Tile mortar Help

mori1May 3, 2012

I am putting 12x12 porcelain tile on the wall surrounding my tub. I'm using 1/4 x 1/4x 1/4 vesabond mortar but I can't the consistency right. My first day, I made it too thick like thick peanut butter. Had a hell of a time spreading it so today I made it more like a paste. Its a lot easier to spread but its not thick enough on the tile and so I ended up buttering the tile instead which is quite messy. So my question is what am I doing wrong?

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You can buy pre-mixed thinset pals and you will not have to worry about it!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 2:26AM
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Add about 3/4 of the expected water to the bucket. Add the thinset. Mix. Slowly add a bit of water and continue mixing until you get a good consistency. It is impossible to to take water out once you've added it, so just add a bit at a time and continue mixing.

Also, Don't try to make big batches. If you can't use it in under an hour, you made too much. Slow and steady wins the DIY tiling race.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:40AM
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There is a knack to getting it "just right", but also make sure you are mixing it enough. Quite often people do not mix it for long enough. The directions are on the bag.

Do your initial mixing, then let it slake (rest). Then mix it up again. Remix it once in a while while you are working, it keeps the mix from getting too tight.

I don't recommend you use the "premixed thinset". First, they are not true thinsets. Second, they are water soluble.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:17AM
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I made it up in small batches which made my life so much easier. Put in the water, then the thinset until I think its right. I use a plastic spoon to the hold test and then let sit for five minutes, mix again. These 12x12 tiles take a lot of mortar and I try to get a lot on the cbu which starts to starts sagging down. I use the 1/4x1/4x1/4 towel to make the ridges but I'm not doing something right. Because when I check the tile less then 50% of it is covered with mortar so I have to butter it.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 11:29AM
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Most people have better luck with a 3/8" trowel for 12x12. Make sure you are pulling at a 45 degree angle too. A shallow angle will pull off too much thinset and you won't get good coverage.

Also, I suggest you try the mixing method I posted earlier instead of trying to add dry mix to a soupy bucket. It is a whole lot easier to add "a little" water than "a little" dry thinset when you are getting close to the consistency you want.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 12:11PM
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Wish I had gotten your post earlier, just came back from HD. Oh well, they are getting use to seeing me everyday anyway. I don't think I was doing the 45 degree angle because I was pulling off quite a bit of thinset.
So instead of using the dry mortar to get the right consistency use water instead. As long as it doesn't kill my drill, I'll try it. But that seems to be opposite of what the bag shows.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Pulling the thinset off the CBU can also mean that you're not "burning it in" to the surface of the CBU, so to speak.

First, make sure the CBU isn't dusty. Wipe it down with a sponge until it wipes down clean.

CBUs, especially hardie, can wick water out of the thinset, "drying" it out prematurely. Misting your CBU with a spray bottle, letting it soak in, and then tiling can help.

Apply the thinset to the CBU with the flat side of the trowel. Really work it in to the surface for a few seconds, Work it so you get the thinset in to the textured surface of the CBU. Spread it around so you leave a little over 1/8th inch thickness. The >1/8" thickness isn't not crucial, just a technique.

Then come back and comb it out with the notched side of the trowel. Combing from bottom-to-top may help too.

If they need buttering, use the same technique on the back side of the tiles, but only with the flat edge of the trowel. Again, you want to work the thinset in to any texture on the back of the tile, then remove most of the thinset with the flat edge of the trowel. Like lightly buttered toast.

For nice flat tiles, you don't really want a thick opaque thickness on the back of the tiles. You want a well-worked in "smear".

If your tiles are not flat, or if they have a textured back side; a waffle pattern or other mold markings, you might need more thinset than a smear.

Just like the CBU, some tiles might have dust on the back too. Any powdery residue might inhibit the thinset from sticking to the tile. Theoretically you could have enough thinset on the CBU, but when you test set a tile then pull off the tile to check thinset coverage, not much is sticking to the tile due to the dust. The dust is acting like a release agent.

Lots of variables. But you're developing a new skill set, and the next project will be easier.

Remember a lot of tiling is "technique". What works for me or bill may not work for you. Eventually you find your way, things come together, and it all seems so easy.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 3:19PM
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The tile I'm using has the waffle so yea I put it on thick then spread it smooth. Then I push that baby on to the cbu which cause some to ooze out. I use a putty knife and rag to get between the side before it had a chance to dry. Its looks like a lot of thinset to me (thickness between the cbu and tile is about 1/4) but the tiles I put up there are somewhat even and flat. I wipe the board down before I start but it takes me so long between tile that I try to remember to wipe again. I did have spray bottle yesterday but forgot to use it.
I got the 1/4in x 3/8in trowel so hopefully this will help using it at a the 45 degree angle.

I screwed up the kerdi band on my niche so now I have to see if I can fix this new problem. Thank you guys for your help, I really do appreciate it.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 5:17PM
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Mixing the mortar the way you suggested worked. However, I wished I had posted sooner. The mortar stuck the tile out a little from the other tile so its going to take some work to get this right.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 9:57PM
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Mongo, you do a terrific job of explaining things. I am always so happy to read your solutions to our problems!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Mori, glad to read things are coming along.

Enduring, thanks. Maybe it's a byproduct of homeschooling my kids years ago, lol. Did you ever get around to tiling the 6x12 herringbone?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 11:39AM
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