Tile and stone is evolving in interesting directions. Formats are getting wider, longer and thinner, while at the same time grout joints are also getting thinner. We asked several manufacturers to share their latest technologies designed to keep pace with these changes.

Russ Gaetano, Ardex’s senior marketing manager for tile & stone installation systems, said the latest trends present several challenges to grout and mortar manufacturers. “Given the size and denseness of tiles and the narrow grout joints, a typical mortar could take days or even weeks to dry. However, Ardex offers mortars with a rapid, self-drying technology—meaning these products do not rely on evaporation to dry and set.”

He stated that Ardex’s S 28 Microtec, N 23 Microtec and X 32 Microtec all feature this technology. “The water and moisture are absorbed within the matrix and the mortar dries very quickly in just 3 to 4 hours. This is important for an improved long-term bond. The Ardex Self-Drying Technology mortars are also ideal for use with moisture-sensitive tile and stone like green marbles and agglomerates to prevent discoloring, staining and warping caused by prolonged moisture evaporating up through the moisture-sensitive tiles.”

He added that several Ardex mortars are formulated with a chemistry that allows them to dry faster in difficult installation environments, called Microtec Technology. “Both Ardex X 77 and other Ardex mortars have this technology, which combines a unique polymer chemistry with high-performance microfibers that deliver benefits like outstanding bond and shear strengths, extended open times up to 60 minutes (very important when installing larger tiles) and yet they are very creamy and smooth, making them very easy to install. Both are highly recommended for large- and super-format tile and stone installations.”

Dean Cunningham, Laticrete technical service manager, is also seeing technologies change as tile and stone formats continue to get larger. “To install these tiles, contractors need to use specialized mortars, tools, equipment and methods to handle, cut, lift and set these tiles in a manner that will ensure they stay secure in their floor or wall applications.”

One type of mortar designed specifically for large and heavy tiles (LHT) is lightweight adhesive products. Cunningham noted, “Lightweight adhesive products can be used for any tile or stone applications, but are designed specifically to install LHT. Large-format tiles may require the adhesive used to have enhanced physical properties such as a longer open time and non-sag performance while maintaining other physical properties like shear bond strength and a smooth, creamy consistency for ease of use.”

He added, “Manufacturers of large-format tiles and manufacturers of tile installation materials have begun teaming up to provide training for these specialized applications. Whether they are completely new to large-format tile installations or need a refresher, installers can contact Laticrete for scheduled events.”


Ready-to-Use Products

Another technology finding wider acceptance are pre-mixed or “ready to use” products.

According to David Mowery, MAPEI’s tile and stone installation systems business manager for color products and the UltraCare line, as technology has improved, the consistency and dependability of ready-to-use products has also increased.

“From an installation compatibility standpoint there are very few limitations for the current day ready-to-use (RTU) grout technology. The chemistry evolution of RTU grouts has resulted in a much more robust product then was available in the past. Some of the best RTU grouts are formulated with coated quartz aggregate that has improved the overall performance of this grout category,” he explained.

He added, “Today’s RTU grouts have far superior stain- and chemical-resistance than the first generation of premixed grouts. RTU grouts are now commonly compared to epoxy grouts for stain- and chemical-resistance, yet they are more user-friendly and can easily be installed by DIYers as well as professional installers without the challenges that can occur with an epoxy grout.

“A common installation approach employed with RTU grouts is a ‘wash as you go’ method of installation. This means that the installer spreads the grout within an arm’s length and then comes back and washes the same area before moving to the next section. Repeating this process throughout the installation nets a substantial time savings vs. traditional grout installations. In addition, this installation approach also minimizes the potential of developing haze film on the tile surface.”

“RTU grouts are now commonly compared to epoxy grouts for stain- and chemical-resistance, yet they are more user-friendly and can easily be installed by DIYers as well as professional installers without the challenges that can occur with an epoxy grout.”

– David Mowery

Mowery also shared a few limitations of the product. “The only limitations are areas which are full submersion such as pools, fountains and spas. In addition, RTU grouts should not be used in steam rooms and other areas with ponding water and that continuously remain wet.  Since RTU grouts cure by dehydration, if they remain in an environment that has 100% humidity, they cannot ever fully lose their moisture and cure properly.”

Cunningham agreed that today’s premixed and ready-to-use products can be used in much more tile and stone installations than the past. “They are easy to use and do not require any mixing or sealing. These products also typically produce a more consistent color than products that require mixing.”

Gaetano stated, “Ardex offers a pre-mixed bonding adhesive for uncoupling and acoustic membranes, called Ardex AF 207, which allows installers to get on the membranes immediately to start installing tile.”


The Latest Products

Ardex has introduced ARDEX S 28 Microtec Rapid Set, Rapid Dry Super Format Tile and Uncoupling Membrane Mortar, featuring proprietary Self-Drying Technology that allows it to be set and dry behind any size or type of tile in 4 hours. In addition, it has an open time of 45 minutes, allowing extra time to place mortar on the substrate, back butter the tile and then set the tile in place.

Fusion Pro Single Component Grout from Custom Building Products combines ease of use with stain resistance and color consistency in one product. Its enhanced formula is now easier to spread and clean, plus it can be used in wet areas. Fusion Pro grout is ready-to-use right from the bucket with no mixing and no waste. The patented formula is engineered for stain resistance so it never needs sealing.  Advanced resins give enhanced Fusion Pro a creamy consistency that makes it super easy to spread and clean.

Custom Building Products also offers ProLite Premium Large Format Tile Mortar. Designed with non-slump properties specifically to support the weight of heavy stone and large format tile with one or more edges greater than 15” long, ProLite can be used up to 3/4”. Formulated with CustomLite technology, it’s 40 percent lighter than typical mortars and is also available in a rapid-setting formula, the company said.

Laticrete Ready-To-Use Grout is an advanced professional-grade, ready-to-use grout that delivers superior color consistency and excellent stain resistance. The grout does not require mixing or sealing and can be spread continuously for up to 20 minutes before cleaning is required. Ready-To-Use Grout is available in 40 colors, including a unique translucent option that contains glass beads which allow for light to pass through and reflect the colors of the surrounding tiles.

Laticrete has also unveiled Multimax Lite, a one step, non-sag, Large and Heavy Tile (LHT) mortar for interior and exterior installations of ceramic tile, porcelain tile, glass tile and stone. Multimax Lite exceeds ANSI 118.15, the industry’s highest performance standard for a cementitious-based adhesive mortar. 

MAPEI offers Flexcolor CQ and Flexcolor 3D. MAPEI Flexcolor CQ is a professional-grade, ready-to-use specialty grout for precision commercial and residential installations with porcelain, ceramic and natural stone tiles. MAPEI Flexcolor CQ is formulated with quartz aggregate, which ensures color consistency, ease of cleanability and improved workability. In addition, this grout can be used on sensitive tile surfaces once tested, requires no sealer and cures naturally from evaporation of the low level of water in the formulation, according to the company.

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MAPEI Flexcolor 3D is a professional-grade, ready-to-use translucent specialty grout with an “iridescent effect” finish. It is offered in 10 designer colors with translucent characteristics that not only reflect but refract light. This allows the grout to transition in color to complement the tile color. MAPEI Flexcolor 3D is formulated with recycled glass-bead aggregate, which ensures color consistency, ease of cleanability and improved workability. In addition, this grout can be used on sensitive tile surfaces once tested, requires no sealer and cures naturally from evaporation, the company noted.