Leveling for Porcelain Tile: Strata Mat vs Ditra, Which is better for Uneven Floors

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by johnfrwhipple, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  2. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Using Medium Bed Mortar to set Porcelain Tile over an uneven substrate

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  3. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    FWIW, DitraSet, that has been available for awhile, but not when I started posting, is listed as both a thinset and a medium bed mortar by the manufacturer. So, you CAN follow instructions and use an unmodified when a dryset mortar is specified, in either thin or medium beds.

    That John ignores the manufacturer's instructions and thus becomes the insurer for any job he preforms should make anyone reconsider following his methods by yourself...the manufacturer has no reason to back you up if you blatantly fail to follow their instructions. John will not be around to come help you fix or pay to fix the problem, should you follow his tack and maybe miss a point, or misinterpret his direction in some manner, or apply his technique inappropriately.

    A pro may get away with bending the rules, but he has to also pay for problems...the only backup a typical DIY'er has is the manufacturer since he is doing the work and may not have the skill or understanding of some of the suggestions given here. A typical install, done to the manufacturer's instructions, has some margin for error built in...some of the things John has proposed will be difficult and costly in materials and tools the typical DIY'er will either have to go out and buy, or try to come up with a workaround.

    John's ego is profound.
  4. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Ditra or Starta Mat - The winner is !!!

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  5. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    John Bridge (Expert Tile Witness) on Ditra Set

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  6. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Laticrete's Medium Bed Mortars

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  7. eurob

    eurob master tile and stone installer

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    All the leveling or flattening should be done prior to installation of soundproof , uncoupling or etc. membranes .

    You can use the medium beds -- up to 3/4 thick -- over them , but doing the flattening or leveling on the fly while installing the tiles is more difficult and hardly achieving the same results . A well seasoned installer will get away with it , but not an ideal step in the installation process .

    Warranties are a little trickier. All of the installation products , in general , have to come from the same manufacturer .
  8. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Ditra - NO ..... Strata Mat - YES

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  9. eurob

    eurob master tile and stone installer

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    Kerabond T is one of them . Tec also had and still has -- medium bed mortar -- one which is approved over Ditra . Prefill the Ditra is also another option with the use of a medium bed of your liking .
    But the leveling , most of the time -- more than 3/4 thick -- has to be done prior to uncoupling membrane installation , especially with heating wires -- heated floor -- in the assembly .


    Did you notice that I don't aim my comments to a personal level , like you do ? Maybe you should try it .
  10. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    KeraBond T from Mapei - Non Modified Thin Set Mortar Medium Bed

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  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    http://www.bostik-us.com/market-products/flooring/hydroment-ceramic Bostik describes Ditra-Set as a thinset and Medium Bed mortar. http://www.bostik-us.com/sites/default/files/Ditra-Set.pdf

    Regarding Strata-Mat, the installation instructions http://www.laticrete.com/Portals/0/datasheets/DS-010.5.pdf are the same as with Ditra, on page 3
    "Floor must be leveled per TCNA, ANSI and/or specification requirements prior to the installation of Strata_Mat"

    So, both have the same requirements.

    You can go on for pages, but you are wrong. That you choose to ignore the manufacturer's instructions is one of my biggest gripes with you and your posts. One does not have to be a pro to be able to read and interpret their documentation.




  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    I'm going to expand a bit on my last post rather than editing it.

    When you hire a pro, you expect he will follow a set of rules for his profession. In NA, and with tiling, that implies conformance to the TCNA guidelines.

    TCNA does not endorse products or call specific products out in their guidelines, but either explains what is expected for a specific situation OR defers to the manufacturer for the installation of the product. So, in summary, you either follow TCNA guidelines, or the manufacturer's instructions, and if you do, you comply.

    Now, what does the TCNA have to say about medium bed mortars?
    "Medium bed mortars are designed to minimize slump and facilitate thicker bond coats, as compared with non-medium bed mortars. These characteristics make them useful for setting heavy tiles and/or tile with ungauged thicknesses and for setting tiles with at least one side greater than 15" where the final embedded thickness of the mortar will exceed 3/16" under the tile. They are intended to be used as bond coats 3/16" to 3/4" thick after the tile is embedded; they are designed as direct bond adhesives and (my emphasis) not intended to be used as truing or leveling underlying substrates or the work of others.

    These mortars do not have unique ANSI or ISO standards to characterize them."

    So, let's examine John Whipple's plan to pick one product over the other: in post #2, he calls out the use of a medium bed mortar to set tile over an uneven surface. This disagrees with both the TCNA definition and use of a medium bed mortar AND the manufacturers.

    What does Laticrete say about the use of their Granite and Marble Medium Bed Mortar under their prep section (all are pretty much the same):
    "All slabs must be plumb and true to within 1/4" (6 mm) in 10 ft (3 m). " (Note, this also conforms to the TCNA guidelines.)

    What does Laticrete say about the use of their Strata_Mat:

    "Floor must be leveled per TCNA/ANSI and/or specification requirements prior to the installation of Stata_Mat." (from page 3 of their installation instructions)

    Nowhere does the manufacturer allow you to level the floor with the mortar, and specifies the floor should be flat before you install Strata_Mat - John's grade - FAIL

    FWIW, you'll find the same instructions on the use of Ditra...John's grade - FAIL

    John asserts Ditra-Set cannot be used as a medium bed mortar.
    - The manufacturer calls it out as both a thinset and a medium bed mortar on their product description pages. Note in the mixing instructions, they have a fairly wide range of allowable water. Mixed at the low end, it acts like a medium bed mortar, mixed at the high end, it is more suitable as a thinset.
    - Neither TCNA nor ANSI have a specification for medium bed mortar, so if a mortar meets the general guidelines (included above in the TCNA definition of a medium bed mortar), it is.
    - Bostik gives examples of proper trowels for setting Kerdi and Ditra in their data sheet, but also says a larger trowel may be required to set some tile to provide proper coverage. They do not have a tile size limitation. They also do not list a maximum thickness of the mortar. Considering they call it out as a medium bed mortar, general guidelines would limit that to a max of 3/4". In one document, they suggest a 3/4" U-notch trowel to accommodate uneven (ungauged) tile to ensure proper coverage - that size trowel is WAY beyond what a thinset should be used with, supporting their claim to be a medium bed mortar when properly mixed.

    So, to John Whipple's assertion that Ditra-Set cannot be used as a medium bed mortar - FALSE!

    What should we expect from a pro:
    - he knows and adheres to industry standards
    - he has enough skill to meet those standards
    - he uses products as they were designed to be used as defined by the manufacturer for the area of use

    How does John Whipple stand up to these guidelines? At least in this thread, and his assessment, and reported use of the products, FAIL on at least two of those listed above. I believe he has enough skill to meet those standards, but he chooses not to.

    Now, John will come back and say I'm not a pro, don't do it for a living, and nobody should listen to me because I'm a wanna-be hack. I'm not asking you to believe me, you can read the TCNA handbook and the manufacturer's installation instructions yourself. Then, ask yourself, should a pro, someone you are paying to do the job, use the materials as designed and as the TCNA says they should be used, or what he feels like it should be? When you take your car in for service, you expect them to use the right materials for the job, and to install them properly. Shouldn't you expect the same with your tile contractor?


  13. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  14. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    The TCNA guideline essentially says it should be flat...level is nice, but not a requirement for laying tile. That you have to resort to insults, says something to your character. That you flout your use of materials in conflict with the TCNA guidelines and manufacturers' instructions says something about your professionalism.

    I worked with professionals for over 33-years, writing requirements, following up with how things were used, instructing on how things should be used, and adapted as conditions changed. This was in an industry with much higher standards than setting tile - people's lives and assets were at stake, the room for failure was miniscule to non-existent. In that time, requirements changed to reflect new policies, practices, and expectations and materials science caught up with desires. John Whipple just does it his way, ignores the rules, and calls it proper. In my definition, that is not the mark of a pro. "When It's perfect. It's Good Enough." How is not following the industry guidelines or the manufacturer's instructions anywhere near "Perfect", regardless of how many projects you complete?

    This is one reason why John Whipple is not welcomed on at least several sites on the internet - insults, unfounded criticisms; and, a reason he expresses hate and disrespect for anyone associated with any of them. If you can read in between those distasteful aspects, and do some research yourself, you'll see why I fight back at John Whipple's attacks - and, that I am just following the instructions of the group that sets the industry standards.

    When someone points out an error to John Whipple's ways, he attacks...hopefully, those that actually take the time to read and research, will see through his blather and catch the sometimes good info he posts. I expect more out of a pro, especially someone trying to help a DIY'er get something right than incorrect instructions that will void the manufacturer's warranty. What he does on his own time, and does for a customer, is between them. What happens here should be best practices, and some of John Whipple's posts are FAR from that.

    FWIW, neither Strata_Mat NOR Ditra allow you to prep the floor to industry standards AFTER the mat is installed...they both call out for doing that BEFORE the mat is installed. Proper materials and technique should be used, and neither thinset nor medium bed mortar is the proper material for that job. A medium bed mortar is called for with some tile - primarily to allow the installer to minimize lippage of ungauged or irregular tile, or large tile to prevent sinking into the mortar...NOT to level the substrate, but to get the top of the tile in an industry acceptable condition. IF the floor is prepared properly, and the materials used as designed, you should have a suitable result.

    Strata_Mat is new to the market, Ditra has been around for a long time. Each has their good points. Choose the one you prefer, but install it properly to get the intended benefits.
  16. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  17. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    No, John, I may not know best, but I expect the manufacturer's that research, develop, sell, warrant their products , especially when they may have hundreds of thousands of successful installations to know best on how to use them, not some contractor that thinks he is god. At least I try to read their instructions and understand them...you just decide to ignore them entirely.

    That I point out that to the readers here and it makes you feel bad or feel you have to try to discredit anyone, is kind of funny and sad.
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