Shakespeare said it a little different in the opening of Hamlet, but if he was talking about the concept of back-buttering tile, he may of stated it as above.
Back-buttering tile may not have been an issue in his day, but it’s still debated among seasoned tile setters in 2013.
Answering the Back-Butter Question
To educate or refresh what is meant by “back-buttering”: The phase back-buttering describes the process of applying a thin layer of thinset adhesive to the back of the tiles using the flat side of the trowel. This is done in an attempt to provide as close to 100% coverage of the setting mortar to the tile just prior to setting it into the combed thinset that has been applied to the substrate surface. The objective here is clear – set the tiles in such a way as to reduce the possibility of failure. Many factors must be taken into account in every tiling situation and no two installations are exactly the same.
The folks in the tile industry have provided us with many exciting choices. Many of the tiles are large format tile. The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) describe large format tiles as “any tile measuring 15 inches or more on any one side.” With these types of tiles it’s VERY important to apply enough supporting adhesive under them. One of the best ways to ensure the proper amount – and coverage – to these tiles is by back-buttering them. All natural stone products also need to be back-buttered. Travertine, marble, granite, slate, etc., are natural materials. Many have voids in the reverse side. By back-buttering these types of tiles the installer is filling in the voids giving additional strength to the weaker areas. This is again done in the attempt to achieve the original goal, “Set the tiles in such a way to reduce the possibility of failure.”
I think by now you have figured out which side of the fence I have landed on. I can’t see why an installer wouldn’t back-butter every tile installed. If you want a more scientific analysis of whether you not you should back-butter, check out the video below.
How to Back-Butter like a Pro
As a seasoned tiler who does back-butter, I have experienced the many difficulties associated with traditional back-buttering techniques, including arm fatigue and occasionally dropping tiles while trying to back-butter. I found that these problems can be solved by using “The Back-Butter Buddy.” Tiles can be stacked safely and securely onto the tool and with a simple spinning action, thinset can by applied to the tiles. Click here to learn more about this brand new product and watch it in action!