Mortars have evolved greatly over recent years, in order to keep pace with harder-to-bond porcelain tiles, larger-format tiles, as well as to support slim tiles,
As Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Advisor for LATICRETE, noted, saving time and money on the jobsite have become increasingly important as the industry pushes to offer more advanced products to meet construction needs for fast-track projects while incorporating lightweight and dust-free features. “New mortars being developed are creating ways to shorten the entire lead time of residential and commercial tile installations,” he said.
“Other mortar product developments focus on designing new products that meet or exceed regulatory requirements,” he continued, “and are equipped with supporting Health Product Declarations (HPDs), Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and UL GREENGUARD® Certifications.”
One of the most significant advancements for large-format tile and stone is the development of large-and-heavy-tile (LHT) mortars (formerly known as medium-bed mortars). “When tile mortars cure, they are inclined to shrink because the displacement of water causes the mortar to retract and either pull away from the tile causing uneven coverage and hollow spots or physically pull the tile down while it hardens, causing lippage,” said Tom Carroll, Senior Product Manager for Merkrete. “Newly formulated LHT mortars are designed to control the amount of shrinking that occurs during the curing process, allowing the tile to stay in position.
“These LHT mortars are formulated with non-slump to withstand movement of larger and heavier weighted tile during installation,” he added. “They also contain increased grab and non-sag/slip for vertical installations. The continued education and awareness of LHT mortars are assisting installers to make these a more common part of the installation.”
The evolution of grout
As the foundation or framing of your tile product, grout utilizes the element of design with color, style, shine and pizzazz, depending, of course, on what grout you choose to work with.
Grout continues to feature an extensive color palette, but much about its delivery and selection of color has become different over the years, from ready-to-use products that can be resealed and stored for future use, to stainproof grout, to newer dispersible-pigment products that can reduce inventory space needed in the warehouse, to grouts that incorporate metallic pigments or glass beads to enhance glass or decorative tiles. Color choices continue to grow, some coordinating with other finishing or paint suppliers or grouped into families to make color selection easier.
Advances in grout technology continue to emerge and understanding the performance characteristics and limitations of each type of grout is important, noted Merkrete’s Carroll. “Most grouts are produced to meet the requirements of a particular ANSI standard, but there are additional requirements demanded by installers or end-users. Contractors typically want grout products that have enough working time, spreads easily, completely fills joints, dry quickly, and are easy to clean. They do not want call-backs to clean grout haze and seal joints.”
Pre-mixed grout has helped drive the construction industry forward by helping installers do their jobs more effectively, noted Mintie. “In addition to time savings thanks to a faster preparation, pre-mixed grout helps to simplify the installation process by eliminating the guesswork. Installers no longer need to worry about meeting the exact amount of water necessary to achieve the desired consistency, like they would with traditional grout.”
Pre-mixed grout can also be less expensive when used for smaller jobs because these products can usually be purchased in small quantities. “Any left over grout can be saved and then used on other projects,” Mintie said, ”significantly reducing waste. Some pre-mixed grouts already contain materials like latex or urethane, which can help improve adhesion and eliminates the need for sealing.”
In the Portland cement grout category, more and more installers are electing to upgrade their grout selection to a rapid setting, CAC-Calcium Aluminate Cement, which offers higher performance specifications and typically adheres to ANSI A 118.7, noted David Mowery, MAPEI’s Business Manager for Color Products and UltraCare.
“Traditional Portland cement grouts typically only achieve ANSI A 118.6 specification,” Mowery said. “Given the trend to larger-format tile and gap widths typically in the 3/8” range, less grout is being required per square foot,” he added. “This allows the contractor/installer to justify the higher price given the higher-performance characteristics. With the higher-performance grouts, the contractor/installer will gain more performance features such as no efflorescence, enhanced color consistency, rapid setting for earlier foot traffic, and no sealing required.”
Another category of grout is showing major growth as well, noted Mowery. “The use of ready-to-use (RTU) grouts is moving out of the DIY arena and into the commercial contractor/installer channel. This is being driven by improvement in overall performance in this grout category. RTU grout chemistry includes acrylics, urethanes, and hybrid versions.
“When cost is a consideration – and it always is – the product cost for RTU grouts vs. traditional cement grouts are higher,” he continued. “Yet, when you factor in the reduction in labor time for installation, ‘no sealing’ required, no callbacks, no efflorescence, color consistency and the chemical- and stain-resistance provided by an epoxy, RTU grouts are a bargain.”
Merkrete’s Carroll agreed, adding, “Since the trend to larger format tile and smaller joint widths is growing, less grout is required for each installation. This allows the contractor to justify using a higher-priced, higher-performing grout because the square foot cost is negligible.”
1 ARDEX Americas
Ardex X 90 Outdoor mortar is designed to offer maximum weatherproof protection against the harshest elements for outdoor tile and stone installations. Featuring a new weatherproofing technology, the rapid-set, flexible tile and stone mortar is formulated to deliver full protection against harsh weather conditions, and maximum levels of efflorescence resistance for exterior tile and stone installations. It sustains the highest levels of freeze/thaw resistance, tested at 150+ freeze/thaw cycles – seven times greater than ANSI 118.15 standard requirement of 20 cycles. It also features solid rapid-setting properties, at temperatures as low as 40°F. ardexamericas.com
Bosti-Set™ from Bostik is a one-component, non-sag, easy-to-trowel adhesive that is specifically formulated for the installation of thin gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) on interior, vertical surfaces or counter tops. Utilizing Bostik’s Tenirex™ Polymer Technology, a proprietary formulation found only in Bosti-Set™, provides the adhesive with an instant grab and holding power, enabling panels to be set on walls and repositioned for up to 30 minutes with no slip or sag – with only a single coat. Easy to clean off tiles, Bosti-Set holds thin porcelain tiles as large as 1/4” x 5’ x 10’ (6mm x 1.5m x 3m). Once cured, Bosti-Set’s bond provides both durability and sound abatement. bostik.com
3 Custom Building Products
The company’s ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar is formulated for large-format tile, but works equally well with glass, natural stone or gauged porcelain panels, making it suited for most any project. Designed for non-slump to support the weight of large-and-heavy tile, ProLite offers high bond strength and will not sag or slip in vertical installations. ProLite exceeds ANSI A118.15TE, and is available in a rapid-setting formula. Designed to be 40% lighter than most mortars, it is easy to handle for installers and contributes to LEED.
Quick Cure Mortar Bed by Laticrete is a pre-mixed, polymer-fortified, thick-bed mortar that allows for foot traffic and walkability as soon as 30 minutes after application, due to its rapid-setting formula. It’s suitable for both interior and exterior applications, wet or dry applications, bonded and non-bonded thick bed mortar applications, shower systems and concrete repairs. Quick Cure Mortar Bed is eco-friendly, emitting low VOCs, and is a component of the LATICRETE® Lifetime System Warranty providing peace of mind for trouble-free installations. laticrete.com
The installation of large-format tile requires that the setting mortar wets out the back of the porcelain tile or stone as well as the substrate to produce superior bond strengths and deformability to accommodate a higher degree of expansion and contraction resulting from larger tile sizes. The company’s Thixo Technology LHT mortars are designed to meet these large-and-heavy-tile installation requirements with products that perform multiple functions. Thixotropic formulations allow MAPEI’s Ultraflor™ Plus, Ultraflex™ LFT™ and Ultraflex LHT to be used as both standard thin-set mortars and large-and-heavy-tile mortars with non-slump performance. mapei.com
6 Merkrete Systems
Merkrete offers large-and-heavy-tile (LHT) setting solutions for both walls and floors, supporting the development of larger size tiles and planks that emulate wood or natural stone. 855 XXL and 856 XLF LHT mortars are solutions for this trend. 855 XXL has unique properties and can be used as a thinset or a LHT setting adhesive for installing large-format, ceramic, porcelain and irregular thickness stone. 856 XLF has exceptional fluid properties that make it an ideal adhesive for installing standard to ultra-thin, extra-large tile and stone over a variety of substrates including tile-over-tile applications without the need of back buttering the tile. merkrete.com
7 TEC Specialty Products
TEC® Ultimate 6 Plus is a high-performance, polymer-modified, full-coverage mortar with a unique combination of features that allow grouting and return to service in six hours while providing an extended open time and pot life. Ultimate 6 Plus significantly reduces the need for back buttering and has exceptional non-sag/non-slump characteristics for wall and floor applications. It is ideal for GPTP/ slabs, LHT and thin-set applications and offers 50-lbs. of coverage in a 40-lb. bag. Ultimate 6 Plus is approved for use under and over uncoupling membranes and extruded waterproof boards. tecspecialty.com
MacTown Tile Company
As a tile contractor, I am always looking for the best setting materials for the task at hand. For me, mortar is the most important of those materials. In search of the best products I try as many as I can, and there are a lot to choose from.
Like most tile contractors I have my workhorse mortar that I use for many applications but there are situations that arise that a specific mortar is the best choice. When dealing with glass tile I prefer a mortar formulated for glass that I know will cure properly. If I have a large-and-heavy tile on a vertical surface I prefer a mortar with thixotropic properties to help hold the weight of the tile. If I’m working outdoors in an unpredictable environment, I go for a mortar that is rapid setting and can withstand a driving rain after a short amount of time, and that has excellent workability in varying temperatures. There are mortars specifically designed to handle any installation scenario.
Today’s mortars are so predictable in their performance that manufacturers are giving great warranties on them. The only thing an installer has to do is to use the right mortar for the job and to mix it according to the instructions. Often times when I hear contractors complaining about products not working as advertised I ask them if they followed the instructions and the answer I usually get is that they “eyeballed it.” Put the guesswork away, get out the measuring bucket and set the timer and the product will perform as expected.
As for the future of thin-set mortars, I hope to see more silica-free products readily available on the market. For too long we have been lax about the effects of silica in our industry and many contractors have paid for it with their health. It’s time we as an industry get with the program and start working smarter.
Bostik’s Hydroment® Vivid™ is a rapid-curing, high-performance cement grout featuring proprietary HyDrix™ and Color Suspension™ technologies. HyDrix allows Bostik to control the timing and formation of both the chemical and physical matrices of Hydroment Vivid™ grout during the curing process. Color Suspension offers ease of installation because it forms a protective matrix around the pigment itself, keeping it evenly suspended during application and clean-up. The grout floats across the tile surface and remains easy to tool, which ultimately produces a color-consistent grout joint. Hydroment Vivid exceeds the requirements of ANSI 118.7 and contains Bostik’s Blockade® Antimicrobial Protection. bostik.com
2 Custom Building Products
Custom’s Fusion Pro® Single Component® Grout is formulated to combine ease of use with stain resistance and color consistency in one product. Its new formula is designed to be easier to spread and clean – plus it can be used in wet areas. Fusion Pro is also guaranteed to be stain-proof and color perfect. The grout is ready to use from the bucket with no mixing or waste, and creates tile and stone grout joints ranging from 1/16” up to 1/2”. Fusion Pro is applied and cleaned immediately, with no wait for slaking or setting up, saving time on each project. custombuildingproducts.com
The company’s SpectraLock® PRO Premium Translucent Grout is a patented epoxy grout that offers customers an opaque color that diffuses light for a vibrant finish. Offering non-sag performance, stain resistance and color uniformity for an even finish without any blotchiness or shading, SpectraLock PRO is designed for residential and commercial use on interior or exterior ceramic tile, glass tile and stone applications, and is well suited for regrouting swimming pools, fountains and other wet areas. laticrete.com
MAPEI Flexcolor® 3D and MAPEI Flexcolor® CQ are professional-grade, ready-to-use (RTU) specialty grouts for commercial and residential installations with porcelain, ceramic and natural-stone tiles. MAPEI Flexcolor 3D (pictured) is translucent with an iridescent-effect finish in 10 designer colors with luminous characteristics that reflect and refract light. This allows the grout to transition in color to complement the tile color. MAPEI Flexcolor CQ is formulated with the latest innovation in quartz aggregate, ensuring color consistency, ease of cleanability and improved workability helping to prevent water-based stains by providing water repellency to the grout surface. mapei.com
5 Merkrete Systems
ProGrout is a premium-grade, fast-setting, color-consistent, efflorescence-free, high-performing polymer-modified cement grout formulated for all types of tile and dimensional stone for both walls and floors in residential and commercial projects. Designed with the contractor in mind, ProGrout is easy to mix, apply and clean and offers excellent stain resistance and color consistency. It is suitable for joints 1/16” to 1/2” (1.5 mm – 12 mm) wide on floors or walls, eliminating the need for different grout products. ProGrout comes in 21 colors and exceeds ANSI A118.7. merkrete.com
6 TEC Specialty Products
The company’s Power Grout® has a formulation that is stain proof (to most common water-based stains, when cleaned immediately. The prolonged exposure of any stain will increase the likelihood of permanent staining or discoloration of grout surface), and provides strong, color- consistent joints free of efflorescence that are resistant to shrinking and cracking. It is fast setting, open to traffic in four hours and will work for joints 1/16” – 1/2” wide. Power Grout is designed to provide high performance in virtually any environment, including high traffic and wet conditions, and in residential and commercial applications. tecspecialty.com
Louis Iannaco is a contributing editor to TileLetter magazine.