Tile Installation: Why Spot Bonding Is Best Avoided

Tile Installation: Why Spot Bonding Is Best Avoided

Tile Installation Why Spot Bonding Is Best Avoided

Although we do not offer tile installation services due to having clients from all over the UK and even customers based abroad, we are aware that many of our clientele either install our tiles themselves, if they feel confident or hire a professional installer. Our tiles do come with a grid-image informing the installer/customer of the way the tiles need to be fitted with helpful numbers on the back of each tile to make the installation process an easier one.

We also have our friendly and professional customer service team on hand to answer any questions you or your installer might have. That being said, installing tiles can be tricky if you’ve not had much experience with it and if you’re wanting to give it a crack at correctly fitting your own Unique Tiles design we thought we’d share with you the crucial tip of avoiding spot bonding.

What is Spot Bonding?

You may be scratching your head wondering what spot-bonding is. The process entails placing an approximately golf-ball sized portion of mortar on the back of either a wall or floor tile. Alternatively, in the case of larger ceramic tiles being installed, a dollop of mortar is put in each corner of the tile and one in the centre on the reverse of the tile. This technique is known as ‘five-spotting’.

Why is Spot Bonding a Bad Technique to Use?

#1 The tile installation method leaves most of the tile unsupported or un-bonded to the underlying surface it is being installed onto (the substrate). It is vital that a strong mechanical bond is achieved between substrate and tile. Setting a tile onto a dry, un-mortared and uncleaned underlying layer will fail to achieve this necessary bond.

#2 Unfortunately, employing the spot-bonding or five-spotting techniques often results in ‘bare spots’ or gaps between the spots of mortar, as these methods don’t provide a good solid layer of coverage on the tile. Empty mortar spaces also lead to broken tiles or cause tiles to emit a hollow sound.

The situation worsens when it comes to tiles on wet areas, such as shower and bathrooms. Mortar cavities confine moisture. An unwanted consequence of this includes water gradually oozing out via the cement-like grout joint, leading to a distortion the colour or darkening of the joint. Despite the discolouration being temporary, the down-side is that the dark, unattractive joints make a come back every time someone uses the shower.

#3 One of the tempting reasons many installers cite for being swayed into using spot bonding or five-spotting is that, for installing floor tiles, particularly bigger ones, these techniques, which includes applying pressure to the other three corners of the tile, almost eradicates lippage- meaning tiles are laid in a smooth even layer side-by-side….BUT….

The tile is often left unsupported leaving it wide open for any weight, such as a high-heel, to crack the tile. As mentioned above, a hollow noise can be heard in places where the tile has no mortar beneath it, plus liquid can collect in these empty areas, resulting in grout darkening until the moisture has totally evaporated. In the case of natural stone tile, it has been known for water to permanently discolour the stone and grout.

So it may be appealing to use spot bonding for floor tiles to achieve a flat even spread, but there’s always a high risk of even the lightest of forces damaging tiles.

So What’s the Right Way of Installing a Tile?

Tile Installation Why Spot Bonding Is Best Avoided

The most fool-proof and effective method is to key the mortar to coat the whole underlying layer that the tile will cover. The result? A strong, solid mechanical bond between substrate and tile with no bare spots! To accomplish this winning effect follow these steps:

Thoroughly clean the underlying layer and wet the substrate surface if necessary.
Using the flat side of a trowel, properly key in the mortar to the underlying surface.
Comb the mortar, making sure your combing is in one consistent direction.
Ease the tile into the mortar, rocking it in a back and forth movement, 90 degrees to the trowel ridges.

You’ve no doubt invested a lot of money in buying your tiles, so they will mean a lot to you, especially if you have custom designed them to your personal tastes using our services. You don’t want to paying to repair cracks and discoloured, hollow tiles in the future because they have been fitted incorrectly.

So if you’re installing your tiles yourself avoid spot bonding and five-spotting. If you are hiring an installer, you have the right to ask them to steer clear of these methods as well. Make sure your lovely tiles withstand the test of time so you can cherish them for many years to come!

Have you had a bad experience with a tile installation that used spot bonding or five-spotting? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

About The Author


I am a dynamic entrepreneur and MD at UniqueTiles Ltd and Custom Tiles Designer. I am an expert in concepts, productions, and management of all sorts of projects. Passionate about creating exceptional work, growing client relationships, and art.

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