Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling - Tiling - Contractor Talk

Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling

 
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:30 PM   #1
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Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


You'll find I'm pretty annoying sometimes bringing up the absolute basics like this, so sorry if I'm boring anyone. Anyways, you see the term back butter all the time, but often times it gets confused with back troweling. Here is how I define the two methods:

Back buttering: a scratch coat of thinset on the back of the tile to adhere to the combed thinset on the substrate.

Back troweling: combing the back of each tile, and setting it either on a scratch coated substrate, or directly onto the substrate.

From what I've seen working with other people, it seems like many installers adopt different methods. Personally, I trowel the backs of every tile, usually with a margin trowel for controllability if I have the right size, but don't butter my substrate as it's always clean and seems to get great adhesion on contact after I seat the tile. This is how I was trained to do it, and I prefer this method because I can see my layout lines more clearly, the thinset doesn't get a chance to skin over and the thinset adheres well to the tile.

I suppose it takes a little more time, as getting coverage in the corners can take an extra few seconds per tile. That said, I rarely tile much more than 80 sq ft at a time as I'm typically in small areas like bathrooms, or kitchen backsplashes.

What is your preferred method and why?
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:44 PM   #2
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Burn/key into substrate, trowel to proper depth. Back butter tile, set.

The difference from how I understand what you're description is, when you back butter, you are keying in both the substrate and tile. If you just comb the tile, you're missing the point of keying it in. I doubt you can get 93% with porcelain or stone if you only comb onto one of the 2 surfaces with a standard thinset.

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Old 04-12-2012, 09:12 PM   #3
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


That's an interesting point. I'm not to stubborn to admit that perhaps I should butter the tile and comb the floor. Fortunately I haven't had any issues with loose or cracked tile thus far, but it can't hurt I suppose.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:16 PM   #4
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Ben, what makes you better than your competition? Stuff like this. Don't just do the minimum, do the best....and sell the value of why you do the things you do
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:21 PM   #5
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Angus, do you recommend wiping backerboard with a damp sponge to prevent the backer from pulling too much moisture out of the mortar?
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:24 PM   #6
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Absolutely. I do that to all substrates.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:28 PM   #7
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


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Angus, do you recommend wiping backerboard with a damp sponge to prevent the backer from pulling too much moisture out of the mortar?
When I use Durock I use one of those little 1qt hand held pump sprayers I spray down the CBU before I start setting. It really helps in keeping the mortar from drying down. It is more important in the Summer and when you are setting larger floors.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:37 PM   #8
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


I get my garden tractor in there and spray the thing down with 2-4-D in case there are any broadleafs on it. I have a 16 gal. tank and an electric pump.

Seriously, this is why I like densshield, because it doesn't suck as bad.

If it is concrete, you may as well get a mop & bucket out. Durock must be the worst.

I'm going to be tiling my densarmor soon and I think I'll use a small spray bottle on it as I go, maybe spray the back of the porous, cheap ceramic wall tile as well.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:49 PM   #9
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Your a good man Angus, a good man, lol. Great to have you on here for tile questions. Always a professional answer. There are WAY too many hacks out there that can ""tile"".

A couple years ago I got a call from an elderly man that said all his new tile in the basement was coming up after a month. I gave one the tap test and got the hollow sound. So I told him I bet the guy never buttered the tile and grabbed the edge of one and pulled it off with 2 fingers. Not only had the A-hole not back buttered but he tiled directly over some kind of glue someone had glued the old carpet down with. The entire basement had to be redone. Worst part is he paid a premium price the first go around. I felt so bad for the old guy I gave him a really good price to fix it for him. Been back to remodel both of his bathrooms and to do his kitchen floor also now, sometimes good deeds do pay.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:02 PM   #10
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinter hands View Post
Your a good man Angus, a good man, lol. Great to have you on here for tile questions. Always a professional answer. There are WAY too many hacks out there that can ""tile"".

A couple years ago I got a call from an elderly man that said all his new tile in the basement was coming up after a month. I gave one the tap test and got the hollow sound. So I told him I bet the guy never buttered the tile and grabbed the edge of one and pulled it off with 2 fingers. Not only had the A-hole not back buttered but he tiled directly over some kind of glue someone had glued the old carpet down with. The entire basement had to be redone. Worst part is he paid a premium price the first go around. I felt so bad for the old guy I gave him a really good price to fix it for him. Been back to remodel both of his bathrooms and to do his kitchen floor also now, sometimes good deeds do pay.
Got called up one day for a handyman repair for two loose tiles in a kitchen. Pretty soon, 2 became 4 and 4 became 12. The entire kitchen, dining room and hallway were all the same. The tiles were as clean as they come out of the box, and the thinset was obviously just troweled onto the floor and had skinned over.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:24 PM   #11
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
Originally Posted by charimon View Post
When I use Durock I use one of those little 1qt hand held pump sprayers I spray down the CBU before I start setting. It really helps in keeping the mortar from drying down. It is more important in the Summer and when you are setting larger floors.
I would think that winter would be more important, with the air being so dry.

I have always wet the backer before installing. I hadn't thought of using a sprayer though.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:28 PM   #12
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinter hands View Post
Your a good man Angus, a good man, lol. Great to have you on here for tile questions. Always a professional answer. There are WAY too many hacks out there that can ""tile"".

A couple years ago I got a call from an elderly man that said all his new tile in the basement was coming up after a month. I gave one the tap test and got the hollow sound. So I told him I bet the guy never buttered the tile and grabbed the edge of one and pulled it off with 2 fingers. Not only had the A-hole not back buttered but he tiled directly over some kind of glue someone had glued the old carpet down with. The entire basement had to be redone. Worst part is he paid a premium price the first go around. I felt so bad for the old guy I gave him a really good price to fix it for him. Been back to remodel both of his bathrooms and to do his kitchen floor also now, sometimes good deeds do pay.
You definitely know how to kiss a mods butt! You should give lessons.

BTW, I love Angus as well and think he's the Bee's Knees! He has forgotten more about tile than I will ever know. If I look up tile setter extraordinaire in the dictionary, there is a picture of his beautiful face.

(Splint was that any good?)
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:28 PM   #13
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Just get yourself one of these. Just remember to empty in the winter so it doesn't freeze after using.

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Old 04-12-2012, 10:33 PM   #14
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
Originally Posted by TNTSERVICES View Post
You definitely know how to kiss a mods butt! You should give lessons.

BTW, I love Angus as well and think he's the Bee's Knees! He has forgotten more about tile than I will ever know. If I look up tile setter extraordinaire in the dictionary, there is a picture of his beautiful face.

(Splint was that any good?)

LOL Yes that will do.

Last edited by Splinter hands; 04-12-2012 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:34 PM   #15
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
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Just get yourself one of these. Just remember to empty in the winter so it doesn't freeze after using.

This ones good too.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:45 PM   #16
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Quote:
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Just get yourself one of these. Just remember to empty in the winter so it doesn't freeze after using.

I always have a bucket of water and sponge to wipe the edges of the tiles before laying. I use this to wet the floor.
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:15 AM   #17
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Angus,
I'm trying to send you a private message but it won't let me?
E-mail me at [email protected] please
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Old 04-20-2012, 01:17 PM   #18
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Of the guys that do Back-Butter tile. How do you do it????
Pizza flip? - put on bucket? - stack on other tile? - some kind of board?
Just wondering. The tiles are getting bigger and bigger now days it's
harder to just handle a 20x20 porcelain
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:17 PM   #19
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


Pizza flip, but the tiles I've been using lately were 12 x 24. Those I rest vertically on the floor and skim upwards to the top.
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Old 04-20-2012, 03:27 PM   #20
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Re: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling


I usually pizza flip them, but when working with extra large tile, I'll usually set them on a bench or a table that I bring up with me and do them that way.

On this most recent job, I tried buttering the tiles and combing the floor, but since it's 1/16" spacing, I found I had problems with thinset in the grout lines becoming excessive. I switched to buttering the floor and combing the tile, and that was much easier.

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