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What is a tile leveling system and why it helps so much in laying tiles?

Large, large-format tiles are gaining more and more popularity. Certainly this is a trend that will take longer not only in exclusive hotels, restaurants and public places, where you can meet them now but also enter our apartments. It is worth considering how to use the beautiful effects of such large ceramic tiles and plan everything in advance. Important here are virtually all elements and principles of proper assembly. Select the appropriate joint width, use the appropriate leveling system for the tiles, properly prepare the surface, use the right glue to keep the boards well and do not break.


What are the large-format tiles made of and what is needed to arrange them properly

When we talk about large format tiles, it is worth considering what they are made of and properly select construction chemicals and other installation materials. Large slabs are usually made of gres, that is, a noble ceramic pressed and fired at very high temperatures. Its absorbability is less than 1%, so it is less absorbent than traditional glaze and terracotta tiles. The similar parameters, above all the insignificant absorption, are characterized by large-format quartz sinters, from which thin sheets with dimensions of up to 150 x 350 cm are produced. To carry such large ceramic tiles it is necessary to use special frames. On the other hand, an appropriate leveling system for tiles will maintain a perfectly even surface. Added to this is the choice of adhesive and surface preparation. Let us discuss all these aspects in turn.

Appropriate preparation of the substrate

Large stoneware tiles must be extremely carefully laid. Appropriate preparation of the substrate is of key importance here. It is not possible to differentiate the level of the floor in this case by adding a larger amount of glue and checking the arrangement of the tile several times, as is sometimes the case with small, light tiles. For large formats, the permissible level difference on the 2 m section should not exceed 3 mm. Tile leveling systems for which we will devote a separate article will help here. For this reason, it is necessary to prepare the surface in advance, use leveling mortars on the walls, and self-leveling compounds on the floor. The substrate on which we intend to lay the tiles must also be load-bearing, dry, clean and primed, as well as degreased. The load capacity can be checked with the hardness tester. Scratches made with it should be regular and simple. If chipping occurs, the substrate should be additionally reinforced with suitable primers or masses and self-leveling screeds. In addition to the load-bearing capacity of the substrate, its moisture is important. For cement screeds, it should amount to 2%, whereas for anhydrite screeds from - 0.5% to 0.3% depending on whether they are heated or not. It should also be remembered that the cladding tiles of very large sizes, usually laid with narrow joints, prevent the excess of water contained in the mortar from escaping quickly enough. This must be considered for tiles larger than 50 × 50 cm. Then, anhydrite screed should be secured with an anhydrous primer based on resin.

Tile adhesive

The mortar with improved adhesion should be used for such low-absorbent surfaces as large-format tiles. It is best to use a flexible cement mortar, at least class C2. Class C2 adhesives have better adhesion than Class C1 adhesives. The choice of glue also depends on the type of substrate. For fixing large formats on a deformable substrate such as, for example, screeds with floor heating, the most commonly used adhesive grade C2 S1. Adhesive mortar should guarantee high deformability so that the tiles can work freely. This is especially important when floor heating is planned or the floor will be subjected to heavy loads, carriage trips, etc. Too rigid connection to the ground could lead to cracks. In such demanding situations, it is recommended to use adhesive S1 or S2 class deformable mortars. On surfaces with limited adhesion, such as wood-based building boards, oil paneling or old ceramics, a special layer of priming impregnation should also be planned to provide adequate adhesion.

Width of the grout

For floors with thin joints (1-3 mm) it is necessary to choose rectified tiles, i.e. tiles having ground edges. Their edges are perfectly even and the corners are straight. In addition, they must be calibrated, that is, selected in packs so that their dimensions within a given lot are as close as possible. It is good to buy such tiles from one, the same factory and from a given production because even the same tile collection and the model produced at different times may differ from each other. Because the tiles and the substrate can work with smaller grout, we apply the greater the risk of pushing one plate over the other, and thus possible cracks. This is due to the stresses that arise in them during the deformations caused by the thermal expansion of the ceramic. These stresses are taken over by the joints. Therefore, the wider they are, the better they protect the tiles from cracking and bruising. In addition to large format tiles, the probability of such an event is greater because the joint is then a small percentage of the floor surface. If you decide to make narrow joints, it is best to choose elastic cement or epoxy joints.


Tools for laying large large format tiles

Large ceramic tiles are arranged differently than standard sizes. In Europe, the most common large format is 100 × 200 cm, 120 × 240 cm. There are larger sizes in the USA and Canada - up to 150 × 300 cm and larger. You can also order ceramic tiles in non-standard sizes. Despite their large size, large-format tiles are paradoxically very thin. While the thickness of standard tiles is usually 7-10 mm, large format tiles can have only 3, 4 or 5 mm. Therefore, it is necessary to use special racks to carry such plates to prevent breakage or breakage. These frames have special vacuum suction cups with a pump or additionally with a pressure gauge. Contrary to appearances, large elements are not arranged faster than standard size tiles. Large formats require precision, both when planning the placement of tiles and during assembly. Such tiles are also often bent, which is why tile leveling systems are ideal. The use of such a system guarantees the alignment of the tiles with each other which would be very difficult when manually setting and moving an element of such large dimensions. The leveling system of tiles usually consists of clips and wedges, which do not require the use of additional tools. However, you should take care of the quality of such a leveling system and choose the best. Because large format tiles are, as we have already mentioned, quite thin, we use the Perfect Level Master T-Lock system as they are the only system to have matching clips for different tile thicknesses. The manufacturer's offer includes sizes S, M and L

Appropriate surface design

Traditional parameters, such as hardness, abrasion, slip resistance, resistance to temperature and humidity, are a very important element when laying large format tiles, but do not forget about the appropriate, prior design of the entire implementation. Large size of the cladding gives some limitations to designers. It is not easy to arrange such very large elements in rooms whose dimensions are not a multiple of the sides length. It is rare for such tiles to fit perfectly on the wall without the need for pruning. Cutting large tiles is not only troublesome for contractors, but above all, a large number of cuts can spoil the final effect planned by the architect and significantly irritate the entire project. Large-format tiles often cost several hundred zlotys per piece. Not properly planning such implementation may expose the investor to unnecessary costs. As large-format tiles are becoming more and more popular, we will surely increasingly see new collections and large format manufacturers' offers. Already there are the right tools for laying tiles, tile leveling systems, carrying frames and cutting guides. Along with subsequent projects, the experience of construction companies and contractors in the area of ​​laying such tiles will also grow. One thing is certain, this trend will continue and large formats will stay in our spaces for good.

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