This adhesive is mixed using cement, sometimes sand, and water to form a trowel able or brush able consistency. Generally, this mixture can only be used on a substrate or mortar bed that is still plastic or uncured. The use of this adhesive is sometimes called wet-set and was the method used to bond tile prior to the invention of thin set. While an old method, it is still used today and is still a very good one.


Sometimes called Portland cement mortar, many companies manufacture this product. This product is used to bond dry tile directly to the backing or substrate. Basically, thin set is cement, sand, and an additional ingredient called methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is the ingredient that holds water in the thin set allowing the user to set dry tile. Thin set is available in two types, dry-set Portland cement mortar and latex-modified Portland cement mortar. Latex Portland cement mortar has latex modifiers mixed with the traditional ingredients. Each company may have several different types of thin set in their individual line. Some may have higher bonding properties, faster drying times, higher water resistance, and reduced shrinkage factors when applying the thin set in a thicker application. The user mixes potable water with the dry ingredients to form an adhesive. thin set is manufactured in white or gray in color. Generally, white is used for walls and counters and gray for floors.

Thin set is specified and tested under ANSI A 118.1 2005 for dry-set Portland cement mortar and ANSI A 118.4 2005 for latex modified Portland cement mortar. Insure that your intended product meets or exceeds these minimum requirements.

Tile Doctor Tip: Always follow the manufacturers instructions and recommendations for the use of thin set products. Proper mixing and application will ensure satisfactory results.


Organic adhesive or mastic can be used on floors and walls. It is used like thin set to bond tile directly to a backing or substrate. However, special precautions must be followed in their use. These products are a pre-mixed adhesive that are commonly packaged in pails or other watertight containers. Following guidelines found under ANSI 136.1 2005, the mastics fall under two types.

Type 1 mastic: for floors and walls either wet or dry
Type 2 mastic: is generally used for dry wall use only

It is very important to closely follow the Manufacturers recommendations carefully to lead to a successful project.

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Tile Doctor Tip: Like all manufactured products, use the best products you can afford. If it’s in your budget, the old saying you get what you pay for certainly applies here.

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