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What to use as ceramic tile underlayment?  How about saying tile backerboard and leaving it at that?

Really, if you ever have questions about whether a material can be used as tile underlayment, backer board is always your answer.  It can be installed on top of just about anything, and tile loves it.

But ours is not a perfect world, so we need to consider whether tile can be installed on sheet vinyl flooring, tile vinyl, plywood, concrete slab, and so on.

  • Best Tile Underlayment? Backerboard--specifically DensShield by Georgia-Pacific.  That's my opinion.
  • Worst Tile Underlayment? OSB wood.  Drywall.  The list goes on.

Image:  James Hardie Company


July 13, 2011 at 11:09 am
(1) Rick says:

Ive had some success with the tile underlayment I bought off of http://www.blankecorp.com/blanke-usa/products/floor-covering-edge-protectors-for-walls-and-floors/ IT works pretty well and so I haven’t had any major hiccups. Hope this helps!

January 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm
(2) Billy says:

I would like to put ceramic tile in my basement laundry room and need some advice. I have a dry basement with minimal crack in the concrete subfloor. The floor is painted with a water sealer type paint which I believe I will have to scrape off. My front loading washer seems to shake a lot (I have checked the balance and seems level). Will this vibration cause the ceramic tile to crack? Will installing a underlayment like ditra help prolong the life of the tile? Can you recommend a product? Or am I over thinking this and tile adhered to the sub floor would suffice? I have limited budget but want a floor to last.

Answer: You can go in either direction with this. To answer each of your questions:

No, normal vibration from a washing machine should not crack your tile. If you’re worried, put down one of those overflow pans underneath the washing machine (or even some rubber floor tiles). Either should provide enough insulation to dampen the vibrations. Problem solved.

Ditra is a newish polyethylene membrane with a square grid embossed in it. It’s a waterproofing element for building shower pans. But what you’re interested in–it’s an uncoupling material. An uncoupling material simply “unlocks” tile from its subfloor. Because subfloors can move and crack, they transmit the same to the tile above. Uncoupling material “breaks” this chain of transmission.

Can I recommend a product? Yes, Ditra.

You might be overthinking this. You say the basement floor has only minimal cracking; you should be fine. But as it sounds like this issue may weigh on you, you might gain greater peace of mind by the following…

You say you have a limited budget. Fortunately, you’re only dealing with the limited space of a laundry room. How big can this be? Figuring on a 5′ x 10′ laundry room, you’ll need a 54 sq. ft. roll of Schluter Ditra 1/8″ Underlayment. Currently, this goes for about $100. So, for $100 you can have peace of mind.

It’s your choice, but I vote for the Ditra underlayment.

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