Home Improvement

How to Select the Correct Tile Adhesive or Mortar

Oliwia Urban 

When it comes to selecting the right tile adhesive or mortar, it’s crucial to choose the correct one that ensures a strong and long-lasting bond between the tile and the base surface. The demands placed on tile adhesives are high, and they need to meet various requirements to guarantee reliable performance for decades to come. In this article, we will explore different types of tile adhesives and mortars to help you make the right choice.

Thinset Tile Mortar

Thinset tile mortar is the go-to option for most indoor and outdoor applications. It offers several advantages and considerations to keep in mind.


  • Provides a tight bond between the tile and the surface.
  • Easy to work with, ensuring a smooth application process.
  • Resistant to moisture, preventing any water-related issues.
  • Helps prevent the growth of mold, maintaining a clean and healthy environment.


  • May crack under certain circumstances.
  • Additional additives may be required to achieve maximum strength.

Thinset mortar consists of Portland cement, silica sand, and moisture-retaining agents. It possesses a smooth and slippery consistency similar to mud. The application of thinset mortar to the substrate is done using a notched trowel.

Standard and Pre-Mixed Thinset

Standard thinset comes as a bagged powder that needs to be mixed with water. Once mixed, the mortar starts to set, so it’s important to use the entire batch or discard any excess.

On the other hand, pre-mixed thinset comes in large tubs and is ready to be applied straight out of the package. Despite being heavier and more expensive than dry mortar mix, pre-mixed thinset offers convenience and is particularly suitable for do-it-yourself projects.

Consider using pre-mixed mortar for small spaces like bathrooms, mudrooms, or utility rooms. For larger projects involving multiple areas, opting for a dry mix can help save costs.

Working With Thinset Mortar

Thinset tile mortar provides a strong bond while being resistant to moisture and mold growth. It can withstand high temperatures, making it suitable for various environments. As a cementitious material, thinset remains dimensionally stable, ensuring it won’t shrink or contract.

Another advantage of thinset is its ability to level uneven surfaces to some extent. While it cannot level extremely uneven surfaces, it can bridge gaps and compensate for slight level changes.

Thinset mortar is ideal for floor tiles and any tiles in wet areas such as shower floors, walls, ceilings, and tub surrounds. To enhance its strength and reduce the risk of cracking, you can mix thinset with a special latex additive.

Epoxy Tile Mortar

Epoxy tile mortar offers unique properties and is suitable for specific applications that require superior performance.


  • Exhibits high compressive strength.
  • Provides a strong bond, especially with resin-backed stones.
  • Works well with damp surfaces.
  • Ideal for various materials, including porcelain, ceramic, glass, stone, metal, mosaic, pebbles, rubber flooring, and wood block flooring.


  • Requires higher temperatures for proper installation.
  • Relatively higher priced.
  • Has a strong smell during the curing process.
  • Sets quickly, providing a limited window for adjustments.

Epoxy tile mortar comes in two or three separate components that need to be mixed before use. Compared to thinset, epoxy mortar sets quickly, allowing for grouting within a few hours. It is impervious to water, eliminating the need for special latex additives required by some thinset mortars.

Working With Epoxy Tile Mortar

Epoxy-based mortars boast high compressive strength and adhere well to resin-backed stones. They are easy to use and maintain. Their mechanical strength ensures tiles remain securely in place and resist compression. Pigmented epoxy mortars do not leak onto ceramic or porcelain tiles. Moreover, they exhibit resistance to a wide range of chemicals.

Proper installation of epoxy mortars requires temperatures between 60 and 90°F. Warmer temperatures expedite curing time, while cooler temperatures slow it down. While installation can be performed on damp surfaces, it’s important to note that new concrete needs to cure for at least 28 days before applying the tile.

However, epoxy mortar has a few downsides. It is more expensive than thinset and emits a strong smell during the curing process. Additionally, epoxy mortar sets quickly, allowing for a limited time frame to make adjustments. The pot life for most epoxy tile mortars is approximately 45 minutes, after which the product becomes unusable.

Due to the complexities involved in mixing and working with epoxy mortars, they are commonly used by professional tile installers rather than do-it-yourselfers.

In conclusion, selecting the correct tile adhesive or mortar depends on various factors, including the type of application and the specific properties required. Understanding the characteristics of different adhesives and mortars will help you make an informed decision and ensure successful and long-lasting tile installations.