Wood flooring is generally unsuitable for kitchens and bathrooms due to the humid environment. This is why most homeowners have tiles installed in such rooms.
However, while tiles are an excellent option, you cannot place tiles directly onto plywood. You will need a cushion such as DITRA.
In fact, when installed on plywood floors, this uncoupling membrane helps create a stable and waterproof surface for the tiles, prevents cracking due to substrate movement, and allows for flexibility in the tile installation.
Tiles applied directly to plywood may cause cracks much sooner because plywood is a flexible material, while tiles are not.
DITRA provides a buffer between your plywood and tile, making it less expensive and easier to install than traditional methods. Not to mention, it will also keep your tiles from cracking or moving out of place.
While you can use cushioning material other than DITRA, it may not be as effective in reducing the flexibility effect of the plywood. So, let’s have a look at more about DITRA, the benefits it offers, and how to install it over plywood.
What is DITRA Matting?
DITRA Matting from Schluter is recommended for tile and natural stone installations, although there are other influential brands.
The matting consists of a polyethylene membrane that includes anchoring fleece which is laminated on the bottom side. The matting is also noted for its grid structure consisting of square cavities cut into a dovetail pattern.
Remember that ignoring the cushioning and installing tiles thick enough (thinking that they will not easily crack) is not a proper solution.
While thicker tiles may hold up sufficiently even if the plywood underneath flexes, they are still subject to cracking even if the openings are pretty small, and even a tiny crack can let in water and moisture to come into contact with the plywood, which creates all sorts of issues.
With no perfect seal possible without the use of cushioning, it is highly recommended that you use DITRA Matting or a sufficient substitute.
Why Use DITRA for the Installation of Tile?
Tiles made from ceramic or stone materials are ideal for rooms subject to heat and moisture. Such tiles are strong, durable, hygienic, and easy to maintain.
But given the lightweight materials used in many modern construction methods, installing tiles on some surfaces, such as those made of plywood, can be challenging.
Given that plywood is often used in the construction of flooring, proper cushioning is required to eliminate the stresses caused by people walking on the tiles.
DITRA Matting is recommended to be installed first over the floor to protect the integrity of the tiles and for cushioning to prevent flexing up and down and side to side as well, which would otherwise cause the tiles to crack.
The cushioning effect also will help to even out the load-bearing of the tiles, which in turn reduces flexing.
The waterproof nature of DITRA Matting, combined with its vapor management, prevents moisture that may get leaked down from the tiles to reach the plywood underneath.
The incorporation of polyethylene also ensures that moisture will not penetrate its surface.
But what makes DITRA Matting so compelling is the incorporation of free space that allows any moisture that comes up from below the tiles to be extracted.
c) Adequate safety without cracking
Even when tiles are placed on a solid foundation, DITRA Matting is many times recommended.
This is due to the cutback cavities in the matting, which allows weight to be distributed appropriately so that pressure from above does not cause cracking of the tiles below.
Since DITRA Matting is almost incompressible within the assembly of the tiles, the result is that proper load distribution is achieved.
Ditra or Cement Board – What’s a Better Option?
DITRA is not the only choice for floor tiling. You may use cement board as well. However, there are differences between both options.
DITRA is waterproof, easy to install, provides plenty of support, and is readily available in most areas. However, it does require a thin-set and other variety depending on the situation and can be costly.
Cement Boards are resistant to mold and mildew, provide protection from rot and insects, and have better aesthetics than DITRA. However, cement boards are difficult to install and may require professional assistance. Plus, for smaller projects, they are often not ideal.
Things To Keep in Mind When Tiling a Floor and Installing Ditra
If you now understand the importance of DITRA Matting, you should choose the right type of plywood for the room, then get ready for installation.
1- Properly Cut Tiles:
For your bathroom floors, you will need to cut the tiles like the tiles on the wall.
Tiles that are thinner, longer, or cut differently than wall tiles will draw undue attention to your floor tiles. The result is an aesthetic imbalance that will be instantly noticed.
2- Create a Focus Area:
Look over the kitchen or bathroom and identify the focus areas and the places where the attention will be most drawn.
You can find the focus area through the layout of the room, the lighting, and the proximity of where most of the activity will take place.
The focal areas will require whole tiles whenever possible. Half tiles are better used for the non-focus areas.
Use fixing nails, run them parallel to each other on either side of the floor, and then tie a thread between them. This will provide a visual reference that will keep the tile application symmetrical.
Once the first row is lined up correctly, the remaining rows will tend to fall into place.
Installing Schluter Ditra on Plywood
When installing Schluter Ditra on the plywood subfloor, it’s essential to use an excellent quality polymer-modified thin-set. To apply thin-set to the plywood properly, soak the wood in water first.
Then, use the flat side of a trowel to spread an even layer over the wet surface before using the notched side of an 11/64″ square notched trowel to create ridges. Finally, smooth Ditra into these raised lines with either a wooden or steel trowel.
Below is a detailed step on how you can perform these steps. So make sure to check them out for more clarity.
Hi, I am Mark Garner a professional carpenter, woodworker, and DIY painter. I live in the small city of Peoria, Arizona as a semi-retired woodworker. I have started this blog with a simple motive to help you with my wood experience in this sector. If you like to know more about what I love doing and how it all got started, you can check more about me here.