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What is Thinset? Welcome to Tile Adhesive 101!

Everything You Need to Know About Thinset

 Spreading thinset for tile installation


What in the world is thinset?

If you’ve had the pleasure of renovating a space, thinset has likely been brought up. However, you may not know what it is, how one would use it, or even why its used!

We’re here to help cover topics such as:

  • What is thinset?
  • What is the purpose of thinset?
  • Should I use thinset?
  • What are types of thinset?
  • What thinset should I use for LIVDEN tiles?
  • How do you prep thinset?



What is thinset?


Put simply, thinset is a tile mortar adhesive used for tile installation. It’s a mix of cement, silica sand, and water retaining agents, specifically designed to provide a superior bond. Thinset is typically smooth and creamy, much like mud or toothpaste, and, during installation, is applied to the base surface (like a wall or floor) where the final installation will be. Once the tiles are laid on top of the thinset, it forms a strong bond with the tile and works to securely lock the installation in place.

Thinset is meant to be spread easily across wide surfaces to ensure full contact and coverage of adhesive from the surface to the tile. As the name implies, thinset is thinner than other mortars, for ease of application and consistent thickness of adhesive.  Other adhesive options might be thicker, such as medium bed mortars, best used for larger format tile. It’s best to find the right fit for the job, and for our 12x12 tile, thinset is a great fit!


What is the purpose of thinset?


tile adhesive lines


In addition to creating a superior bond, it also adds key benefits to your space, such as being:

  • Heatproof
  • Moisture resistant
  • Mold proof
  • Stable

With these characteristics, thinsets keep your tile installations strong in both hot and wet environments like:

  • Shower walls
  • Bathtub surrounds
  • Kitchen backsplashes
  • Accent walls


Should I use thinset?


Thinset is the ideal adhesive for tile installations because of its consistency, durability, and stability. Unlike grout, thinset is hidden behind the tile and should not be visible by the time you finish a project. It is widely available at home improvement stores everywhere!

 Elly - Selene - Pistashio tile pattern installed on wall with accessories

What are the different types of thinset?



Modified thinset has polymers such as acrylic and latex added to the composition for stronger bonds, making your tile adhere better to the subfloor. Some modified thinset may have chemical resistant agents added as well, reducing the potential for absorbing moisture compared to unmodified thinset.


Unmodified is the simplest form of thinset with only three ingredients: cement, silica sand, and water-retaining agents. People sometimes use this type if they’re working with a moisture barrier, like a schulter system.

Large Format Tile Mortars

Also known as a medium bed mortar, this is typically only used on tiles 15” and larger to reduce shrinkage during the curing process, and to bond the tile without “lippage” (an uneven surface).

Glass Tile Mortar

This is a white, latex-additive thinset mortar used exclusively for glass tile. The color of the thinset is visible through glass tile to function as a neutral base. NOT recommended for LIVDEN tiles.

Fast Drying Thinset

This thinset is designed with a faster cure rate to get you to the grouting stage sooner than other standard products. A Rapid Set thinset is the most recommended for LIVDEN tiles!

Epoxy Mortar

Epoxy thinset is meant for harsher environments, such as commercial kitchens or garages. This thinset has strong chemical resistance to high-fume areas. It is typically used on epoxy terrazzo tiles.


This is a tackier, gluey ceramic tile adhesive. It is not meant for larger tiles or high-moisture areas like showers or bathrooms. NOT recommended for LIVDEN tiles.


 Elly - Kaleidoscope - Blue Haze patterned tile kitchen backsplash



What thinset should I use for LIVDEN tiles?


Wondering which adhesives are best for LIVDEN tiles?

We’re here to help! Typically, we recommend a white, rapid set thinset for our various Porcelain and Terrazzo tiles!

Find our list of thinset recommendations below.


Tried and True, Laticrete products are top of the line. Here are the Laticrete adhesives we recommend with our tiles:

Production Product Name  Recommended Color
Best 254 Platinum White
Good  4-XLT White
Good 253 Gold White



Another solid option for thinset, MAPEI! See our top product selections for MAPEI below:


Production Product Name  Recommended Color
Best Kerabond/Keralastic System White
Best Ultraflex 2 White
Good Mapei Ultralite Mortar White



Because of the nature of our tiles, we advise against the thinsets listed below to maintain the longevity of our products.  Do not use Mastic or premixed tile adhesives, such as:

  • AcrylPro
  • Mapei Type 1 Tile Adhesive
  • Henry Mastic


How do I prep thinset?

Preparing thinset mortar has a similar process to that of standard mortar. The biggest difference being it’s best to make smaller batches, as thinset dries at a much faster rate compared to standard mortar.

  • Create your setup with clean buckets, clean sponges, and clean water, and take special care to read through the manufacturer’s specific instructions.
  • Layout a handy piece of construction paper or cloth to keep your work area clean.
  • Temperature matters! Thinset must be used above 40 degrees or below 95 Fahrenheit, as either of these extremes will cause the batch to prematurely harden, so definitely keep your thinset out of the sun! Even if you mix it with cool water, the mixture will start curing much, much faster than intended.
  • Order matters! First add the thinset, then the cool water.
  • Mix your thinset in a large bucket using a drill and mixing paddle at low speed. You can also hand mix, but a drill mix will be more consistent!

Mixing Mortar

  • Let your thinset stand for a minimum of 5-10 minutes after being mixed. This is a phenomenon known as “slake time,” which refers to the full activation of polymers in the mortar. The body of the thinset should “sag” from the mixing tool after it’s been thoroughly mixed. An important step as either an over or under-watered mortar won’t spread properly.
  • Be careful not to mix too much at one time, as it dries very quickly. Clean your mixing paddle frequently as well.
  • Installing on a backer board? You’ll need to dampen the backing board using water from a spray bottle or wipe it down with a damp sponge. Do this before applying the thinset.
  • Spray and wipe as you go! This will prevent the backer board from becoming waterlogged and stop premature drying of the thinset. Doing so helps the tiles grip to the base.
  • Once your thinset begins to harden, refrain from adding additional water to it, as it will adversely affect how your tile will bond to the substrate.
  • Most mortars require 24 hours for curing.



Now that we’ve covered what thinset is, it’s purpose, and variations, it’s time to wrap up Tile Adhesive 101.

We hope you enjoyed your crash course!

If you have any questions about other tile adhesive related questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Drop us a line and we’d be happy to help point you in the right direction.

Had enough thinset today? Get thinset off your mind and check out our collection of decorative tiles made from recycled materials.

REmatch - Roundabout - Jet Stream patterned tile kitchen backsplash



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