Stone and ceramic tile are popular choices for flooring throughout the home. And with the right tools, they’re easy to install, long lasting, and add value and beauty to a home for years to come. But even these durable floors can lead to frustration and expense if they crack and delaminate over time. In wet areas such as kitchens and bathrooms where tiles are most likely to be installed, keeping subfloors safe from mold and moisture is essential.
Luckily, avoiding these problems is easy with the right underlayment and proper installation. Before you start your tile project, let’s talk about the issues you might run into with tile and find out how to solve them with the right product before problems occur.
Over time, even the most solidly built homes can experience shifting when floor surfaces expand and contract due to a number of factors. Newly poured concrete subfloors, for example, can shift while they cure. Vibration and deflection can also cause shifting in flooring surfaces over the long term.
When you install a rigid surface like tile or stone over a rigid subfloor, you may want to consider an uncoupling membrane. This layer enables surfaces to respond to these factors and shift independently, with just enough “give” to prevent tile floors from cracking and delaminating.
Moisture and Vapor
Moist, humid or wet areas in kitchens and bathrooms can cause problems over time for tile, as water and moisture can seep through the substrate to the subfloor below. If you install tile or stone over a moisture-sensitive subfloor in a wet area, a waterproof substrate is an essential barrier to protect subfloors from mold and mildew.
Newly installed tile is also susceptible to moisture damage when the vapor from curing concrete or thin-set mortar can’t escape and stays trapped below the surface. Use an underlayment with vapor management to keep subfloors dry below the surface too.
In higher-traffic areas, you’ll want a layer of extra support to avoid cracked or delaminated tiles, and to cushion against sudden impact from above. Use a flexible, durable underlayment that responds to pressure with even load distribution to protect tile and stone floors from impact and foot traffic.
It’s not an installation problem, but one of our customers’ main complaints is that tile can feel cold and uncomfortable on the feet, especially in bathrooms on chilly mornings. Heating the floor itself adds comfort and luxury to any tile or stone floor. Heat can even be controlled with a programmable thermostat so floors are warm and ready whenever you want them to be.
Which underlayment is right for your project?
You have options when installing tile floors, but not all underlayments work for all applications. Choosing the right underlayment can mean the difference between durable, long-lasting floors today, and frustration and costly reinstallation down the road.
Plywood is a rigid and relatively inexpensive option for underlayment. It provides a smooth surface for laying tile, but it will swell in moist and wet areas. Use it as an underlayment only in dry applications, not in kitchens or bathrooms.
Fiber and cement backer boards are popular choices for underlayment with a variety of flooring. Smooth and rigid, they can be used on floors and walls to back tile, carpet, vinyl, and wood surfaces. But be aware that some backer board products are water-resistant but not necessarily waterproof, so they may swell in especially wet areas and present a problem over time when used under rigid surfaces like tile. Cement backer board is generally waterproof, but can be very heavy, and often costly.
Flexible and lightweight, membranes are easy to install and provide an all-in-one layer of uncoupling, support, and waterproofing to stone and ceramic tile floors laid over concrete, plywood, and other subflooring. They are not suitable under hardwood, engineered wood, carpet or vinyl. And some membranes, like DITRA-HEAT from Schluter Systems, are specially designed to make installing electric radiant heat to tile floors quick and easy.
Have It All with DITRA-HEAT
The DITRA-HEAT membrane from Schluter Systems is an excellent choice for underlayment in tile and stone applications. It’s an all-in-one solution to combat tile problems before they start, with vapor management, waterproofing, load distribution and uncoupling properties. It’s also the only underlayment that features specially designed channels to easily install electric radiant heating cable. Heat cables click into the channels, where they’re protected from possible damage when spreading thin-set mortar before tile is applied.
For your tile or stone project, protect those beautiful floors and add comfort and luxury with DITRA-HEAT. You’ll enjoy them for years to come. Contact us today to get started!