New lightweight mat underlayments are available that weigh as little as 25 pounds per 300 square feet - that's up to 25 times lighter than ¼-inch backerboard.

It's clear that leading manufacturers in the tile and stone industry are listening to installers, who are looking for ways to save time on the job and limit callbacks - after all, that's the best way to grow their business and their profits. Manufacturers have responded to this need with innovative new products that make installation easier, faster and better. This technological progress means we now have products that are lighter weight, easier to use, and more effective for today's surfaces, whether it is a large format tile requiring substantial coverage, glass tile that needs extra bonding strength, or sound reduction needs in an underlayment. These new products can help get the job done faster and can ensure a lifetime of durability.

Some new lightweight mat underlayments can be used to set tile or stone over any acceptable subfloor, and do not require the use of screws or fasteners.

Lightweight lightens the load

One of the most back-breaking aspects of tile installation is simply the act of loading, unloading, lifting and carrying materials on the job site! Traditional installation of a 300 sq. ft. tile job on a wood sub-floor can require over 600 lbs. of backerboard and over 300 lbs. of thin-set mortar. A major leap forward in the science of tile installation materials is the arrival of lightweight technology. Forward-thinking U.S. manufacturers have adopted this technology, which began in Europe, and developed new products that weigh far less than their traditional counterparts yet deliver exceptional performance.

Among the most remarkable innovations are lightweight mat underlayments. Designed to replace heavy cement backerboard, these lightweight mats are easy to carry and handle, given that 300 sq. ft. of lightweight underlayment can weigh as little as 25 lbs. and can be cut easily with a utility knife. These new underlayments are effective replacements for traditional ¼" backerboard because they are mold and mildew resistant, pass ASTM C627 Robinson's load-bearing floor test at Light Commercial level or higher, and prevent crack transmission from horizontal subfloor movement of up to ¼-inch. Additionally, some mat underlayments are 25 times lighter than ¼-inch backerboard.

Some mat underlayments are available with an optional adhesive backing, making them up to four times faster to install since no thin-set or mechanical fasteners are required. As an added bonus, some even offer sound control properties with ∆ IIC values of up to 20 and an R value of 1.5 or more for thermal resistance, making them great for use under radiant heating systems on concrete. When sound control properties are necessary, typically in residential or multi-family residential structures, you can eliminate the need for another layer of material on top of backerboard by using a lightweight mat underlayment as your primary underlayment and sound control product in one.

New lightweight formulas go on smoothly, spread evenly and cure quickly.

Performance is better than ever

Manufacturers have recognized that products must meet the changing needs of the tile and stone industry. Through research and development they have extended the lightweight properties to self-leveling underlayments and lightweight mortars as well. In these formulas the sand is replaced with high-tech, lightweight composites, allowing the products to weigh sometimes 40 percent less than traditional cement-based products while providing the same coverage. Imagine grabbing two 30 lb. bags of self-leveling underlayment by the handles instead of hefting 50-pounders and feeling the weight difference when pouring too!

Not only are they much easier to carry, but some of the new lightweight mortar formulas have a creaminess and workability that is unmatched in standard, sand-based formulas. And some products are composed of recycled materials contributing to LEED certification. These advanced new products can provide superior uniform coverage, cure quickly, and yield exceptionally high bond strengths that stand up to large tile. The best of the new mortars also are flexible enough to isolate some movement (usually up to 1/8-inch), preventing cracks in the finished surface and have exceptional non-sag, non-slip performance on walls. They go on smoothly, spread evenly, and can literally make a normally long day of troweling shorter for a tile installer.

The best of the new mortars have exceptional non-slip, non-sag performance on walls, and provide the high bond strengths and uniform coverage necessary for setting large tile.

In addition to the lightweight and performance benefits, some manufacturers may offer lifetime warranties on their products, so it pays to check manufacturers' Web sites to select the most effective, warranted installation materials once you have determined the specific type of installation you will be doing.

The art of installing tile is made easier, faster and better with new lightweight products on the market that give you, the craft professional, all the benefit of lighter weight, easier to handle products that will reduce time on the job while increasing the value and durability of the job.