Porcelain and ceramic tiles have tiny pores that can suck water from the cement or mortar. This sucking of water will prevent the mortar from setting properly, which will weaken the bonds between it and the tiles. Soaking the tiles before laying ensures that the pores absorb adequate water to prevent cracking, hollowing, or shedding.
Tiles have smaller porosity and high density, making the absorption of water quite slow. For this reason, it is crucial to sprinkle some water on the wall before laying them.
This article highlights the main reasons for soaking tiles, the benefits of soaking tiles, factors to consider before and when not to soak. It also highlights the types of tiles and what needs to be done. It will also highlight the step to follow in soaking tiles. Read on!
What Are The Main Reasons For Soaking Tiles?
There are various reasons why you need to soak your tiles before laying them, including;
Strengthening The Bond Between Tile And Binder
Ceramic tiles absorb water at high rates, and laying them without soaking may lead to weak bonds between the binder and the tiles. The tiles absorb moisture from the adhesive or cement paste, leaving less water for curing or hydration. As a result, the weak bonds will result in the cracking of the tiles.
It Helps To See Any Defects On The Tiles.
Your tiles may get damaged during transportation from one place to another. For example, transporting them from the factory to the store or worksite may cause defects. Since the damage occurs at the back of the tile (the glaze is hard and not easy to break), it may not be easy to spot. This damage may be visible on the glaze after the installation process. If the tiles are soaked in water for about 2 hours before laying, it will help locate any defect.
A defective title will break when removed from the water after soaking at the crack point. Doing this will help prevent the trouble of replacing the tiles after the installation process.
Remove Any Oil Coating.
Oil is used during the manufacture of tiles, leaving a film on the tiles’ back surface. Since oil is less dense than water, soaking the tiles helps to remove all the oil coating which floats on the water surface. This process is only applicable where tile manufacturers use oil. The practice may, however, be outdated.
What Are The Essential Factors To Consider Before Soaking Tiles?
Before you can soak your tiles, there are several factors to consider, including;
Material Making The Tile
The material from which the tiles are made plays a vital role in deciding whether they can be soaked or not. For example, if your tiles are stone-based, you will not need to soak them before laying. But, the tiles made of white or red clay should be soaked. Soaking the red tiles helps to increase their strength and enhance bonding.
If you have ceramic or porcelain tiles, you can use a brush to moisten the clay layer below the top layer. You may also sprinkle the tiles with a little water to make them wet. The table below summarizes different tiles and what needs to be done.
Type of tile
What to do to them
No need to soak
They need soaking to enhance bonding and increase strength.
Soaking improves bonding
Sprinkling or rinsing is enough.
Only a few types require rinsing or sprinkling.
The Tile’s Thickness
Before deciding on whether to soak your tiles or not, it is necessary to know their thickness. For example, the tiles whose thickness is less than 1cm need not be soaked but just washed. You can use a brush, sponge, or even splash. For thicker tiles, be sure to soak and allow them to dry a little. Doing this will help prevent the tiles from slipping when you place them on the cement or adhesive.
If They Are Dusty Or Not
If your tiles have been in the warehouse for a long period, they will have a lot of dust on them. Such tiles will not look good upon installing them and need cleaning before you can soak them. You can moisten and wipe granite tiles for dust using a damp sponge. But, it is necessary to rinse the sponge after cleaning each tile.
Quality Of Water Used.
The quality of water used to soak the tiles influences the outcome. For example, using freshwater will prevent fungi or bacteria infestation, unlike water from the lake. Be sure to avoid using detergents, whether in liquid or powder form, as using these substances may form an oily layer above the tiles. Such layers will reduce the effectiveness of the adhesive.
What Are The Effective Ways To Wet Or Soak The Tiles?
There are different ways to wet or soak your tiles depending on the material making them and their thickness. For wetting the tiles, you can either use a sponge or brush as follows;
Using A Brush
You will need to soak the brush in water and allow it to get as much water as possible. Make sure enough water seeps into the bristles by rubbing the brush against the walls of the container underneath the water. Remove the brush from the water while taking care not to let the excess liquid drip off. Stroke the tiles twice in an up and down motion to ensure they are properly covered with water.
Using A Sponge
If you want to use a sponge to wet your tiles, you need to submerge it inside the water and let it soak enough water. After completely soaking, you can pick it up and squeeze gently to remove excess water and avoid dripping. Pass the sponge over the tiles two times. Doing this ensures the tiles are wet enough for laying.
If the tiles you are working with need soaking, you can get yourself a large bucket and fill it with water. Make sure that you lay the tiles flat while stacking them on top of each other. Avoid balancing the tiles as they may fall and break when you try to remove them.
You can leave the tiles in water for about 20 to 30 minutes to absorb an adequate amount of water. If the tiles produce a fizzing sound, allow it to stop before pulling them out. This fizzing is an indication that they are releasing air and absorbing water.
Soaking tiles in water is necessary to prevent them from cracking after laying. Ceramic tiles have a high water absorption rate, making them absorb water from the adhesive or cement paste if they are not soaked before. Soaking helps strengthen the bond between the tiles and binder and it also makes any defect visible. It also prevents the tiles from falling off over time.
When the pores in the tiles absorb water fully, it will help prevent cracking, hollowing, or shedding. The process ensures that the tiles will stick properly and make them last longer.