The Ultimate Guide to Tile Adhesive Selection: Tips for Optimal Tiling Success



Tile adhesive is a crucial component in construction and home improvement. It serves as the glue that holds tiles in place. Ensuring they remain firmly attached to various surfaces. WOTAIchem’s comprehensive guide will explore the definition of tile adhesive, its different types, industry standards, and more. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional contractor, understanding tile adhesive is essential to achieving successful tiling projects.






1. Definition of Tile Adhesive

Tile adhesive is also known as tile glue or tile cement. It is a specialized adhesive used to bond tiles to surfaces. It comes in various forms:


Cement-based tile adhesive

Cement-based tile adhesive is a powdered mixture of hydraulic bonding materials, mineral aggregates, and organic additives. It is mixed with water or other liquids before application.


Paste-like emulsion adhesive

Emulsion adhesives comprise two immiscible liquids (usually water and an organic solvent) with a stabilizing agent to prevent them from separating. This type of adhesive is commonly used for bonding porous materials. For example, paper, cardboard, wood, and fabric.


Reactive resin adhesive

Unlike traditional adhesives rely on the evaporation of solvents or drying, reactive resin adhesives form a strong bond by undergoing a chemical transformation. These adhesives are often used in industrial applications requiring high strength and durability.


Among these, cement-based tile adhesive is the most common in the market. So, our focus will be on this type.



2. Different Application Methods of Cement-Based Tile Adhesive

Cement-based tile adhesive can be applied using several methods, each offering distinct advantages:

2.1 Back-Bedding Method

The back-bedding method is a traditional tile installation technique. It involves applying the tile adhesive to the back of the tile before pressing it onto the substrate. The adhesive layer’s thickness typically ranges from 5 to 10mm. It can provide a sturdy bond.


2.2 Trowel Method

The trowel method requires using a notched trowel to apply the adhesive directly to the substrate surface in a series of ridges. The tile is pressed onto the adhesive, and a slight twist ensures a secure bond. This method produces a thinner adhesive layer, usually 2 to 4mm thick.


2.3 Combination Method

The combination method combines aspects of both back-bedding and trowel methods. The adhesive is first applied in ridges using a notched trowel. It can create a uniform layer on the substrate. A thin layer of adhesive is also applied to the back of the tile. This approach allows for better adhesion. And typically results in an adhesive layer thickness of 3 to 5mm.


3. Tile Adhesive Classification and Industry Standards

Tile adhesives are categorized and marked with specific codes to ensure standardization and ease of selection. Below are some key terms, definitions, and classification codes:


3.1 Terms and Definitions

Drying Time: The maximum interval between adhesive application and achieving the standard tensile bond strength of at least 0.5MPa for tile assembly.
Slippage: The downward movement of tiles after adhesive application on a vertical surface.
Wetting Ability: The ability of the adhesive to wet the tile surface after trowel application.
Transverse Deformation: The maximum displacement observed when a hardened adhesive test specimen undergoes three-point bending until a crack appears at the center.
Maturation Time: The time interval between cement-based adhesive mixing with water and becoming ready for use.



3.2 Classification and Codes

Tile adhesives are categorized into three groups based on their composition:
– Cement-Based Adhesives (C)
– Paste-Like Emulsion Adhesives (D)
– Reactive Resin Adhesives (R)


Each category can have different performance options, identified by the following codes:
– Ordinary Adhesive (1)
– Enhanced Adhesive (2)
– Rapid Hardening Adhesive (F)
– Slip-Resistant Adhesive (T)
– Enhanced Adhesive with Extended Drying Time (E)


Below is a summary of common types and their codes:



Types of Tile Adhesives


Ordinary Cement-Based Tile Adhesive  


Rapid Hardening Cement-Based Tile Adhesive  


Slip-Resistant Cement-Based Tile Adhesive 


Slip-Resistant Rapid Hardening Adhesive  


Enhanced Cement-Based Tile Adhesive    


Enhanced Cement-Based Adhesive with Extended Drying Time


Rapid Hardening Enhanced Cement-Based Tile Adhesive 


Slip-Resistant Enhanced Cement-Based Tile Adhesive 


Slip-Resistant Enhanced Adhesive with Extended Drying Time 



What is the difference between C1 and C2 adhesive?

Regarding tile adhesive, C1 and C2 are different classifications that indicate their performance and suitability for specific applications.


What does C1 mean on tile adhesive?

C1 adhesive refers to an ordinary cement-based tile adhesive with basic properties. It is commonly used for standard tiling projects requiring minimal bonding. C1 adhesive is suitable for small and medium-sized tiles and is typically applied on rigid, non-absorbent substrates. This type of adhesive is more cost-effective and fulfills the basic adhesive needs for simple tiling tasks.


About C2 Tile Adhesive

On the other hand, C2 adhesive represents an enhanced cement-based tile adhesive. It offers improved performance compared to C1 adhesive and is designed for a broader range of tiling applications. C2 adhesive is ideal for bonding larger and heavier tiles and tiles with lower absorbency. It provides higher bonding strength and better adhesion to various substrates. For example, the non-rigid surfaces. Due to its enhanced properties, C2 adhesive is a more versatile option for demanding tiling projects.






4. How to Choose the Suitable Types for Your Applications?

When it comes to tile adhesives, selecting the right type based on the substrate and tile characteristics is essential for a successful tiling project. Here are three main types of tile adhesives, each serving specific purposes and applications.


4.1. Standard Tile Adhesive

Standard tile adhesive is also known as basic or ordinary tile adhesive. It is chosen for its low cost and suitability for minimal bonding requirements. It is commonly used on rigid, inorganic substrates to attach medium and small-sized tiles with some absorbency. This type of adhesive is ideal for simple tiling projects with basic adhesive needs. Making it a cost-effective choice.


4.2. High-Quality Tile Adhesive

High-quality tile adhesive is often referred to as standard-grade tile adhesive. This type of tile adhesive can offer better performance than the basic type. It is selected when higher bonding strength and improved adhesion are required. This adhesive is recommended for attaching tiles with lower absorbency to rigid, inorganic substrates. It ensures a reliable bond and enhances the longevity of the tiling installation.


4.3. Flexible Tile Adhesive

Flexible tile adhesive is a top-tier option. It is known for its high quality and exceptional flexibility. It is specifically designed to adhere to non-absorbent decorative tiles. For example, polished and vitrified tiles to challenging substrates like wood boards. The flexibility of this adhesive allows for accommodating movements in the substrate. Making it suitable for demanding and dynamic tiling applications.


In the tile adhesive formulation, calcium formate is essential for enhancing specific properties. However, it is crucial to follow recommended guidelines for its usage:

– Maximum Usage: The maximum recommended usage of calcium formate in tile adhesive should not exceed 2.5%. The suitable dosage can ensure the adhesive maintains its desired properties without any adverse effects.

– Temperature Sensitivity: The amount of calcium formate used may vary with temperature. As the temperature decreases, the quantity of calcium formate in the formulation should be adjusted to optimize the adhesive’s performance.

– Application-specific Ratios: The appropriate dosage of calcium formate may differ based on the specific application of the tile adhesive. Determining the suitable ratio based on the project’s requirements is essential to achieve the desired results.









In conclusion, selecting the right tile adhesive is crucial for successful tiling projects. Understanding the differences between standard, high-quality, and flexible adhesives ensures optimal performance on various substrates and tile types.


For high-quality cement based tile adhesives, trust us! WOTAIchem is a leading construction additives factory and distributor in China. We provide high-quality additive products for your construction projects. Our Cellulose ethers (HPMC, HEMC, HEC), HPS, RDP, and Superplasticizers (PCE, SM), are commonly used in the construction industry to optimize cement performance. With WOTAIchem’s sustainable additives, you can achieve exceptional results in your projects.




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