Thinset mortar — it’s just sand and cement, so why have so many different varieties from each manufacturer? After all, that’s the way we used to mix it 30-plus years ago: mix our cement to sand/water ratio for our mortar bed, soak our tile in water, sprinkle some water and dry cement on the surface of the mortar bed, create a slurry, and our tile was set. So nowadays, it must be a way for them to package it differently, then let’s add a little polymer in it so we can charge more. When a tile contractor can purchase a bag of thinset mortar for under $10.00 a bag versus $50.00 plus a bag, it’s a no brainer, right? If you have this type of mindset regarding thinset mortars, you need to start rethinking what is actually happening. Thirty-plus years ago, 8”x 8” tile was the norm. Not anymore. The absorption rate of tile was different as non-vitreous tile was commonly used. Meanwhile, today, porcelain tile is very popular, with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%. Tiles of today may not bond with methods and materials used in the early years, and that’s where the different types of thinset mortars have come into the marketplace.
I had the opportunity to attend a National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) training event for gauged porcelain tile panels in Salt Lake City, Utah, and we had some great trainers from DalTile, Custom Building Products, Beno J. Gundlach/Monolit and the NTCA (Photo 1). Mark Heinlein, NTCA, was the lead instructor along with Kolby Colledge and Dave Stewart from Custom Building Products; Stanley Jensen from Beno J. Gundlach; Randy Fleming, NTCA and Jerry Joyce, national rep for DalTile Panoramic products.