PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Tiling questions and answers in here please

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Mudster
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PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by Mudster »

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 5:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by rocco »

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!
Mudster
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Post by Mudster »

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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Fix and Grout

Post by carhartt kid »

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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Post by ultimatehandyman »

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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Re: Fix and Grout

Post by BobProperty »

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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Post by handyman »

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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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by jcls »

Hi Mudster,

Just read this. Now I'm in a flap. As the instructions on the tub tells you to, in readiness for tiling I put two or more layers of PVA on all my bathroom walls just a couple of weeks ago. Some areas are newly plastered, there's also a bit of new plasterboard and the rest of the walls have older paint on them). At this point, I'm still doing other stuff on the room so haven't yet started tiling.

I have already bought Unibond ready-mixed non-slip wall tile adhesive (not the combined adhesive and grout btw).

Should I over-coat the PVA'd surfaces with another product to make sure my adhesive and tiles stick? ...or what else would you recommend?

Cheers!

Jules
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by dewaltdisney »

The main issue is where water can get behind the tiles to reactivate the PVA which might lead to the tile loosening up. I should not fret too much. You will need to take a bit of care in the shower area and you could give any PVA a good wash down with hot water or you could use a tanking kit (pricey) for peace of mind. https://www.tilefixdirect.com/product/BAWP1SPK You might want to swap the Unibond to Bal Greenstar which I think is a superior product.

Good luck

DWD
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by jcls »

dewaltdisney wrote:...or you could use a tanking kit (pricey) for peace of mind...
Thanks for that. I already have the tanking kit (as recommended and used by the Ultimate Handyman himself( :-)) and although I did not mention it above, I will be tanking the whole area (which includes most of the new plasterwork) before tiling.

Effectively, you seem to be saying that if I re-seal over the top of the PVA that's there (with the tanking primer) then there will no longer be the same issue. If that's the case then I think all is good!!

Cheers again!

Jules
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by dewaltdisney »

Yes, you are on track. The tanking primer will seal the surface and form a waterproof barrier. The only thing I would flag up is the Unibond adhesive which really is B team in my opinion. I have used Bal stuff for years now and never had an issue whereas, some years back now, I had tiles come loose using Unibond. Having said that I am sure that the preparations you have done it will be fine :thumbright:

DWD
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by jcls »

DWD,

Hope so, I bought three tubs on special from ScrewFix!

Cheers!

Jules
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by wine~o »

jcls wrote:Hi Mudster,

Just read this. Now I'm in a flap. As the instructions on the tub tells you to, in readiness for tiling I put two or more layers of PVA on all my bathroom walls just a couple of weeks ago. Some areas are newly plastered, there's also a bit of new plasterboard and the rest of the walls have older paint on them). At this point, I'm still doing other stuff on the room so haven't yet started tiling.

I have already bought Unibond ready-mixed non-slip wall tile adhesive (not the combined adhesive and grout btw).

Should I over-coat the PVA'd surfaces with another product to make sure my adhesive and tiles stick? ...or what else would you recommend?

Cheers!

Jules

:welcomeuhm: Jules.

If you read Mudsters post fully he is talking about a cement based tile addy, cement based doesn't like pva.

The unibond tubbed addy that you have is a different beast altogether, and dries by contact with air (Cement based dries by a chemical reaction)

Basically, what I'm saying is that provided the tiles that you are using are standard ceramic tiles and less than 300mm square then PVA as recommended by the adhesive manufacturer will be fine...........
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by jcls »

Thanks!
...and less than 300mm square then PVA as recommended by the adhesive manufacturer will be fine...........
Erm... They're not actually. They are 600mm x 300mm. Why would the size be related to the PVA?

Cheers!

Jules
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Re: PVA - Why you shouldn't use it as a tiling primer.

Post by darrenba »

Generally you can't use tubbed adhesive on tiles of that size. You will need to buy a powdered cement based adhesive.
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