Adhesive Tile Mat Review: Can Bondera Replace Thinset?

Bondera Tile Mat
Bondera Tile Mat. © WR Grace

Bondera is an adhesive tile mat that is meant to be a substitute for thinset, mastic, or other wet adhesives when tiling, Bondera makes tiling of limited spaces such as backsplashes or counters an easy project.

Many readers have questions about tiling straight onto laminate or solid surface counters: this is the perfect adhesive for those surfaces.

Description

  • Double-sided, pressure-sensitive adhesive on a roll that acts as a substitute for tile thinset (mortar).
  • Gridded, to help in spacing tiles.
  • Works in both wet and dry applications.
  • Mold-proof and water-tight.
  • $23.49 for a roll 10' by 12"

Pros

  • Dry-Apply:  Bondera's adhesive is dry; so there is no race to apply tile before the thinset dries.
  • Great Vertical Stick:  Bondera and other adhesive tile mats help you lick that problem of tile-shift on vertical applications.  Tile sticks immediately; no waiting and no need for plastic tile spacers.
  • Reposition:  The adhesive does allow for the tile to be taken up once or twice before final setting.  Repositioning is a boon for first time tilers.
  • Backsplash Friendly:  Best for backsplashes and other vertical applications, though it can be used on countertops, too. 

Cons

  • Thin:  Traditional tile thinset can have a correcting effect on minor imperfections in the sub-surface.  Because Bondera is a thin, adhesive mesh, it does not have correcting properties.  
  • Low Durability:  Bondera does not work for flooring or high-heat applications.
  • May Be Visible:  If you are laying translucent glass tile, the grid pattern may show through the tile.
  • Small Tiles Only:  The limit on tile size is 6" x 6".  Larger tiles are too heavy and will fall off.

 

Review

The practice of applying mortar to make tile adhere to surfaces is thousands of years old. And while this process has worked well so far--just visit Italy or Greece and see 2,000 year-old tile doing quite well, thank you very much--it can be difficult for the newbie tiler to learn it.

Tiling vertical surfaces adds another wrinkle--gravity. The moment you press tile into the mortar on the wall, the tile begins to slip downward.

Bondera TileMatSet from W.R. Grace is a sticky, gridded adhesive mat that you use in place of mastic or mortar. The kicker: it's dry. You press the tile onto this mat, wait a few hours, then grout. Contrast this with tiling with mastic or mortar and your wait time is measured not in hours but days.

Bondera TileMatSet does take into account the "uh oh" factor, allowing you to lift and reposition after a few minutes. It also has a slightly mushy feel that lets you make microscopic adjustments without lifting the tile.

One nice thing about wet mortar/mastic is that it can help fill in surface deficiencies; Bondera TileMatSet will not do that. Because it is so thin, it requires a perfectly smooth surface on which to apply the product.

Is it possible to throw out this age-old practice of mortaring with the introduction of one super-scientific product? Answer: nobody knows. Since Bondera hasn't been around for centuries or even decades, we have no accounts of how well it does over time.

But your average DIY tilers are not looking to pass on their bathroom backsplash to jetpack-wearing future owners of their house in the next century.

They're just looking for ease of application, and Bondera does offer that.

Bondera does work and it can save you the accumulated time of spreading thinset, applying tile with spacers, and waiting for the thinset to solidify before you can grout.  With Bondera, the instant you apply the tile, you can begin to grout.  You can conceivably lay and grout an entire kitchen backsplash on a Saturday morning.

Find It:  Bondera