Can You Put DITRA Over Plywood Floors?

ditra over plywood

Wood flooring is generally not suitable 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. Otherwise, tiles that are applied directly to plywood may cause the tiles to crack.

This is because plywood is a flexible material while tiles are not.

While you can use cushioning material other than DITRA, it may not be quite as effective in reducing the flexibility effect of the plywood.

What is DITRA Matting?

DITRA Matting consists of a polyethylene membrane that includes anchoring fleece which is laminated on the bottom side.

This matting is noted for its grid structure that consists of square cavities which are cut into a dovetail pattern.

For installations of tile and natural stone, DITRA Matting from Schluter is recommended, although there are other effective brands.

Keep in mind that ignoring the cushioning and installing tiles thick enough 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 quite 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 that are subject to heat and moisture.

Such tiles are quite strong, durable, hygienic, and easy to maintain.

But given the lightweight materials used in many modern construction methods, it can be challenging to install tiles on some surfaces such as those made of plywood.

For thousands of years, tiles have been used for flooring.

Until modern times, the hard underneath surface combined with an uncoupled layer kept the tiles in place and working properly.

But today 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.

The cushioning not only prevents flexing up and down but side to side as well which would otherwise cause the tiles to crack.

To protect the integrity of the tiles, DITRA Matting is recommended to be installed first over the floor.

The cushioning effect will help to even out the load-bearing of the tiles which in turn reduces flexing.

Plus, 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.

DITRA Matting offers proven waterproofing abilities for either interior or exterior environments.

The incorporation of polyethylene ensures that moisture will not penetrate its surface.

But what makes DITRA Matting so effective is the incorporation of free space that allows any moisture that comes up from below the tiles to be extracted.

Even when tiles are placed on a solid foundation, DITRA Matting is recommended. This is due to the cutback cavities that are present in the matting.

This allows weight to be properly distributed 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.

how to put ditra on plywood

Things To Keep in Mind When Tiling a Floor

If you now understand the importance of DITRA Matting, if you should prime the plywood, and choose the right type of plywood for the room or structure, then you are ready for installation to begin.

1- Properly Cut Tiles:

For your bathroom, you will need to cut the tiles for the floor in the same manner as the tiles on the wall.

Tiles that are thinner, longer, or cut differently compared to the 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, 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 full tiles whenever possible. Half tiles are better used for the non-focus areas.

3- Symmetry:

Use fixing nails and run them parallel to each other on either side of the floor and then tie a thread between them.

This will provide you with a visual reference that will keep the tile application symmetrical.

Once you get the first row lined up properly, the remaining rows will tend to fall into place.

Ditra or Cement Board – Which One Should You Use?

DITRA is not the only choice for floor tiling. You may use cement board as well. Here are the differences between both options.  

DITRA is waterproof, easy to install, provides plenty of support, and is easily available in most areas.

However, it does require a thin-set and other varieties 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 compared to DITRA.

However, cement boards are difficult to install and may require professional assistance. Plus, for smaller projects, they are often not ideal.

Overall, DITRA Matting offers exceptional advantages and is perfect for most types of tile installation.  

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