Mastic Vs Thinset for Back-splash Installation

Mastic Vs. Thinset for Back-splash Tile.

For the professional tile contractor and the do-it-yourself consumer alike, the temptation to use mastic instead of thinset for back-splash tile installation is appealing.  For the do-it-yourself consumers, who have never worked with thin-set, the appeal  of mastic is all the more attractive.

Mastic vs Thinset - First impression count.
Mastic vs Thinset – First impression matter.

Working with thin-set for the first time is an intimidating process compared to working with an mastic adhesive.

First Impressions Matter;  Mastic is Peanut Butter.


For the novice, mastic has an advantage in that its ready for application right out of the bucket.  Opening a bucket of mastic is like opening a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter.  What you see is a creamy material that looks just like creamy peanut butter.  And everyone knows how to spread peanut butter.  How difficult could the job possibly be?

Mastic is an adhesive.  It has the ability to bind different materials together and has installation flexibility unmatched by thinset.  Mastic is easy to work with when installing tiles on vertical surfaces. Mastic is sticky and able to support the weight of a tile without support from below.  And mastic makes a tile installation quicker because it is fast drying.  But, mastic has an Achilles heal.  Mastic’s  exposure to water will result in catastrophic failure of the tile installation.

When mastic is exposed to water it simply dissolves.  It loses its stickiness.  It simply devolves away.  An interesting experiment to illustrate the effect that water has on mastic is to drop a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter in a container of water.  Prior to immersion in water, the label is virtually impossible to remove.  Once you drop the jar into the water and let the jar remain there until the label is saturated, the label will peal off the jar with no resistance.

What is Thinset?

Mastic vs. Thinset - First impression count.
Mastic vs. Thinset – First impression count.

Thinset mortar is a cementitious product that requires water to create a chemical reaction.  Thin-set must be mixed just prior to installation and it’s important that the proper amount of water be used.  Thinset  is much stronger structurally than mastic and a waterproof product that will not lose strength when exposed to water.  When installing tile on walls thin-set will not support the weight of each tile.  Therefore, the first row of tile must be support from below by some means and each row above the first row is typically supported by spacers between the new row and the row below it.  The process is time consuming, but the results are worth the effort.

So, here is my advice to the professional tile contractor and the do-it-yourself consumer alike.   The temptation to use mastic instead of thinset for backsplash tile installation may be  appealing, but the possibility of catastrophic failure of the tile installation sometime in the future is not worth the risk.   Tile with style; Do it right!

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My tiling service areas include Port St. Lucie (PSL), Fort Pierce, Stuart and Vero Beach, FL.

In St. Lucie County Boyer Tile LLC. services Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie West, Tradition, Torino, Tesoro, Lake Charles, Lake Forest, Magnolia Lakes, PGA Village, The Vineyards, St James Golf Club, The Cascades, and Fort Pierce, FL.

In Indian River County Boyer Tile LLC. services Vero Beach, Indian River Shores and Sebastian, FL.

Port St. Lucie Marble and Tile Contractor.

(772) 828-8909.

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