What should I use to attach Ceramic Tile to Plywood?


What should I use to attach Ceramic Tile to Plywood? - I’m looking for advice on adhesives for mounting ceramic tiles onto a plywood backing. Finished product will be 3’x3’ interior wall-mounted murals with tiles up to 1” thick. Weight will be about 8lbs/square foot. On smaller, lighter murals I’ve used various silicon adhesives (Liquid Nails) and pre-mixed tile adhesives. I can’t tell any difference, other than price.


ANSWER - We normally don’t recommend to bonding to exterior glued plywood (EGP), but it can be done in interior dry applications. Plywood will expand and deform if subjected to moisture or humidity. There are thin-set dry set mortars design specifically for adhering ceramic tile to plywood that is designated as an ANSI A118.11 thin-set mortar. The silicone or urethane adhesives should work too, but the thin-set mortars are easier to work with and easier to get full adhesive contact between the tile and its substrate. I would recommend gluing and screwing a ¼” thick Hardiebacker cementitious board to the plywood and then adhering the ceramic tile with a thin-set dry set mortar that meets ANSI A118.4 or ANSI A118.15.

2 thoughts on “What should I use to attach Ceramic Tile to Plywood?

  1. Alan says:

    I purchased artisan pottery tiles. They will form a 4×3 framed wall mural to be placed on an interior wall. There will be no gap or space between one tile and the others. Each tile is 1/2 inch thick and weighs 1.5 pounds. I plan on mounting the tiles on a cut to fit 3/4 in sheet of cabinet grade plywood. We live on the coast and have high humidity. For weight reduction I would like not to use a backer board and mortar. Do you have glues you would recommend? Is there something I should do to prepare the plywood? We can’t have the tiles release from the plywood in the decades ahead. Thanks

    • Donato Pompo says:

      First of all, you should never butt the tiles together without a gap. Industry standards state that the grout joint between tiles should never be less than 1/16″. This is because tiles will expand as they are subjected to higher temperatures and humidity and if they are constrained it can cause damages.

      There cementitious thinset mortars made for bonding to plywood that meet the ANSI A118.11 thinset standards. The plywood cannot have any type of sealer or coating on it that would act as a bond breaker. It would be best to skim coat the thinset mortar over the entire surface of the plywood with the flat side of the trowel before bonding the tile to the skim coated surface.

      The plywood can still absorb humidity from the exposed back side that can cause warping and damages to the tile surface. That is why we would never recommend bonding tile to plywood, particularly if you want it to last a long time.

      It would be better if you bonded the tile to a thin cementitious backer board or an extruded foam tile backer board that would be lighter as they would not be affected by the moisture.

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