Using Tile Adhesive to Level Wall: Method and Considerations

The fear of anyone looking to work on a tiling project is having to deal with unleveled walls. This can cause lippage – a dreadful situation even for the most seasoned professionals. However, it is possible to achieve a smooth and even surface by leveling it with tile adhesive.

To use tile adhesive to level a wall, follow the steps below:

  • Prepare the wall surface
  • Examine the irregularities on the wall
  • Choose the right adhesive
  • Prepare the adhesive
  • Apply the adhesive
  • Level the wall
  • Cure adhesive

Using tile adhesive to level walls will not only create an even surface, it will also provide a sturdy base for applying the tiles. In the remaining sections of this article, we will further expatiate the steps required to use tile adhesive to level a wall. We will also discuss the key considerations to keep in mind while working on your tiling project to guarantee you get the best result possible.

Preparing the wall

The first thing you need to do is proceed to prepare the wall. Here is how to prepare a wall for leveling before tiling:

  • Remove previous wall coverings
  • Remove wall fittings
  • Fill holes and cracks
  • Sand the filled areas
  • Clean the wall
  • Apply primer

1) Removing previous wall coverings

The first step in preparing a wall surface for leveling is to remove previous coverings like wallpapers, flaking paints, loose plaster, and old tiles. Removing these coverings will help make the leveling process easier and make the tile adhere better to the wall. Although it is possible to fix new tiles on old ones, if the old tiles are not in good condition, then you should remove them.

2) Removing wall fittings

The next step is to remove wall fittings including brackets, picture hangers, nails, hooks, and screws. You can use tools like claw hammer, screwdriver, and drills to remove all wall fittings.

3) Filling holes and cracks

Removing wall fittings will most likely leave you with several pesky holes in the wall. What you need to do to rectify the situation is fill these holes together with any other crack in the wall. To do this, use a suitable wall filler or sparkling paste following the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying.

4) Sanding the filled areas

After filling the holes and cracks on the wall and letting the fillers cure completely, use fine grit sandpaper to sand the filled area to flush smoothly with the surroundings.

5) Cleaning the wall

Use a dry brush and a vacuum cleaner to clean dirt and dust from the wall surface.

6) Applying primer

It is important to use a primer before applying tile adhesive to a plastered wall surface. Doing this will prevent the wall plaster from absorbing the liquid from the tile adhesive and prevent air bubbles from getting trapped. Thereby, helping the tiles adhere better.

Examining the irregularities on the wall

Having done all the necessary things to prepare the wall, the next thing is to check the parts of the wall that needs leveling. It is recommended to do this using a long spirit level. Start by placing the spirit level horizontally on the wall and check the liquid vial.

If the bubble is located in the middle of the reference lines within the vial, the wall is leveled. However, if the bubble leans toward any of the sides, the wall is not leveled. Specifically, if the bubble leans to the left side, then the left side of the wall is lower than the right side and should be leveled.

Conversely, if the bubble in the vial leans to the right, then the right side of the wall is not leveled. Use a pencil to mark areas on the wall that needs to be leveled. Then, place the spirit level vertically on various areas of the wall to also check for levelness.

Choosing the right adhesive

It is important to choose the right tile adhesive for your tiling project. Although there are several types of tile adhesives, here are the things to consider to help you choose the right type for your project:

  • Tile type: There are different types of tile like ceramic, porcelain, terracotta, etc. It is essential to choose the right tile adhesive suitable for the type of tile you are using for your project.
  • Surface compatibility: Another factor to consider before choosing a tile adhesive is how compatible it is with the surface where it will be applied. Whether the surface is concrete, plastered, or drywall, the adhesive must be compatible.
  • Setting time: You should also consider how long it takes for the adhesive to cure. To give you enough time to level the surface as well as to place and adjust the tiles before it hardens, we recommend choosing a slow-drying tile adhesive.
  • Weight and size of tile: Based on the size and weight of the tiles, you need to choose a suitable adhesive. Larger and heavier tiles require adhesives with stronger bonding strength.

Types of tile adhesive

Here are the most common types of tile adhesive you can choose from based on the materials you are working with:

  • Cement-based tile adhesive
  • Epoxy tile adhesive
  • Acrylic tile adhesive
  • Polyurethane tile adhesive

1) Cement-based tile adhesive

This is the most common tile adhesive majorly used for ceramic and porcelain tiles on cementitious, wood, and gypsum substrates. Cement-based tile adhesives are sold in powder form and need to be mixed with water before use. The mixture turns into a paste that sticks to the substrate and holds the tiles in place.

This type of tile adhesive provides a strong bond, flexibility, and moisture resistance. It is appropriate for moist areas in both indoor and outdoor applications.

2) Epoxy tile adhesive

Epoxy tile adhesive is made up of epoxy resin and hardener available in paste form. It offers a strong bond and is perfect for fixing tiles to a variety of surfaces including concrete, metal, and pre-existing tiles.

It is characterized by excellent chemical, water, and temperature resistance. This qualifies it for demanding applications such as industrial spaces, commercial kitchens, and swimming pools. Compared to cement-based tile adhesives, it takes longer to cure and may need professional application. Epoxy tile adhesives are versatile and used for various tile types porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, metal, and glass on wood and concrete substrates.

3) Acrylic tile adhesive

This is a water-based tile adhesive made of acrylic polymers. It is frequently used to bond tiles like ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone to drywall, gypsum, and cementitious substrates. This adhesive provides strong bonds, high flexibility, and water resistance.

Acrylic tile adhesive is simple to use because it is provided ready-to-use in the form of a pre-mixed paste. It is appropriate for internal use in locations with exposure to dampness such as bathrooms and kitchens.

4) Polyurethane tile adhesive

This is a two-component tile adhesive made of polyurethane polymers. It offers great bonding strength and flexibility. This adhesive is frequently used to attach tiles to surfaces with significant movement, including fiber cement boards, metal, or wood.

The resistance of the polyurethane tile adhesive to moisture, solvents, and temperature changes is good. It is appropriate for interior and exterior applications, as well as places that experience significant loads and vibrations.

Before using polyurethane tile adhesive, the two components must be properly mixed. Also, it requires a long time to cure and might need professional installation.

Preparing the adhesive

You need to prepare tile adhesives that do not come pre-mixed. However, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product as there are many tile adhesive brands. And each one requires a different set of measurements and application instructions to get the ideal consistency.

Applying adhesive

When the adhesive is ready, the next thing is to apply it on the unleveled parts of the wall where you previously marked. To do this, use the appropriate-sized notched trowel to apply a thin layer of adhesive. Consider the tile size, type of substrate, and adhesive when considering the size of the notched trowel to use.

Starting at the bottom and working your way up, spread the adhesive lightly in a sweeping motion. Apply enough adhesive to even out the wall. When applying the tile adhesive, it is important to use the right size of notch trowel to:

  • Avoid trapping air pockets
  • Avoid adhesive wastage
  • Ensure proper coverage

Level the wall

When you are done applying the tile adhesive on the marked part and spread it evenly, use a long spirit level to inspect the levelness of the wall. By adding more tile adhesive to low areas and removing some from high areas, you can change the adhesive’s thickness as needed. Use the spirit level to make sure the wall is even both horizontally and vertically.

Curing the adhesive

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing and drying the adhesive. Depending on the type of tile adhesive used, this typically takes 24 to 48 hours. To keep the wall level during this time, avoid exerting too much pressure on it.