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Ceramic Floor Tile - Why do you have to back butter them?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I will be installing 18" sq ceramic floor tile in my basement. Its a very smooth concrete surface without any cracks. I used some self leveling compound in a few spots that were a little suspect. All in all I'd say its a very good, flat, dry, and level surface.

Everything I read about tileing recommends that the tile be back buttered, but nothing explains why you should do this.

The area to be tiled is in my basement and will have low traffic.

So I ask those with experience in this field.... is it neccesary to back butter them?

Thanks, Kurt
post #2 of 14
kurt in your case dont 18 inch tile should use a 1/2 notch trowel , if you back butter you would have way to much thin set , make sure the floor has been washed several times before you tile ,, the dust on the floor will break the adhesion when thin set dries ,, use a long level and make sure floor has no large dips ,,, tap them down good givem a good wiggle , you will be just fine
chuck
post #3 of 14
post #4 of 14
is there squares on the back side of your tile??? well if you use the otherside of your trowel fill in the pattern on the back,,,it takes about 5 seconds to do,,,,and they will stick better...if you dont do this keep the stilleto heals upstairs also i want to add that neatness counts....set a few pieces then wipe with damp sponge...
post #5 of 14
You can check for level with a ball bearing as well.
post #6 of 14
The concept of back buttering is to gain superior adhesion.
It's been my trade over 30 yrs.
I have never done it on the typical installation.I work clean.If I had to butter the backs of every tile I would be swimming in it.
I use too much thinset push em in an wipe the excess out technique.
Back buttering does not ensure 100% coverage on the backs of the tiles.IMO this is the most important aspect of the installation.Back buttering supposedly helps the tile bond to the troweled out thinset.This as important with very hard porcelain type tiles as well as very soft and porous stone and clay tiles.I think if your thinset is not sticking your doing either one of 2 things wrong.One your troweling too far ahead of yourself and your thinset is skimming over in essence drying out dry thinset does not stick...Two your mixing your thinset too thick..basically giving the same results.
Setting on concrete is the hardest thing a tile guy can do.
It's NEVER flat.
With a big tile like 18x18 you have to keep em flat as they don't bend..
Find your high spots in the floor..You don't have to start from there but it helps if you can.Just be sure to get the other tiles up enough so you don't have to try bend the floor up to the high spots and you'll be ok.I know there is a medium bed thinset I used it once or twice and did not think it made much difference.You can make a thicker mix an build em up with that.I always use a latex modified thinset.It sticks better and has a better pot life.I always use white also.I think it sticks better for some reason.Plus it's cleaner.The trowel becomes a tool to cover the floor.You might use 2 or more times the troweled amount in some spots.
Four blobs around the perimeter an one in the middle is the technique used.If the tile pushes down to flat too easy there's not enough stuff under it.
Basically on concrete..The installation becomes a wrestling match.Putting em down an taking em out and adding more thinset pushing em in..cleaning up the excess.You can use a 4" level to check the plane of the floor as well as each tile as you work along.It helps.
Good Luck.
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies.
Based on the mfg instructions on my bag of white thinset, they recommend a 1/4 or 3/8 notch. I am planning on using a 3/8 deep notch, 1/4 inch apart.

The flatness is very good. I would go around the floor with a 6 foot straight edge and shin a light near the floor and the straight edge and in some areas that showed gaps greater than 1/16, I would mark that area and thats where I added the self leveling compound.

Do you guys have any tricks for starting that first row? I snapped my lines and was thinking on securing my straight edge to the line and use it as a bank surface. What are your thoughts on that

Best Regards, kurt
post #8 of 14
Did you use primer under the self leveling?
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Yes i used the primer before I put on the self leveling compound
post #10 of 14
Want to find the high spots, you can't see with a flashlight?

Splash some water on the floor, wet mop it, with a very wet, dripping mop.

The high spots will dry first.
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by KurtGett View Post
Thanks for the replies.
Based on the mfg instructions on my bag of white thinset, they recommend a 1/4 or 3/8 notch. I am planning on using a 3/8 deep notch, 1/4 inch apart.

The flatness is very good. I would go around the floor with a 6 foot straight edge and shin a light near the floor and the straight edge and in some areas that showed gaps greater than 1/16, I would mark that area and thats where I added the self leveling compound
Do you guys have any tricks for starting that first row? I snapped my lines and was thinking on securing my straight edge to the line and use it as a bank surface. What are your thoughts on that

Best Regards, kurt


3/8 x 1/4 is a standard trowel it should be OK.Trowel out the cement an push a tile in.Then pick it up.If the back of the tile is fully covered then it should be OK.If not try standing the trowel up as high as you can when you move the cement.With it stood up you will get the most out of it.If you want less cement lay the trowel down.Sometimes larger tiles will have a slight crown in them.I use a Margin trowel, a 2x6 tool with a wooden handle.I add a few dollops of the cement prior to pushing the tile in.
You say you snapped lines.I guess that means a square line.On bigger floors I would get a measurement of 2 tiles and 2 grout joints.Maybe write down the addition of 10 or so spaces.Lay the ruler out on the square line an make marks to snap boxes.Each box would be 4 tiles.So you would have roughly 3'x3' boxes.I say roughly cause usually the tile is +/- the actual size...
The floor should have a grid pattern when done..Your ready to go..You set to one corner of the boxed line.This lays all the cuts out ahead of time.So I can make the cuts prior to troweling out the thinset.You can go round the world with these lines if you are sure to check em..I might make the more precise cuts when I get to em.But it's great where the trim covers the tile cuts.
I never use spacers..The boxes give me my spacing.The problem with spacers is the tile is not always the same size.Sometimes the sizing can be pretty bad. Without the spacers to jam things up I can make the adjustments to each tile as I set them in place.I will get down an look down the line to see if it is straight,.(Lazer Eye). You can easily see any tiles out of whack and make adjustments.
As far as a straight edge for a bank.No need to attach it to the floor.They firm up pretty fast..You can set 6' of tiles and place the edge against em to make sure they are nice and straight..If you move any be sure to look at the row previously set to be sure they are OK also.
Make a wash pail with warm water and a sponge.A 3" spackle knife is a handy tool to clean up with as you work.
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for all the info.
I think I'm on the right track and ready to tackle this. The only thing that scares me is mixing the mortar to the right consistency and for that I am going to ask a friend with experience to help me out when I begin
Regards, Kurt.
post #13 of 14

NIB is a very experienced & quality tile setter/installer from the way he explains and deos things in installation world. I do it 100 % the same .. You got my compliment, now .. just don't sell your secrets that you learned the hard way for .. FREE .. !!!

post #14 of 14
I always back butter my tiles. Many people do it wrong, however. Heres how I would do it:

Put a small amount of thinset on the back of the floor tile and scrape it into the recesses of the tile with the flat side of your trowel.
All you're doing is filling these recesses, you don't "notch "it.
Then when you lay the tile there's no buildup of thinset to deal with.
This allows for the thinset on the floor to bond nicely with the tile.

If you are skeptical, do it with and without this method and then pull up the tile.
You'll see the buttered tile has greater adhesion.

It's also super important to mix the thinset properly and to only trowel on as much as you can cover in about 10 minutes.
When the thinset starts to "skin over" you will need to scrape it of and apply fresher stuff.

PS. Don't walk on the tiles like the guy in BJ's video.biggrin.gif
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