How to Choose Thinset Mortar

Written by leslie renico
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How to Choose Thinset Mortar
Mortar holds these tiles in place. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

When you're choosing a thinset mortar, the composition will depend on where you're going to put the mortar and what the particular application will be. There are two different types of thinset mortars: polymer-modified and dry-set. Dry-set mortars can be mixed with water or with polymer additives if you need a greater bonding strength. Polymer-modified mortars already have the strength added and just need to be mixed with water.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Consider the places where you're going to use the thinset mortar. If you're just tiling on a bathroom or kitchen wall or making a decorative project, you can use dry-set mortar and just mix it with water. The same goes for tiling on a cement substrate. However, if you're using fully vitrified porcelain tiles, you'll want to use a thinset modified with latex or dry-set with an acrylic latex additive.

  2. 2

    Choose polymer additives or polymer-modified thinset mortar if you have to meet ANSI requirements A118.4 or A118.11. You must have polymers in your mortar in building projects that fall under those guidelines.

  3. 3

    Go for the polymer additives or polymer-modified mortar if you are using it in one of these specific situations: to cover exterior-grade plywood; to cover plastic laminate or ceramic tile; to cover plaster or drywall with paint on it; to seal any areas that will be exposed to freezing temperatures, or to cover cutback adhesives. For best results with vinyl flooring or on a wood base, you will want to consider latex modified thinset mortar, which you'll usually find labled as Multi Flex, Super Flex or Full Flex.

Tips and warnings

  • If your grout will be light, choose a white mortar. If your grout will be dark, choose a grey mortar.

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