What Thinset Is Good for Ceramic Tiles in Cold Weather?

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When it comes to installing tile in a home or office there is usually a guideline followed by most construction agencies: never install tile during the winter months. There are a variety of reasons for this, but there are also specialty thinsets available for those instances when you absolutely cannot wait for the warmer months to arrive. While it is more expensive, it is an option for times of necessity.

Basics of Cement

  • Cement is a very expansive material in that it changes size with the seasons. When the weather is warm it expands, and when the weather is cold it contracts. It is always better to install ceramic tile during the warmer months when the materials are at their widest point so they settle in an expanded space and have room to expand again after they contract in the winter. Otherwise a contracted material tries to expand and causes damage instead.

Normal Thinset Recommendations

  • The average guidline for ceramic tile installations by most manufacturers of cementitious thinset mortars is that the installation surface needs to be above 50 degrees. This means the ceramic tile, the substrate, the wall behind the substrate and the thinset itself need to be at 50 degrees and maintained for a minimum of 72 hours to allow the thinset mortar time to cure.

Specialty Thinsets

  • Specialty thinsets are available for use in colder climates than 50 degrees. Some thinsets can be used as low as 32 degrees due to additional polymers and latex additives included in the mixture to help the thinset expand in the summer months when the cement in the mixture takes in the warmth and expands with the house, keeping the ceramic tile installation intact as it spreads the movement out through the elasticity. .

Drying Time

  • Something to think about if you decide to use a specialty thinset to install ceramic tile at a lower temperature than 50 degrees is that the more latex additives and cement are in a mixture the longer it takes for the mixture to dry. As a general rule you can estimate that for every 18 degrees below 70 degrees a thinset will take twice as long to cure, so while an installation at 70 degrees might take three days to dry, an installation at 52 degrees will take six days.

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