handy if you have loose tiles that may need securing as a band-aid solution.   

Gorilla Glue 

A Common Household Product With Many Uses

A Common Household Product With Many Uses

You might seem a bit surprised to see Gorilla Glue on this list since it looks more like caulk than mortar. But there is actually a good reason to consider it the best tile adhesive. Namely, it is a polyurethane glue that is activated by water. This means that it will expand quite a lot thanks to the water, meaning that a little bit of glue can do a lot of good work.

Plus, it has very strong adhesive qualities and will cure in just 24 hours. In general, it is ideal for spot repairs where you might need to fix up a single tile or some other smaller details. As any enterprising handyman will tell you, it’s good to keep some of it around for the times when the unexpected happens.  

Outdoor Tile Adhesives and Grouts? 

Achieve Amazing Outdoor Tile Layouts With the Perfect Mortar

Achieve Amazing Outdoor Tile Layouts With the Perfect Mortar

With so many different mortar types, you may be wondering which ones are best suited for heavy-duty applications such as outdoor ones. In general, thinset adhesives are by far the best for use outside because they absorb moisture, which in turn strengthens the bonding power of the adhesive.

The benefits of this cannot be underestimated, especially if you live in a humid or rainy part of the world. Consider applying the substrate adhesive using a notched trowel for the best results.

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes