Which Adhesive Do I Need?

You’ve chosen your perfect tiles (yay!) but now you need to think about installing your tiles and that starts with choosing the correct tile adhesive. You want your tiles to look the best they possibly can so you have to ensure that they get fitted correctly.

We always recommend that you speak to a professional tiler who can help you choose the correct tile adhesive for the job. However, if you are doing the job yourself then fear not! We have written this handy guide that will help you choose the correct tile adhesive for you tiles.

If you have any questions or need extra advice when it comes to choosing tile adhesive then please get in touch, we are here to help!

What types of tile adhesive are there?

There are two types of tile adhesive – ready mixed pastes and powdered adhesives.

Ready mixed pastes can be used straight out of the tub and are pretty easy to use. However, ready mixed pastes are only suitable for fixing smaller ceramic tiles to walls.

Powdered adhesives need to be mixed with water into a slurry. This will take a bit longer than the ready mixed pastes but they create a much stronger bond and an pretty much be used to fit ceramic, porcelain and natural stone to almost every surface.

What surface are you fixing to?


Small ceramic tiles are perfect for walls and are ideal for be used as splashbacks. In this case a ready mixed paste is suitable for fixing. However, if you are fixing ceramic tiles that are larger than 30cm x 30cm or any porcelain tile then you will need to use a powdered adhesive.

When fixing tiles to the wall you have to think about the surface you are fixing to and the weight of the tiles and adhesive. Fresh plaster can bear approximately 20kg per square meter while plasterboard can take about 32kg per square meter.

However, wherever possible, we recommend that you tile onto tile backing boards. They ensure that you have a flat, stable surface to tile onto. They can also bear a larger weight than both fresh plaster and plasterboard – they can bear approximately 40 – 60kg per square meter.


Although it is sometimes possible to tile directly onto floorboards, we recommend that you install a tile backing board on top. This means you have a stronger, flatter and more stable surface to tile onto.

Ready mixed pastes can only be used on walls and never to fix floor tiles, even if you are using ceramic tiles. You will always need to use a powdered adhesive. There are a couple of things to consider when choosing the correct powdered adhesive for your job including colour, flexibility and the setting time.

Colour – Most adhesives are either white or grey. We normally suggest that you use white adhesive with lighter coloured tiles and a grey adhesive with darker coloured tiles.

Flexibility – Even in your home floor tiles experience a lot of stress from foot traffic and movement. The adhesive bed can absorb this stress to reduce the chances of your new floor cracking. The more flexible the adhesive, the better it is for your floor.

Setting Time – Powdered adhesives are normally classified as ‘standard’ set or ‘rapid’ set which refers to the time that you have to use the product. As the name suggests, a rapid setting adhesive will set much faster than a standard adhesive. Choosing between a rapid or standard setting adhesive depends on the job. If you are tiling a difficult laying pattern or laying large format tiles you may want to take a bit more time to get it right. If you have quite a simple job then a rapid set adhesive will work perfectly well.

Before you start

There are a couple of things to consider before starting your tiling job to ensure you get the best results possible.

Flat surfaces – As previously mentioned, it is important that the surface you are tiling is flat, this will make your job so much easier. You can pour a coat of self-leveller to floors that have a deviation of more than 3mm to provide a flat, level surface. To level uneven walls we suggest you use tile backing boards.

Clean – Dirt and dust can interfere with the adhesion of the tile and they may find their way into the grout. To ensure this doesn’t happen, sweep your surface before tiling to make sure they are clean and dust-free!

Full Coverage – It is imperative that you use a full bed of adhesive between your tile and the surface as any gaps could lead to cracked tiles. Just applying dabs of adhesive to each corner is not advised, you really do need a full bed of adhesive for a perfect installation.

Curing – It is very important that you let your adhesive fully cure before walking on your new floor tiles. If not, the tiles could be shifted slightly resulting in an uneven floor.