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Unread 10-26-2021, 11:33 AM   #1
TileGuyCanada73
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Can you get through an entire bag of thinset in one go or do you mix partial bags?

When laying large format (12"*24") tiles, are you generally able to get through a 50lb bag of thinset before it gets too hard or do you end up mixing half batches instead? Any tricks for making the thinset last a little longer? I'm using cold water and trying to be careful to not overmix it.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 01:41 PM   #2
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I certainly wouldn't be able to get through an entire 50 pound bag, but I'm relatively inexperienced and work really, painfully, slow. As well, I don't have a stout enough drill to mix a 50 pound bag.

So it kind of depends on how fast and proficient you are. I know I work slow so didn't want the extra stress of a hardening bucket of mortar. I think the very most I mixed at once was 1/4 of a bag.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 02:10 PM   #3
Keefinator02
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I wasted a lot of thinset mixing a whole bag at one time. (~200.00)

I chalk it up to beginner inexperience but I didn't start mixing 1/4 bags until the end of the bathroom project.

It is much easier and less stressful to do 1/4 bags.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 02:33 PM   #4
Lazarus
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I generally use about half a bag at a time if I'm tiling relatively "open" areas. Just don't mix it too stiff and mix, let slake and re-mix. If too stiff, this is the time to add a smidge more water.....
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Unread 10-26-2021, 03:31 PM   #5
TileGuyCanada73
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Thanks all. Makes me feel a little better for struggling to get through these 50 lb bags. Might switch to half bags from here on in. Tricky to get the ratio right so I'll use a bathroom scale to measure out 25 lbs. Just adds so much extra time with all the extra mixing. I've got a mud-mixer drill so it has no problem mixing 50 lbs at a time - I just struggle to use it all.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 03:35 PM   #6
jadnashua
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FWIW, adding more water doesn't stop or slow the curing process which is why the mix got stiffer...it just dilutes the mix to be more fluid, making the ultimate bond strength lower. With today's high performance mortars, you may never have a bad effect, but if you truly needed that max performance, you will have lost it by adding more water later.

Mixing it some more can break up some of the crystals formed by curing, and may not ultimately change the final strength, and is the better idea to try to loosen it up some. That only goes so far.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 03:42 PM   #7
TileGuyCanada73
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Does the initial amount of water change the pot time at all? I'm wondering if there may be a reverse relationship there. More water = easier for the chemical reaction to proceed quickly?
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Unread 10-26-2021, 04:03 PM   #8
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All of the cement mixes have an excess of water to aid in spreading the stuff in the desired application. The package limits, when exceeded, can cause two things to happen...you can cause the aggregate and cement to stratify, so you don't get a good mix, and the excess water holds the particles apart further until they either get incorporated into the cement or evaporate. Holding the cement particles further apart means they have to grow their crystals larger before they can interact with each other (interlock), or reach into any imperfections in the surface to make their actual bond. The manufacturer, knowing the size and quantity of the aggregate, and the amount and type and size of the cement particles will take that into account when suggesting the min/max water you can use. Going outside of that range will result in a weaker product.

The product thickening means that the curing process has incorporated enough of the water so that it can't flow as easily...once cured, adding more water doesn't change the cement, and can break some of the already cured crystals up...those essentially are just now adding more aggregate into the mix, as once cured, they're inert like the sand. There's a limit on how much of that can happen before your bond is suspect.

Mixing helps ensure all of the particles get properly wetted, and evenly distributed, and with a modified mortar, the slake period helps to ensure they have absorbed enough water so they can now become a proper paste that can be mixed and surround the cement particles when you mix it again after the slaking process. Mixing also helps to break up any potential clumps of both aggregate and cement particles. The better stuff is already pretty well graded and has been mixed dry to break up things when you remove it from the bag, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Curing cement is an exothermic reaction...meaning that it creates heat. Starting with things already warm just speeds it up. But, since too cold can slow the reaction, and freezing can really mess it up, it becomes less certain when things may be stable enough to proceed after the installation. At some point, with it cold enough, you might slow it down to almost stopped, and that could let the moisture evaporate, so it couldn't cure, but that's probably an extreme.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 05:14 PM   #9
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For me Steven, it really depends on trowel size and open floors. Right now I'm setting a 36"x7" plank and using a 1/2" trowel I can go through a bag before it sets up but I have open runs with minimal cuts. What greatly extends working time is doing what the bag says, mixing for 5 minutes, slaking/resting it/ remixing.

I'm teaching a new helper and even though I went over how important mixing time is, he defaulted to what seems like enough time. It set up WAY faster. I find Mapei LFT mortar changes completely after 2 min of mixing. It goes from wow this is too stiff to smooth and creamy. After I set a timer on my phone and showed him how long 5 min really is for mixing he now sets a timer and has seen real world feedback that it lasts longer.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 05:39 PM   #10
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Steven, I can tell a story similar to Justin's about when I learned that the newer thinset mortars just aren't the same as the old ones. This was back in the early two-thousands when I was attending Dave Gobis' week long Tile Inspection course at the CTEF. In our class of about three or four was a Laticrete rep who'd been sent by the company. Sometime during the course we got into a discussion about the new non-sag mortars and mixing thinset mortar in general. And, as was so commonly the case, the school had a stock of one very new non-sag mortar from Laticrete. The rep says, "Let's mix some and hang some wall tiles." I was the mixer. Full bag of mortar. Carefully measured water per on-the-bag instructions. Very fine electric mixer. And I commenced mixing.

During the first three or four minutes I said to the rep no fewer than three times, "Put some damn water in there!" "No," says he, "just keep mixing." And for us I think it was closer to 3 or 4 minutes when it was as though the mortar fairy had touched our bucket with her magic mixing wand and the pookey in the bucket changed into a creamy smooth batch of something completely unlike that which I'd been mixing. If I'd read about it on the Internet, I wouldn't have believed it either, but it made a believer out of me.

And the non-sag part of the advertising turned out to be real, too. After slaking and re-mixing, we put a thick 20x20-inch porcelain tile on the wall, held it in place for a couple seconds, and it's there forever. Didn't sag even a millimeter. Wasn't ready to believe that part, either.

The products in the ceramic tile industry have come a very long way in the past 20 or 30 years and they work if you'll just read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 07:25 PM   #11
jadnashua
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It takes time to hydrate the modifiers. Until that happens, you will not get the proper performance and texture out of the modified mortar. Mixing helps ensure you get all parts of it exposed to water. An unmodified tends to work better with proper mixing, too, but it can be day and night on a modified.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 09:28 PM   #12
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I think it's Laticrete that has one mortar that contains some shredded rubber. Mixing it up, you'd never expect it to get smooth with the recommended amount of water, but if you continue to mix it...all of a sudden, poof, it changes from what looks like a dry mess, to a smooth mixture that you can spread. It's a neat mortar in that, depending on the thickness you apply, it can add a significant amount of sound deadening to the tiled floor, so tends to get used in multi-story buildings where it's important not to create impact noises for those beneath. Could be useful in some homes, depending on the layout.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 09:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TileGuyCanada73
…trying to be careful to not overmix it.
I suggest listening to these guys about mixing for the full amount of time that it says on the bag, letting it slake, then mixing again per directions. That’s the best way to get the longest pot life. And make sure to completely clean the bucket before twisting up a new batch or the remnants of the last batch make the new batch fire off a little faster.

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Unread 10-28-2021, 12:37 PM   #14
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50lbs? My first tile job and I’m using a cup at a time…lol
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Unread 10-30-2021, 06:47 AM   #15
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HAH Cris, nothing wrong with that. When I mix my first bucket to start a shower it's maybe 1/4 bucket or so. I've had too many times where I mix a larger bucket only to not get into a good groove starting out because it's a lot of checking and rechecking to see if things are going well.

After I know my first rows are established and I feel things are going smooth it's time to mix it up to get those walls up!
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