Traditional underlayments include materials like cement backer board or plywood. While these are great for adding structural support, they won’t provide anti-fracture protection, crack suppression, waterproofing, sound reduction, or vapor management. Today, there are many types of membrane underlayments available to help address issues commonly encountered with stone and tile installations. Sheet membranes, uncoupling membranes, and liquid polymer membranes are commonly used underlayments to help meet installation requirements.
Sheet Membranes are a thin and lightweight underlayment made of a flexible foam or rubberized asphalt and often come in a roll. “Peel & Stick” sheet membranes feature an adhesive backing with release paper for easy installation. Sheet membranes benefit a variety of floor installations including stone, tile, wood, and laminate flooring and can also be used in vertical applications around doors and windows. While they can be used in a variety of applications, they are not designed to be used universally in all applications. For example, some sheet membranes are specifically for use in horizontal applications while others are for use in only vertical applications.
To help prevent cracks from occurring in stone and tile floor installations, sheet membranes typically provide anti-fracture protection and crack suppression from the horizontal movement of the substrate and subfloor. These membranes can also provide a vapor barrier to help prevent mold and other problems caused by moisture, and depending on the sheet membrane, other benefits can include thermal insulation and sound reduction. Sheet membranes aren’t just limited to just stone and tile installations – they can also be used with wood and laminate flooring to help prevent the wood from warping and other common problems.
Uncoupling membranes are another commonly used membrane underlayment to help prevent cracks from occurring during the life of the installation. With a waffle-like grid and fleece lining on one side, uncoupling membranes allow the tile to move independently from the substrate without the addition of any extra height that traditional reinforced mortar beds add. The fleece lining allows a superior bond between the substrate and membrane although there are also “peel & stick” uncoupling membranes available. In addition to providing excellent crack suppression, they can also provide a vapor management and waterproofing.
Liquid membrane underlayments are a type of liquid rubber polymer and come in a bucket or pail. They are applied to horizontal and vertical surfaces with a brush, roller, and in the case of large jobs, a sprayer. These membranes are often used for waterproofing applications but can also be used for anti-fracture resistance and crack suppression, and because of liquid membranes can easily be applied to a variety of suitable substrates including concrete and masonry, that are often used in shower and bathroom installations, kitchens, and other water features such pools, spas, and fountains. Once the membrane has fully cured, the tile, stone, and masonry can be installed directly on top.
Please visit the Stone Tooling Website for more information and great deals on Membranes and Underlayments for your tile installation! We enjoy helping you with a successful and durable end project.