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Unread 11-05-2019, 08:35 PM   #1
Fast eddie part deux
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Tile on plywood

Ok, work with me for a minute. I need to build some removable panels, about 30"x36", that can be hung off rails with z-clips. Tiles will be 2x4" simple glazed tiles. I think i need to use 5/8 or 3/4 ply as the substrate. They won't be moved often, maybe once after the initial install, but they will be built offsite and moved to the installation location.

So i'm looking for advice on sticking the tile to the plywood. Since it doesnt have to be waterproof, and wont be walked on ...can i get by with just thinset? Thickness of the assembly is not an issue, i can make it thicker if necessary.
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Unread 11-05-2019, 11:27 PM   #2
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Give us a hint, Ed. What's the application?
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Unread 11-06-2019, 06:48 AM   #3
Davy
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Yep, more info would help. You might look into a stiff foam board. Wedi comes to mind.
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Unread 11-06-2019, 10:11 AM   #4
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Ok, more info is a fair question. I cant go into specifics because of the customer, but heres what i can say.

The project is the finish out of a new retail space, the millwork specifically. Think of a starbucks store (thats not what is is, but its a good example) and all the millwork ... the customer counter ... is prefabbed in the millworkers shop and brought on site, assembled and finished. Some of the finishes are oak veneer or laminate, some stone and metal counter tops, and some ceramic tile on the faces of the counter. The idea is to prefab as much as possible, so on site its just unbox and assemble.

So how to prefab the ceramic tile sections? The sections can be kept fairly small ... thw counter us only 30-ish inches high, less the toe kick, and they could be built in 30-ish inch wide pieces. So i'm thinking plywood panels hung off the back of the cabinets on z-clips or similar. Once the faces are installed, they will probably never get removed until the next remodel. But they have to withstand the shipment from the shop and the installation process.
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Unread 11-06-2019, 10:18 AM   #5
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Once installed, they’re just going to hanging from clips? If so, just 1 row at the top? Or several rows spaced top, middle, bottom? Is each panel going to be independent from each other? And do they have to withstand flexing or swinging from customers bumping into them?
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Unread 11-06-2019, 11:56 AM   #6
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One suggestion I would make, Ed, is that regardless the method you decide upon to create these tiled panels that your don't grout them until they are in place.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-06-2019, 01:05 PM   #7
Fast eddie part deux
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You guys are killing me. Lou ... the entire 30x30 panel would be tile, and there would be 3 or 4 panels side by side. CX ... grouting after installation would defeat part of the prefab intent. For the joints between panels, im thinking grout caulk, the color would be white. Or maybe some kind of reglet.
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Unread 11-07-2019, 08:02 AM   #8
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I would suggest reaching out to a setting materials company. All of them have 800 numbers and are used to discussing out of the box installations like you're describing. The keys from my perspective are going to be a flexible, highly modified (P for plywood rated) mortar and a ready to use grout system that can tolerate the shipping. These will almost be like the sample panels that all of the tile manufacturers make and typically that's what they use.
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Unread 11-08-2019, 12:04 AM   #9
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This is certainly not TCNA approved, but I set 2" x 2" sheets on plywood outdoors on a wood panel above my mailbox. I used Mapei Mastic and Keracolor sanded grout. The grouted perimeter cracked, but no cracking happened inside of the tiled field. The area was about 1' x 4' feet. I kinda just did it as I had leftover materials from a backsplash and the sheets of tile were on clearance for $1 and it was cheaper than replacing the cracked plastic lattice there. It's gone through winter, rain, storms, etc, fine. The one thing I did do, though, was I waited a full 3 days until it got hard before I grouted it. I figured mastic, besides it being leftover, has a bit more "flex" to it than thinset and would have better adhesion to plywood.
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Unread 11-08-2019, 03:38 PM   #10
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Is the plywood your only base? Or is the plywood going to be mounted on a frame?

The reason I ask is because when was the last time you saw a flat piece of plywood... even 3/4" plywood usually has some over-arching bow to it.

If indeed there isn't going to be a frame for your sub-strait, I would use something else that tends to be flat... Some sort of manufactured wood, press-board, or perhaps even simply drywall. Start with a 3/4" thick piece of drywall and do something to protect the edges, and I think once the tile on the drywall has been installed, the panel should be pretty stiff.
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