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Suitability Of Substrate As Vital As Choice Of Floor

Colin Stanyard, ceramic product manager, Mapei UK, explains what’s involved installing ceramic
and natural stone: 
CERAMIC or natural stone tiles and mosaics provide a hardwearing and versatile floor or wall finish, suitable for a wide range of domestic and commercial applications.
Stone has been quarried and shaped into floor slabs and mosaics or building blocks for many centuries; its natural patina and texture allowing patterns with functionality to be created.
Every tile or stone installation will give years of service life, provided it has been fixed correctly. To ensure a successful installation, carefully assess all the important criteria.
Firstly, ascertain that the tile or stone selected is appropriate for the intended service conditions, i.e. where you intend to put it. For example, a wall or floor application, internal or external, in a wet environment (shower, water feature or swimming pool, etc)?
Establish what kind of stresses the tiled finish will be subjected to? For example, light duty domestic use or heavy-duty commercial use? What type of traffic will use it, e.g. pedestrians on foot, sit-on cleaning machines or other types of vehicular traffic?
For commercial premises, this could include the use of cherry pickers or scissor lifts for use by other trades on a construction site, or for maintenance purposes once the building is in use.
Once it has been clarified that the tile selected is suitable for the intended purpose, then move on to the next criteria; the substrate.
Determining the substrate’s suitability for the planned installation is no less important than assessing the tile’s suitability. Tiled surfaces are rigid finishes and, as such, will not bend. Therefore, it is logical to provide a substrate that will support the tile; one that provides a rigid base. If this is not done, additional measures need to be taken to ‘stiffen’ the substrate.
Porcelain and natural stone tiles add weight to an installation. So do ensure that the substrate is capable of supporting the additional dead load in the case of floors. All weights calculated should include adhesive and grout.
There are other factors which influence the design of a floor tiled installation. For example, using underfloor or undertile heating. Whilst adding great comfort and efficacy to a building, these systems introduce thermal stresses which need to be taken into consideration. Wet duty installations, even humble domestic showers, introduce additional demands on a tiled finish.
Having concluded that the tile and substrate are suitable for the installation, we can choose the adhesive, right? Actually, we may not be able to, just yet. For example, does the structure need priming or waterproofing, is there a requirement for improved acoustic performance and would the installation benefit from the use of a de-coupling membrane?
Once these additional considerations have been addressed, then the adhesive can be selected. There are a number of adhesives available to bond tiles or stone, which we’ll explore in a future issue.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at