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Selecting Substrates

Choosing the proper substrate

Since tile is only as good as what it's stuck to, choosing the proper substrate is the most important part of the installation process. There are many different kinds of substrates available to use for tile installation. One of the most common is Wonderboard by Custom Building Products. It is a cement backerboard approved for ceramic tile installation and carries a Lifetime Warranty. It is the preferred substrate over lesser backerboards and water resistant gypsum board. Installation specs include using multi-purpose thinset for the adhesion of the tile to the backerboard and taping the joints with fiberglass mesh to eliminate fault lines beneath the tile. Be sure to follow all of the manufactur's instructions for the installation of any backerboards to avoid voiding the warranty.

Another substrate installation method is the old-fashioned way of floating walls and floors. This is accomplished by mixing sand and portland cement together with a little water to form a "dry pack" which is then applied to the prepared area and "floated" to a level and/or flat surface. The tile is then applied to the surface using thinset. Floating walls and floors is almost a lost art in todays construction. This time-tested method is far superior to some other substrates in terms of strength and durability. The visible effect is that floors and walls are perfectly flat and/or level. Cement backerboard is conidered acceptable for most wall tile installations, but a floated substrate remains the superior installation method for floors.

Choosing the proper substrate is the most important part of your tile installation as it will literally make or break your job. All too often, mostly for reasons of cost, the substrate is not considered during the construction of a bathroom. Remember that tile is only as good as what it's stuck to and that water will rot down your house. An improperly constructed shower can cause major structural damage. Thinking long-term will save aggravation and repair cost down the road.

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TileMan Extraordinaire, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia