How to Mix a Thin Set for Ceramic Tile

The mixing of thinset mortars for ceramic tile installation is all about time management.

Preparation

Once the thinset is properly mixed, it must be used prior to the completion of the chemical reaction. This will ensure that you achieve the strongest bond between the ceramic tile and the substrate. Most thinsets are a mixture of Portland cement, sand and other materials used to control the curing process. Mortars with latex modification can be used for areas requiring higher strength and durability, such as floors.

Step 1

Determine the substrate. Make a note of whether the substrate on which the tiles will be placed is wood, cement or a cement board designed for ceramic tile. Ideally, it should be one of these three. If the substrate is wood, choose a thinset that is latex modified or purchase a latex modified additive. The other two substrates do not require the latex additive.

Step 2

Prepare the thinset. Weigh the amount of thinset that you will be mixing. The addition of water will initiate the chemical reaction, so it is important to only mix as much mortar as can be used in about 30 minutes.

Step 3

Prepare the water. Measure the appropriate amount of water based on the manufacturer's recommendations. It will usually be approximately five quarts of water per 50 pounds of dry thinset. However, this may vary by manufacturer and material.

Mixing

Step 1

Add approximately one-half of the measured amount of water to the plastic pail. The other half will be added later in the process.

Step 2

Add all of the weighed thinset to the pail on top of the water. Do not add it too quickly or the dry material will dust into the air.

Step 3

Mix the water and thinset combination, with the paddle mixer installed into the drill, for approximately 20 to 30 seconds until all of the available water is absorbed by the thinset. Add the remaining water and continue mixing until the material is the consistency of creamy peanut butter. There can be no lumps in the mixture, as this is evidence of unmixed dry thinset.

Step 4

Allow the material to slake. Once the mixture is the correct consistency, allow it to slake (or set) for 5 to10 minutes. This allows the material to stiffen as the chemical reaction takes place.

Step 5

Mix the material again. Once the slaking process is complete, remix the material for approximately 15 seconds. The thinset is now ready for use.

Things You Will Need

  • 5-gallon plastic pail
  • 1/2" drill
  • Paddle mixer
  • Water
  • Scale
  • Thinset mortar

Tips

  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the water to thinset ratio.
  • Avoid using fast-setting thinsets unless you are an experienced installer.
  • Use cool, potable water for mixing, as warm water will speed up the curing process. Water that is not clean can diminish the strength of the prepared thinset.

Warning

  • Follow the manufacturers recommendations for personal protective equipment.