The Difference Between Uncoupling Mats and Backer Board

For many centuries, tile has been installed on reinforced mortar beds that have been free to move independent of the subfloor. This was done with a weakly bonded plane situated between the reinforced mortar bed and the subfloor. If the subfloor moves and cracks, it won’t be spread to the underlayment or through to the tiled surface. Unfortunately, this method of installation adds 1.5 to 2’’ of extra height to the floor (as well as weight), and many installs today don’t account for that.

This is where uncoupling mats and backer board come into play.

By definition, uncoupling mats are plastic membrane systems that are geometrically configured to provide air space between the tile and the substrate to allow independent movement between the two and limit the transfer of stresses.

Backer board is a thin layer of concrete that has fiberglass mesh on its sides and is used under the tile to provide a firm and even surface for the tile to adhere to.

Just reading the definitions alone doesn’t provide too much of a difference, as both uncoupling mats and backer board are used to prep the subfloor to help prevent loss of bond over time when installing tile. Both are fairly recent developments, and are good alternatives to traditional methods when you don’t have the option to add much extra height to the floor.

So what exactly is the difference between uncoupling mats and backer board? When it comes down to it, the main differences lay in the makeup, purpose, and installation of the products.

Uncoupling mats are membranes with mesh on one side and fleece on the other. The fleece is bonded to the thinset with pressure and a trowel, and tile can be laid overtop immediately. Uncoupling mats provide crack isolation protection because they allow lateral substrate movement.

Backer boards are made of concrete and fiberglass mesh, and must screwed into the subfloor to secure it. Because it’s screwed down, it can’t provide crack protection like uncoupling mats.

Because of their makeup, uncoupling mats are faster and easier to install. They weigh approximately 40lbs for every 323 square feet, while an equivalent amount of backer board weighs hundreds of pounds. Simply carrying the backer board from your vehicle to a second-floor master bath can take several trips. Uncoupling mats can also be easily cut with a utility knife with no dust, while it’s more difficult to cut backer board because it’s made of cement.

At Tile Pro Depot, we highly recommend Laticrete Strata Mat. This Laticrete uncoupling membrane and mat is thin, easy-to-install, lightweight, and high performance. It provides an excellent underlayment for ceramic tile and stone installations on wood and cement substrates and is suitable for both residential and commercial applications.

The patent pending design of this uncoupling membrane enhances the mechanical bond between the adhesive mortar and the mat and reduces mortar drying time, which shortens the downtime required before you’re able to begin grouting. Laticrete Strata Mat uncoupling membrane is created to be used with both unmodified and modified mortars, allowing you to use the correct mortar when installing porcelain, large tiles, and stone.

It allows for true flexibility, and helps you to achieve a perfect, life-long lasting install every time.

If you’re interested in the Laticrete Strata Mat, visit our website to place an order, or to view our selection of other uncoupling products. Buy tile installation tools online at Tile Pro Depot. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us online or by phone at 844.751.2625.

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