The Types of Thinset Mortar

As a water-activated adhesive, thinset mortar should be stored off the ground and in a dry atmosphere to avoid activating the material
As a water-activated adhesive, thinset mortar should be stored off the ground and in a dry atmosphere to avoid activating the material (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Thinset mortars are generally used in the application of tiles to a substrate, with the main ingredients in thinset mortar being water, sand and cement. Numerous polymers can be added to thinset mortars to alter the physical properties of the adhesive.

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Thinset mortars are a combination of materials that form an adhesive no thicker than 3/16 inch in thickness. Thinset mortars are manufactured for ease of use by needing merely the addition of water on the job site to form the adhesive. As thinset mortars are adhered directly to the substrate, they are not generally suitable for floors that have a large slope, nor is the mortar suitable for regions with extremely low temperatures where ice crystals may form in the mortar during periods of freezing temperatures. Where ice crystals form, floor tiles can become loosened from the mortar and substrate. Any movement in the substrate can also dislodge the tiles.

Medium Thinset

A medium-bed thinset mortar is commonly used on a substrate with a large slope that must be corrected in the laying of floor tiles, according to the Tile Council of North America. During the installation of heavy or thick tiles a medium-bed thinset mortar is often used to hold the tiles in place on the substrate to support the heavier weight of the tiles. To create a flat-flooring-system medium-bed thinset mortar, the adhesive can be applied with a thicker application or a coarser aggregate or sand mixture.


Over 10,000 polymers have been created to alter and improve the various applications of thinset mortars, the Tile Council of North America reports. Commonly used polymers include EVA, PVA and SBR, and they are used to provide qualities such as freeze protection, flexibility, waterproofing and elasticity. These modified version of thinset mortars are also known as latex modified thinset mortars.


Thinset mortars are also known as dry-set, dry-bond and thinset cement, and these types of adhesives are designed to be applied in a thin layer directly to a substrate surface.For a surface to be applied successfully, the tiled surface should be left to dry, or cure for a period of at least 24 hours, according to the Floor Covering Installer. The optimum climate conditions for the installation of thinset mortar applications is 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 45 to 50 percent humidity level. The proper installation and mix of adhesive is required as tiled floors are often installed in high traffic areas of a building.


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