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Mastic vs Thinset for Backsplash: How to Choose

All high-quality tile adhesives would work well in the first few days. But if you notice that the materials you used for the backsplash are eventually falling, the first thing to think about is the adhesive you used.

Source: unsplash.com

To avoid this circumstance and other possible complications, choose the best adhesive for your backsplash depending on the area of application. In this blog, we will compare mastic and thinset to better understand the type of adhesive that will work best with your backsplash.

What Is Mastic?

Mastic is an organic adhesive created from the mastic tree’s viscous resin. Mastic is a tile glue that works best in dry environments. Mastic for backsplash should be applied as thin as possible, not more than 3/16 inch thick. It’s also used to keep things in a temporary position so that the materials can be screwed in a specific place permanently. Unused mastic can be stored and used for the next application.  

Advantages of Using Mastic for Backsplash

Many budget-friendly houses used mastic to install the backsplash because of the following features:

  • Superior adhesive strength. Because mastic adheres well to vertical surfaces, tile drooping on vertical walls during curing is minimized.
  • Fast curing time and easy application. Fewer tools are needed to apply tile walls with mastic.
  • Easy to remove. Mastic makes it reasonably easy to remove the backsplash when it is time to dismantle it.

Disadvantages of Using Mastic for Backsplash

Even though it is mostly used for the construction of regular houses, mastic has some drawbacks including the following:

  • Not good for places with high moisture exposure. Every backsplash adhesive has a specified rate of water exposure that it can manage. However, if your backsplash has a crack or any damage on it, the affected area will serve as an opening for more moisture to come in contact with the inside components, causing the materials to be more damaged or even fall. Subsequently, when submerged in water, it will re-liquefy and lose its bond strength.
  • Fast setting properties. Mastic’s quick-drying feature makes it difficult to fix poorly aligned tiles.
  • Prone to tile lippage. Mastic doesn’t provide much structural support and cannot be used to build up minor imperfections on the surface.
  • Prone to bacteria buildup. Mastic is an organic material that is susceptible to residues. More germs will inhabit mastic over time, resulting in an unpleasant deposit that is difficult to remove.
  • Might contain harmful substances. Mastic with asbestos was usually applied on older houses. For the people inside the establishment, this can be quite risky. The health of your lungs and skin may be affected by asbestos. Mastic also has a strong odor that will take a long time to dissipate.

Best Mastic for Backsplash

Over thousands of tile adhesives found on online and retail stores, here are the top 3 mastics for backsplashes that we recommend you try.

Henry 314 Premixed Mastic Adhesive

This mastic is durable and sets perfectly well. Most homeowners recommended this product because of its excellent performance in holding tile on a vertical plane.

Roberts 5900-1 Ceramic Tile Adhesive

This mastic is premixed and ready to use for backsplash and flooring applications. It is a type I mastic with excellent bonding capacity for both commercial and residential use.

Dap 25192 Weldwood Ceramic Tile Adhesive

Dap 25192 requires no bracing upon installation and is ideal to use for tiles with less than 8 x 8-inch size. You don’t need to apply more products for better adhesion since it has thick and strong adhesive properties.

What Is Thinset?

Thinset is also known as thinset mortar or dry-set mortar. Thinset is a tile adhesive that works best in places where moisture is a problem such as shower walls, tubs, sink backsplash, and bathroom flooring. It’s made up of cement, finely graded sand, and a water-retention substance that helps the cement hydrate properly. It is designed to be applied in a thin layer that’s typically not greater than 3/16″ thick.

Advantages of Using Thinset for Backsplash

  • Stronger than mastic. Thinset is a better choice for horizontal applications that are often subjected to strong forces.
  • Strong structural support. Thinset provides excellent stability and makes small height modifications possible.
  • Applicable for larger applications. There are product variations of thinset such as the medium bed thinset mortar that is useful for large and thick materials.
  • Ideal for areas with high moisture content. Although thinset is not waterproof, it is not water-soluble either. When moisture is present, it will not return to a liquefied state, unlike mastic.
  • Not prone to mold growth. Thinset is inorganic and does not catalyze any bacteria buildup.

Disadvantages of Using Thinset for Backsplash

  • Slow curing time. Thinset takes a long time to dry which makes it possible for vertically mounted tiles to sag during this period.
  • Difficult to remove. To remove the backsplash with thinset, a lot of effort and considerable labor is needed to demolish that area.

Mastic vs Thinset for Backsplash

Now that we know the differences between mastic and thinset for backsplash, which adhesive should you use?

Application Tools

You will need spacers to set backsplash tiles using thinset to avoid the materials sliding into each other since thinset requires time to set. Unlike with mastic, spacers are not necessary.

Curing Time

Mastic can dry and solidify quickly. The fast-drying capability of mastic is beneficial in a way that it stops the tiles from sagging and slipping from each other during installation.

Price

Mastic is cheaper than thinset. However, it’s less resilient and susceptible to decay when exposed to moisture. This means you will have to reapply it more frequently, resulting in higher long-term costs.

Adhesive for Ceramic Tile Kitchen Backsplash

The wall near the sink is expected to be exposed to a lot of moisture, but it will not be soaking in water so both mastic and thinset would work fine.

Adhesive for Glass Tile Kitchen Backsplash

It is not recommended to use mastic with glass tiles because the moisture inside the impermeable tiles can’t evaporate. The adhesive may darken over time and be evident through the surface. For backsplashes with glass, opt for thinset.

Tile Adhesive for Shower Backsplash

For surfaces where moisture would sit on the wall for a long time, use thinset for this type of application. Mastic should only be used in dry locations. It can’t be used in regions where water and moisture will be apparent. Thinset mortar and epoxy mortar are the ideal backsplash adhesives for high-moisture areas like the bathroom. Professionals use epoxy cement or regular powder thinset for the shower backsplash, whereas homeowners commonly use premixed thinset mortar.

Adhesive for Backsplash with Large Tiles

It is not advisable to use mastic for large tiles. Mastic never fully solidifies, thus each time a tile is stepped on, it is possible that it will bend slightly and the tiles might fracture. On the other hand, thinset mortar can accommodate big tile installations for ceramic and stone backsplashes.

Mastic vs Thinset: Which One Is Better?

Mastic is an acrylic substance that functions similarly to glue as an adhesive. Mastic is an excellent choice for areas with little exposure to moisture, while thinset is highly recommended for places with high moisture content.

Thinset is ideal to use for backsplashes in the bathroom and near the kitchen sink. For other areas such as kitchen backsplashes, mastic would work fine.

This ends our comparison between mastic and thinset for backsplash. All you have to remember is to use a thinset for backsplash on areas that can get wet and use mastic for dry areas.

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