Support : Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Surface Preparation

How do I prevent my tile installation from cracking due to minor surface movement?

How do I prevent my tile installation from cracking due to minor surface movement?

Surfaces such as concrete and plywood floors can experience minor movement due to settlement or just normal expansion and contraction. When this movement occurs, cracks in the substrate can be transmitted to the tile installation, causing cracks in the tile or grout. Custom has several mortars with built-in flexibility to withstand minor movement up to 1/16". The best insurance against cracking is to apply RedGard to the surface before installing the tile. For concrete slab installations, use RedGard then bond the tile with FlexBond for a Lifetime Warranty installation. 

Can I set tile directly over a plywood subfloor?

Can I set tile directly over a plywood subfloor?

Yes, you can set over a subfloor made of APA exterior grade plywood that is built to tile industry standards. However, plywood is hard to bond to, and it is not a stable surface as it will expand and contract. Because of the difficulty of bonding, a special polymer-modified mortar that meets ANSI A118.11 standards is required. As a superior alternative to bonding directly to plywood, we recommend WonderBoard Lite. The backerboard is installed directly over the plywood subfloor and the tile is bonded to it. Cement backerboards are easier to bond to and provide a more stable surface. We offer a Lifetime Warranty on backerboard installations.

Why and when should I use a cement backerboard?

Why and when should I use a cement backerboard?

Cement backerboards such as WonderBoard Lite are made of cement to offer a very stable surface that won't warp or deteriorate. Cement mortar bonds extremely well to cement surfaces, so you can be assured of a superior bond. Backerboards are impervious to water damage even when exposed to continuous moisture, so they can be safely used in wet area installations. Many materials such as plywood, drywall and even water-resistant drywall can be damaged and will deteriorate when exposed to continuous moisture. Backerboards are also a superior alternative to bonding directly to a plywood subfloor.  Plywood is not a stable surface and will expand and contract with climate changes. Backerboards provide a more stable surface on which to bond tile.

When should I use ¼” backerboard instead of ½” backerboard?

When should I use ¼” backerboard instead of ½” backerboard?

Backerboards come in two thicknesses: ¼" and ½". ¼" backerboards are used for floor and countertop installations. They reduce subfloor modifications to adjacent floors, thresholds, carpet and cabinets. ½" backerboards can also be used on floors and countertops but can also be used for countertops, as well as on walls. They line up with surrounding ½" drywall installations without the need for shims or spacers on wall studs.

Do I need to use fiberglass mesh joint tape when installing Wonderboard Lite?

Do I need to use fiberglass mesh joint tape when installing Wonderboard Lite?

Fiberglass mesh tape is only needed on wall installations of WonderBoard Lite where unwrapped panel edges meet and in corners. It is not necessary to tape joint panels when doing floor installations.

Can I bond tile directly to cutback adhesive?

Can I bond tile directly to cutback adhesive?

Although not an ideal situation, you can bond to cutback adhesive over concrete slabs. But the cutback must be non-water soluble and properly prepared. The remaining residue must be almost transparent and no thicker than a coat of paint. Use caution during preparation, as adhesives may contain asbestos fibers and sanding can result in harmful dust. 

Can I bond tile directly over sheet vinyl flooring?

Can I bond tile directly over sheet vinyl flooring?

Yes. The sheet vinyl must be non-cushion backed, well bonded to the floor, clean and free of all contaminants that would prevent a good bond. We recommend roughing up the floor by sanding. However, under no circumstances should you sand flooring if you suspect it contains asbestos, as harmful dust will result.  

Do I need thin-set mortar under WonderBoard Lite?

Do I need thin-set mortar under WonderBoard Lite?

Yes, it acts as a filler and leveling bed for the cement board. 

Setting Materials

When should a thin-set mortar be used as instead of a ceramic tile adhesive?

When should a thin-set mortar be used as instead of a ceramic tile adhesive?

Most ceramic tile adhesives have very high bond strengths in dry areas, which makes them excellent for drywall installations. Yet when adhesives are exposed to water, their shear strengths are dramatically reduced. Thin-set mortar bond strengths are less affected by water. As an example, the dry shear strength for OmniGrip is 760 psi and the wet shear is 145 psi. This is why ANSI recommends intermittent water exposure only and interior use for adhesives.

 

Ceramic tile adhesives can take a considerable time to dry, usually a minimum of 24 hours before applying grout. When applying tile to dense surfaces such as existing ceramic tile, to impervious or vitreous tile such as porcelain, in high humidity, when temperature is below 60°F, or when setting tile over 6" x 6" drying time can be greatly extended beyond 24 hours. Thin-set mortars are preferred in these situations, although ceramic tile adhesives will perform.

 

Manufacturers typically recommend adhesives more for wall installations; thin-set mortars are preferred for floor installations.

 

All of Custom's ceramic tile adhesives can be used to set gauged slate, marble and granite tile. All stone must be gauged tile up to 3/8" thick (no irregular backing). Do not use ceramic tile adhesives to set moisture-sensitive, light translucent or resin-backed stone.

What’s the difference between an adhesive and a mastic?

What’s the difference between an adhesive and a mastic?

Mastic is a viscous material that is commonly used as a gap filler or sealant in the roofing industry. The term "mastic" is also applied to other similar construction industry products, such as pre-mixed ceramic tile adhesives. The American National Standard Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (ANSI) defines mastics as "organic adhesives" to distinguish them from thin-set mortars, which are inorganic adhesives. An organic adhesive uses a polymer as the bonding agent, whereas an inorganic adhesive uses cement. Generally, "adhesive" and "mastic" are interchangeable terms in the tile industry

When do I need to use an additive with a thin-set mortar?

When do I need to use an additive with a thin-set mortar?

There are two basic types of mortars: polymer-modified mortars and unmodified mortars. Polymer-modified mortars have higher bond strengths and are better than unmodified mortars for use in wet areas. The polymer (or latex additive) is already in the powder, so you only have to add water and mix. Unmodified mortars are adequate for basic tile jobs, such as a residential floor over concrete or a wall tile job when setting ceramic tile. Only water is required for these types of installations. For more demanding installations, a polymer-modified mortar is required. You can use a mortar that is already polymer-modified (latex is in the powder) or an unmodified mortar and a liquid latex additive that is used in place of the water requirement. Installations requiring a polymer-modified mortar are when setting porcelain tile or large tile over 12" x 12", in wet areas, high traffic areas, exterior installations, surfaces that could be subject to minor movement, installing tile over exterior grade plywood, vinyl flooring, plastic laminates or other hard to bond surfaces or setting tile over a waterproof membrane

Grouting

How long after grouting can I use a sealer?

How long after grouting can I use a sealer?

Sealer should be used 48 - 72 hours after grouting.

Do I need to use a sealer after using Polyblend Grout Renew?

Do I need to use a sealer after using Polyblend Grout Renew?

No. Polyblend Grout Renew is basically a pigmented sealer, so it seals the surface while coloring it.

Can I use Pre-Mixed Grout in my shower?

Can I use Pre-Mixed Grout in my shower?

No. Pre-Mixed Grout is suitable for use in dry areas to touch up or repair spots where the grout is missing. A wet area is anywhere that gets frequent and prolonged exposure to water such as around a sink, tub surround, shower or outdoor area. 

How long does it take Polyblend Caulk to cure?

How long does it take Polyblend Caulk to cure?

Polyblend Caulk takes 24 hours to cure.

Can you paint over caulk?

Can you paint over caulk?

Yes.

When do I use grout versus caulk?

When do I use grout versus caulk?

Caulk is designed to be used in "transition joints" or change of plane, where settling or structural movement is possible. Examples are where a countertop deck meets the backsplash, where tile meets the tub, where wall meets floor. Because caulk is flexible, it can withstand any structural movement that may occur without cracking.

Can I mix 100% Solids Epoxy Grout with sanded and non-sanded grout?

Can I mix 100% Solids Epoxy Grout with sanded and non-sanded grout?

100% Solids Epoxy Grout is formulated to be mixed with Polyblend Sanded Grout only.

Do I need to use an additive with Polyblend Grout?

Do I need to use an additive with Polyblend Grout?

No. Polyblend Grout is polymer-modified which means the latex additive or polymer is already included in the powder - all you need to do is add water. 

My grout is drying with a white film on it. Why?

My grout is drying with a white film on it. Why?

Efflorescence, a crystalline deposit that sometimes appears on cement grout as a whitish powder or crust, can occur with any Portland cement based product including grout. This can be removed with TileLab's Sulfamic Acid Cleaner or Grout Haze Remover according to directions.  Some natural stones such as marble, limestone or travertine are sensitive to acids. Test cleaners in an inconspicuous area before use. If the stone is sensitive, use TileLab Heavy-Duty Cleaner & Stripper.

My grout dried to different shades: some light, some dark. What can I do to correct it?

My grout dried to different shades: some light, some dark. What can I do to correct it?

Color variations can occur in any Portland cement product including grout due to uneven drying of the cement in the grout. Color variations can be minimized by following directions and using as little water as possible for clean-up. The best way to correct color variation is with Polyblend Grout Renew that is available in all Polyblend grout colors.

How can I minimize grout shading?

How can I minimize grout shading?

Grout shading is when colored grout dries to its expected color in some areas, a darker color in some areas and varying shades in between. This is most commonly caused by uneven drying of the Portland cement in the grout due to differing tile types, tile porosity, jobsite conditions, and application/cleaning techniques. Concrete is also made with Portland cement. It is not uncommon for concrete driveways, slabs, etc. to exhibit some discoloration and shading and this is true of grout. This is an accepted fact with concrete, but since grout is primarily used for decorative purposes, shading provides an unwanted look to the installation. Grout shading can be minimized by following these installation tips:

  • Tile must be securely bonded and allowed a minimum of 24 hours curing time before grouting. Be sure to remove all spacers.
  • Grout joints should be uniform in depth and width and excess mortar should be removed.
  • Dry-mix grout powder before mixing with water. Mix with proper amount of cool, clean water. Do not add too much water. Keep the water to powder ratio consistent between batches.
  • Allow grout mixture to rest or slake for 10 minutes after mixing, remix and use. Do not add additional water or admixes once the grout is mixed.
  • Thoroughly dampen joints of absorptive, highly porous tile with clean, cool water but leave no standing water in the joints.
  • Allow grout to become firm in the joints. Remove excess grout and smooth joints using a lightly dampened sponge with small, tight pores. Do not use a "wet" sponge or a sponge with large pores. Use as little water as possible in clean-up.
  • Lightly mist the grout installation periodically with clean, cool water for 72 hours.
How much of the old grout must I remove before re-grouting?

How much of the old grout must I remove before re-grouting?

Remove 1/2 to 3/4 the thickness of the tile.

Can I use epoxy grout in pool installations?

Can I use epoxy grout in pool installations?

Yes. However, epoxy is temperature sensitive. 100% Solids Epoxy Grout is easiest to apply when temperatures are between 70° F and 85° F (21° C and 29° C). Lower temperatures will cause the epoxy to become stiff and more difficult to work, and will extend initial set time. Higher temperatures will cause the epoxy to become more fluid and will accelerate the set time. It is not recommended for installations exposed to continuous temperatures above 160° F (71° C). When used on exterior installations, color variations may occur over time, especially with lighter shades.

How do I keep grout from drying too fast in hot, dry weather?

How do I keep grout from drying too fast in hot, dry weather?

Grout looses moisture too rapidly when curing in hot and dry weather. When this happens, the grout will not dry hard and may also dry an uneven color.  Follow these installation tips:

  • Use a polymer-modified grout, such as Polyblend to retain moisture and promote proper drying conditions.
  • Keep it cool. Use cool water to mix grout powder; never use hot or warm water. Keep ice on hand to cool down the water. Keep the grout bags and mixing container cool.
  • Do not mix the grout with excessive amounts of water or remix with additional water. This will cause a lighter, soft and powdery grout.
  • Avoid midday grouting in extreme heat. Grout in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler.
  • Dampen the tile with clean, cool water prior to grouting. This prevents porous tile from drawing the moisture out of the grout too rapidly and helps to cool down the tile.
What causes grout to crack? How can it be prevented?

What causes grout to crack? How can it be prevented?

There are a few reasons why grout may crack. Almost all can be prevented with proper installation. Three of the most common methods to prevent cracking grout are:

  • Do not use a non-sanded grout on joints that are over 1/8" thick. It isn't designed to fill larger joints.
  • Do not set tile directly over a flexible surface like plywood. It tends to distort over time and will cause grout to crack. We recommend the installation of WonderBoard Lite over a plywood subfloor for a reliable and long-lasting installation.
  • When filling grout joints, make sure the joints are completely filled during installation. Solidly pack in the grout. Do not leave any pockets or voids. 
Which grout float is right for my job?

Which grout float is right for my job?

SuperiorBilt grout floats offer unique one-piece construction and the exclusive non-slip, SoftGrip™ handle to reduce fatigue. These grout floats are durable, easy to clean and won't mar surfaces.

  • Standard Grout Float - for most standard and non-sanded grout applications
  • Large Grout Float - for greater coverage
  • Offset Grout Float - for hard-to-reach areas
  • Margin Grout Float - for small jobs, repairs or hard-to-reach areas
  • Stone Grout Float - for natural stone and textured surfaces
  • Epoxy Grout Float - for hard-to-spread grout types

Care & Maintenance

Are all sealers the same?

Are all sealers the same?

Water-based stains such as wine or juice may etch stone surfaces. Oil-based stains such as salad dressing or grease are hard to prevent and hard to remove. All TileLab sealers are effective against both water-based and oil-based stains. Silicone sealers are not typically effective against oil-based stains.

What is the difference between a penetrating sealer and a finishing sealer?

What is the difference between a penetrating sealer and a finishing sealer?

Penetrating sealers act as an invisible barrier to stains by penetrating the surface of grout and porous tile. TileLab's SurfaceGard and Grout Sealer are penetrating sealers that provide a natural look for any unglazed tile or grout.

Finishing sealers provide a protective sealer on top of grout or porous tile to resist stains, dirt and grease. TileLab's Gloss or Matte Sealer & Finish offer these benefits. Surface sealing is not recommended for marble, limestone or granite. 

I’m told my tiles are glazed and not going to stain. Do I still need a sealer?

I’m told my tiles are glazed and not going to stain. Do I still need a sealer?

Even if your tile is glazed, the grout can get stained and needs to be sealed. Wait 48-72 hours after installation to seal your tile, then apply SurfaceGard according to directions.

Should I seal marble and travertine?

Should I seal marble and travertine?

These calcium-based stone types are very porous, which makes leaving them very susceptible to acidic stains. Many food products, such as lemon, wine, tomato sauce and coffee, are acidic. Definitely seal marble and travertine after installation.

Will the sealer change the look of my stone or grout?

Will the sealer change the look of my stone or grout?

TileLab penetrating sealers, such as SurfaceGard®, provide a natural look to not change the appearance of your stone, grout or tile. But to add life back into worn stone or grout, use StoneSpecific™ Stone Enhancer + Sealer, which deepens or enriches the color while protecting against stains inside or out. Be sure to test the results in an inconspicuous area before completely applying.

Is there a perfect sealer that always prevents stains?

Is there a perfect sealer that always prevents stains?

No sealer can prevent all stains all the time. The sooner any spill can be cleaned up the less likely a stain will result.  Acidic spills such as juice, soda or wine can actually etch and dull polished stone if not wiped up promptly. Clean tile and grout regularly so dirt and stains don't have a chance to build up.

How soon after my tile is installed can I seal it?

How soon after my tile is installed can I seal it?

You should wait 48 - 72 hours after your installation to seal it. This will ensure that all moisture is removed from the installation so the sealer is not diluted. 

I have a wax or finish sealer on top of my tile or stone - can I seal over it?

I have a wax or finish sealer on top of my tile or stone - can I seal over it?

Before applying another sealer, use TileLab Heavy-Duty Cleaner & Stripper to remove acrylic or wax finishes. It's concentrated for tough cleaning and is safe for grout, tile or stone. 

Are all cleaners the same?

Are all cleaners the same?

Many ordinary household cleaners contain harmful abrasives or acids, which will damage stone, grout and porous tile surfaces. TileLab cleaners are specifically formulated to be safe for all stone, grout and tile surfaces. The ideal solution is to use TileLab® Grout & Tile Cleaner & Resealer every day, because it contains a small amount of SurfaceGard to reseal your surface with each use. 

Which Tilelab products can I use on granite?

Which Tilelab products can I use on granite?

Pretty much all of them. However we don't recommend finish coatings (Matte and Gloss Sealer and Finish) on any honed or polished stone such as marble, granite or limestone. They can be used on slate and flagstone. 

Which Tilelab products can I use in food prep areas?

Which Tilelab products can I use in food prep areas?

All TileLab products are safe for food preparation areas.

How can I prevent mold and mildew from growing on my grout?

How can I prevent mold and mildew from growing on my grout?

Mold and mildew growth is a very common occurrence in wet areas, such as tub surrounds and showers, since they require a dark, moist area and a food source to live. The grout itself is naturally resistant to mold and mildew because it is made of cement, which is a hostile environment. However, when a food source such as soap scum is present on a shower wall, it sets up an ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow. The key to preventing this is to seal the grout periodically to prevent soap scum from penetrating the grout surface and make removal much easier. Also, regularly clean it to prevent build-up of soap scum. 

Tools

How can I extend the life of my diamond blades?

How can I extend the life of my diamond blades?

You can extend the life of a diamond blade by dressing the blade with a soft abrasive rubbing stone or cinder block. Dressing the blade exposes fresh edges on the diamonds, giving them renewed life.

What are some of the basic tools necessary for tile installation?

What are some of the basic tools necessary for tile installation?

Here's an installation tool checklist to help you get started:

Backerboard screws

Notch trowel

Tile cutter

Tile spacers

Spacer puller

Grout float

Grout sponge

Cheesecloth

 

To make the job easier, use:

Knee pads

Gloves

Floor scraper

Margin trowel

Tile nippers

Level

What do I need to cut tile?

What do I need to cut tile?

A tile installation project typically involves several different types of cuts so be sure you have all the tile cutting tools you need. You may need to make straight cuts, cutouts and holes. Practice making cuts in tile before the job begins. Wet saws are great for precision cuts on stone and tile, particularly large tiles. Tile cutters are excellent for fast, straight cuts. Tile nippers are good for breaking away small pieces for edges that are typically not exposed, like under a toilet. Hole saws work well for cutting circles in tile. A 1-3/8" hole saw works for most plumbing fixtures.

What size extension cord can I use with my wet tile saw?

What size extension cord can I use with my wet tile saw?

For lengths of:

25' to 50' - at least 12 gauge

50' to 75' - at least 10 gauge

50' to 100' - at least 8 gauge

75' to 100' - at least 6 gauge

What’s the difference between wet blades and dry blades? And when would I use which?

What’s the difference between wet blades and dry blades? And when would I use which?

Wet cut blades require water, but dry cut blades can be used without water. Wet cut blades should only be used on saws designed to be used with water and have UL or CSA listings. Water acts as a coolant during the cutting operation, provides a smoother cut with less chipping, extends the life of the blade and minimizes dust.  

How do I know I have the right blade for the job?

How do I know I have the right blade for the job?

Custom offers diamond tile blades for basic and specialty cutting. Blades vary based on the material being cut and the quality of the blade. ProBiltSeries blades are available for wet and dry cutting of all tile and stone materials.

Are there really diamonds on diamond blades?

Are there really diamonds on diamond blades?

Yes, but they are synthetic.

Are all diamond blades the same?

Are all diamond blades the same?

No, there are three basic types of diamond blades: continuous rim, segmented rim and turbo. Continuous rim blades can be either wet or dry cut, produce the smoothest of cuts and are made for specific uses like Porcelain. Segmented blades have key slots that act as water gullets to cool the blade. These are best when the speed of cut is important and chipping is acceptable. Segmented blades typically last longer and work well with a variety of materials. Turbo blades have a continuous serrated rim with water gullets for cooling. These work well when a fast cut is not a requirement, some chipping is acceptable, and blade life is not an issue. Turbo blades are excellent with rough cuts and are more versatile than segmented blades.

What size notch trowel should I use?

What size notch trowel should I use?

The size of the notches determines the amount of setting material that is put on the surface. The notch size is determined by the size of the tile you are setting. You should use the proper-sized notch trowel to ensure 100% coverage of solid mortar under tiles. With very irregular tiles, back-buttering may be advisable. For detailed recommendations see our Notch Trowels.

General Questions

Where do I find the product batch number?

Where do I find the product batch number?

Custom's batch number is an 8-digit code imprinted on the container. It is a way for us to identify when and where the product was made. This code is typically located on the bottom or side of a bag product. Bottle product code numbers are imprinted anywhere along the edge of the bottle. 

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