Top Ten Tips for Cold Weather Tile Installation
When working in cold weather, it is important to consider four key temperatures: water temperature, powder temperature, ambient temperature, and surface temperatures. Low temperatures for any of these four parameters can inhibit a product’s cure. Once a critically low temperature is reached, the cement curing reaction stops, which can cause jobsite failures.
- Ensure the powder temperature is between 50-80°F prior to mixing. Store bags in a conditioned space, if possible. Powder makes up about 78-86% of the final weight, which means that cold powder will lead to an artificially long working time.
- As possible, plan your job to avoid ambient temperatures that dip below 50ºF. Low temperatures during installation can permanently affect bond strength. This might mean protecting the installation with tents and/or heaters if in an unconditioned space. Once the installation has dropped below the required temperature, the cement stops curing, permanently damaging the installation.
- Consider using a fast set product. Since they achieve final set faster, the installation is less likely to be affected by temperature fluctuations.
- Be aware of your water temperature. If necessary, condition your water to be room temperature (50-80ºF) before mixing.
- If reusing buckets, be sure to clean any residual product out of them before starting your mix. Cross-contaminating cement based products can affect the product’s working time and performance.
- Be aware of your substrate and tile temperature. It should be between 50-80ºF. This is especially critical when installing over, on, or below grade installations as the substrate temperature can be vastly different from the ambient temperature. If possible, use a temperature gun thermometer to ensure the substrate is warm enough to install tile.
- Always add the powder to the water before mixing with a low speed drill. TEC® recommends a low speed (300-350 RPM) drill for grout and mortar installations. Allow the product to slake (if required) before remixing. Be careful to not over mix the grout or mortar.
- Mix using the recommended water amount, being sure not to exceed the maximum. Do not add additional water to the product after slaking. This can cause issues with bond.
- Once you are done installing, double check that the area is set to remain at a temperature between 50-80ºF for at least 48-72 hours after installation. This might mean tenting or adding heaters to the installation area.
- Longer foot traffic protection may be necessary. This is because cold temperatures can extend both the pot life and final set of mortars and grouts.