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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 2:02 pm 
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A while ago I wrote a post for another forum which explained the reasons behind not using PVA as a tiling primer, it is posted below for your information, I've been asked to copy it to various other forums and thought it might be useful here also. I hope it is of some help.

Oh and if you do require a primer then use one suitable for the adhesive you are using, such as BAL APD or Ardion 51.

I'm a professional tiling contractor, I now mainly specialise in natural products but over the years I've stuck up (or down) every type of tile there is.

I have to give guarantees for my work (many of these projects are commercial such as sports centre showers and changing rooms). For me to be able to give guarantees I need to follow strictly the specification of the adhesive manufacturers.

Ardex, BAL and Nicobond are the three suppliers I use most. Their products are similar in many respects, sometimes one will make products the other don't, and I also find some of there products more useful in different applications. All three of them have one thing in common, they all specifiy that under no circumstances may PVA be used before using any of their adhesives. If you do all guarantees are void.

OK why then? Well I asked this question to Ardex when I once had problem, I'd tiled a bathroom that had been constructed in 25mm Marine ply. Thinking he was doing the right thing, the builder got his guys to seal the ply with unibond PVA...I wasn't aware of this.

I tiled it and 6 months later every single tile fell off the ply, the adhesive solidly stuck to the tile but came clean a whistle off the ply.

We had Ardex Technical down to the site to compile a report, the basis of which was it's the PVA that causes the problem.

When you treat a surface with PVA it partly soaks in and parlty sits on the surface of the substrate much in the same way as wallpaper paste.

If PVA gets wet it becomes slightly live again, it doesn't completely return to it's liquid state but it becomes sticky.

When you spread tile adhesive onto the wall, the water in the adhesive makes the PVA live and stops the adhesive from penetrating the substrate and providing a mechanical grip.

Most tile adhesive works by crystalising when it sets (some are slightly different such as epoxy based ones) but generally they all work the same way. Once the adhesive starts to set crystals from and expand into any imperfections in the substrate surface (at a microscopic level) to create a grip. PVA stops this process by creating a barrier between the substrate and the tile adhesive. Basically a moist layer of PVA is then holding the enitre weight of the tiles, grout and adhesive and stopping a great deal fo the mechanical grip occuring.

Ok so whats the difference between this and Ardex or BAL primer, well basically the tile manufacturers primers are generally acrylic (such as BAL APD- Acrylic Polymer Dispersant), the chemicals don't become "Live" when a tile adhesive is applied to it and stop the mechanical crystallisation of the adhesive gripping the substrate itself. They also stop a chemical reaction occuring between the cement based adhesive and a plaster substrate, a known problem know as "Ettringite failure"

BAL and some other manufacturers also produce SBR primers, these are slurry primers for flooring, so if you're about to tile a dusty sand/cement screed, a thin coat of SBR will bond all the surface dust together and allow the adhesive to bond to the screed correctly, SBR shouldn't be used as a wall plaster primer as a replacement of APD.

I hope this clears up any misunderstandings.


Last edited by Mudster on Mon Jun 26, 2006 6:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:18 pm 
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I wish I had read this advice a few months back, I hope my kitchen tiles won't fall off with the condensation in the kitchen!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:47 pm 
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Using PVA doesn't guarantee failure, it's just not a sensible option to use it.
It's unlikely your kitchen tiles will fail, they are more decorative than say, a shower, and probably light weight tiles.

No point worrying about somethng you can't now control.


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 Post subject: Fix and Grout
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2006 2:39 pm 
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The "Fix and Grout" all in one readymix stuff I have and use loads from B&Q says on the tub.. "Prime porous surfaces with 1 part PVA diluted with 5 parts water and allow to dry. Seal timber with solvent base primer"

I'm gona be using this on marine ply and fresh plaster!!! Whats do you recommend I use instead???

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2006 3:24 pm 
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If the adhesive manufacturer specifies PVA then use that. If they drop off then you can complain to them.

Marine ply is not great and tile backer board is much better.

Fix and grout was crap the last time I tried it, about 20 years ago :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Fix and Grout
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2006 10:19 pm 
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carhartt kid wrote:
The "Fix and Grout" all in one readymix stuff I have and use loads from B&Q says on the tub.. "Prime porous surfaces with 1 part PVA diluted with 5 parts water and allow to dry. Seal timber with solvent base primer".....

That will give a couple of barristers a few hours each in court :o
How can you interpret that:
All porous surfaces have to be primed with weak PVA solution. Timber is porous therefore it should be primed with weak PVA solution. It then says Seal timber with solvent based primer. So do you seal it before or after the PVA? :roll:
Or are the two sentences mutually exclusive? Prime porous surfaces with PVA. Seal timber with solvent based primer.

Quiet on here isn't it? Where's that tumbleweed smiley?

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:17 pm 
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used unibond (presumably its good stuff?)powdered tile adhesive last week and it says to use pva to seal porous sufaces in the instructions :cb


Have to agree with comments about the ready mixed fix and grout stuff.........it is terrible stuff

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