how long does tile adhesive take to dry

How Long Does Tile Adhesive Take To Dry? (and how to speed it up)

Tiling is my favourite DIY project because you see the effects immediately. You can cover large wall or floor areas in just a few hours, but then you must stop and play the waiting game. 

It’s frustrating, I know, especially with flooring, because you can’t walk across it until the initial set is complete.

So how long does tile adhesive take to dry, and are there ways to speed up the process? Read on to find out.

Does the Type of Adhesive Affect Drying Time?

Drying time and setting time are two different things. When we ask how long something takes to dry, we mean how long before moving on to the next stage.

Tile adhesives use a type of modified cement, and the time it takes for this to set depends on the cement type you’re using.

There are two main types of adhesive, Pre-mixed and Powdered.

Pre-mixed Adhesive

worker applying adhesive to a tile

Pre-mixed tile adhesive dries by releasing moisture, but there is nowhere for it to go other than through the joint when using ceramic or porcelain tiles. 

As pre-mixed adhesive relies on releasing moisture through the tile joints, this method isn’t suitable for large format tiles.

If you start grouting too soon, you prevent the air from escaping, resulting in discolouration of the grout. 

Pre-mixed adhesives take a lot longer to dry out because there is more moisture in the tub, which is why it’s always ready for use as and when required.

As a rule, you should allow at least 24 hours before grouting with pre-mixed adhesive.

Powdered Adhesive

worker mixing powder adhesive with power drill in a bucket

A cement-based powdered adhesive dries quicker than adhesives you buy in a tub. 

These adhesives use a chemical reaction to enable setting rather than a drying action. This process is explained perfectly in the video below by Dunlop Trade.

YouTube player

If you use powdered adhesive, you’re better off leaving it overnight before grouting. If you’re anxious to move on quickly, a rapid set adhesive sets in 2 to 3 hours, allowing you to grout the same day.

Other Factors that Affect Drying Time

Consider the following options if you’re looking to speed up the drying process.

Room Temperature and Humidity

The adhesive dries out quicker in a warm environment, so if you bump up the heating to around 21⁰C, you can start grouting much sooner.

A wet environment or one with high humidity slows down the drying time because of the reduction in water evaporation.

Mosaic Tiling

Mosaic tiling uses a different type of adhesive known as thinset. 

Thinset is a Portland cement-based adhesive, which, as the name suggests, is applied thinly to the surface upon which you’re laying the tiles.

Thinset is very strong, but it takes a long time to set, at least 48 hours before you can apply grout. 

The grout used in mosaic tiling flows nicely into all the nooks and crannies, setting quickly to provide a smooth finish.

How Long Does Tile Adhesive Take to Dry Before Grouting? – Final Thoughts

So, the type of adhesive is the main factor in determining drying/setting time. 

For all but the smallest tiling jobs, you’re better off mixing adhesive yourself, using rapid set cement if you want to grout the same day.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to tile adhesive, there’s none better than this one by Topps Tiles. This guide covers all the different tiles and substrates to help you make an informed choice.

Don’t want to do this job yourself? Check out our UK tiling price guide and hire a top tiler in your local area.

For more tiling tips, check out our guide to cutting quarry tiles like a pro.