While we were renovating the kitchen in the house we flipped we went to Lowes for one of our daily trips and saw a few boxes of Bondera wall tile adhesive on clearance. Bondera is a tile adhesive that you can use on walls or countertops instead of traditional mortar mastic or tile adhesive. It is more expensive but using it does not incur the mess of traditional wall adhesives or the cost of the tools required for traditional tile adhesives. It also allows you to grout immediately, where the traditional materials require a 24 hour wait period. After negotiating with the store manager we were able to purchase two boxes of the Bondera, wall adhesive for $15…total. This is a deal considering one box is $38 before tax. These had been sitting on the clearance shelf for over a month. The problem was that they were no longer carrying this product at my store. There was not enough for our entire tile project. If you can remember the kitchen we rehabbed, it had two different walls that needed tiling.
We had more than enough Bondera for the sink wall. Since the walls of tile were separate we decided to purchase Home Depot’s version of tile adhesive mat, Simple Mat, for the other wall. It was our chance to see which one we liked better. I have had experience with both. I used Bondera to patch up existing tile after we replaced a bathroom countertop.
Lee and I went to the house to tile each side. The finished product, on both sides turned out great.
This is the Simple Mat Side…
This is the Bondera Side. No difference in end product.
There is always a story behind a finished product. I want to share our thoughts on tile adhesive vs. mortar and then Simple Mat vs Bondera. We are not expert tilers but we have tiled a ton so I am just sharing our experience. Treat us like an experienced neighbor who is here to help…not an expert.
Tile Mat versus Traditional Wall Tile Adhesive
Note: I am lumping mortar, mastic, and any other wall tile adhesive into the term “Traditional Wall Adhesive.” Certain tiles require mortar and other tile adhesive or mastic. I am not in the know on what goes with what, I learn what is needed with each style of tile that I choose. Just do your research with what is best for the type of tile you choose.
The Winner: Traditional Tile for 98% of our tile projects
Why: The traditional method is little messier and is tricky when you first use it, but in the long run I think it’s easier to use. The tools are not that expensive either. You need a trowel, and if you have a drill (which most DIYers do) then all you need is the mixer attachment and a bucket OR…just buy the pre-mixed version.
Pros to Traditional Wall Tile Adhesive:
- It adheres all tile…even the smallest tile cut you have to make
- You have more time to work with it. (see cons to Tile Mat)
- It seems more reliable (although, I have not seen a difference long-term)
- Much better for larger projects
- More budget friendly…even if you do have to buy tools
- Available in all hardware stores. Tile Mats are not available in all and each store carries a different brand.
- You have more flexibility for tile correction. If your lines are not level you have a bigger window for adjustment. It’s not a large window…but bigger than the limited flexibility you have with tile mats.
- Spacers work well with these materials
Cons to Traditional Wall Tile Adhesive
- You have to make sure you are consistent. If you are not, your tiles will not be a level surface…meaning if you lay your mortar thicker in one area than another you will have a buckled look.
- Hard to use in small replacement projects and wasteful to mix it up if you need to replace one or two tiles
- Takes more time because you have to wait to grout. Honestly, tile projects usually take time anyway. I usually need a 24 hour break. In the case of Debbie and Justin’s kitchen I didn’t have the time to use traditional tile adhesive.
Pros to Tile Adhesive Mat
- Not as messy
- Faster because you don’t have to wait to grout. The prep time is about the same because you have to make sure you install the mat correctly. You also have to cut it to make it fit your area which requires some time.
- Perfect for smaller projects or replacement projects.
- If you are on a HGTV 24 hour renovation show or are helping a friend like I did here. You don’t have to wait to grout.
- This is my favorite Pro: You don’t have to worry about consistency. The tile mat is consistent and you will have a level surface. (Level lines..on the other hand…are up to you as with any tile project)
- It adhere’s fast. (which can be a con too). When I use mortar I always use a level board screwed into the wall for the tile to rest on behind the stove, where there is no counter. Sometimes mortar doesn’t adhere quickly so it helps when there is a level surface underneath (such as a counter or already adhered lower row of tile that is resting on a level counter) Because a tile mat adhere’s quickly it helps in situations where you counter is not level and you don’t want your first row of tile to rest on the counter.
Cons to Tile Adhesive Mat
- It doesn’t adhere small tile cuts. The glue works with the ridges on the back of the tile. When you tile, you will have tile cuts around light switches and outlets. My goal in tiling is to continue the pattern through the outlet like this:They all don’t happen just like this, it depends on where the tile hits the outlet based on where you start. You also find these near corners and walls. These smaller cuts don’t always have the ridges and the small tiles will not adhere….at all. We had to use glue such as gorilla glue or liquid nails to adhere these small tile cuts. This was a huge frustration to me.
- You have to work fast. The glue does not last long after you peel the protective layer off. I would pull off a little at a time by using a box cutter to score the protective layer and pull off what I need. This was added work. Also, it helps to have tiling experience. I can subway tile well. I can go fast if I don’t have a cut. If I were to try another pattern such as herringbone I would not use Tile Mat until I had experience with that pattern. I also had to plan ahead and make my cuts in advance. This took accurate measurements that included spacing. Once the protective layer is pulled off you have to start tiling. Yes, heat can help re-activate dried glue, but it’s not as great as when you first pull off the protective layer.
- It is not budget friendly. Traditional tile adhesive, while messy and sometimes tricky, is much cheaper than a tile mat. You also have to buy the seam tape to bridge two different mats installed next to each other. The seam tape was NOT on clearance and we laughed because we paid more for that then we did the actual Bondera.
- You don’t have much room to correct. It adheres fast. (which is a good thing too)
- Spacers don’t really work. They can but it takes a lot of effort to make them stick in there and since you are pressed for time to get the tile up before the mat dries out…this kind of works against you.
Why did we choose a tile mat for this project?
We did have the time but we thought it would be fun to see what we liked about both products, plus it was a bonus that we got it on clearance.
Here is our experience with Bondera versus Simple Mat
note: Both Bondera and Simple Tile had all the cons we listed above that go with ANY tile mat product you choose. This is our experience of the difference between the two products
- Its a little thicker so you have more time to tile once the protective layer is off and spacers work a little better
- Comes in different sizes. Which makes it useful for tile replacement projects. I would pick Bondera in a heart beat for this reason for a tile replacement project. It lasts as well, so I can cut what I need off a roll and save the rest (up til is expiration date and in the right storage conditions) for another project.
- Adheres better. We didn’t have a problem with Simple Mat adhering on full tiles. They adhere just fine, but I do think the thickness of Bondera gives a better adherence to a full tile. I gotta give credit where credit is due, but they both had the same problem adhering with small tile cuts.
- Dried out glue gets stickier after you reheat a little.
- Its thicker and it’s not as easy to cut or cut in straight lines.
- It doesn’t adhere small tile cuts well.
- It’s now not offered in any of the big box stores we go to in our new home town. They were taking it off the shelves in our old home town so I don’t think it’s there either. You have to buy it online. Its not unlikly for us to purchase a product online but if there is another product in store, we have to LOVE this more to purchase it online, incur shipping, and be willing to over order it so we have enough for “just in case”.
- Its more expensive than Simple Mat. ($38 vs $19)
- You HAVE to grout immediately. Yes, I know this is “pro” for the product but we finished tiling at 2am. I was exhausted and wanted to go home and sleep for 4 hours and come back and tile. It warned us not to do that. Oops….we didn’t read the instructions. Simple Tile was different you COULD grout immediately after but you didn’t have to. There was no way I was grouting. I couldn’t stand up straight I was so tired so this was our solution…the good news was that it was still okay 4 hours later. I wouldn’t do this though, I would follow the manufacturers instructions.
- Harder to use a box cutter to help you peel off smaller sections at a time. This was because it was thicker which has its upside.
- Harder to get the protective layer off because it was thicker and stickier
Simple Mat Pros:
- Less Expensive
- Able to cut in straight lines due to the glue being positioned in straight lines
- Easy to use a box cutter to peel away smaller portions of the protective layer
- Easier to cut in general.
- Available in stores in our home town.
Simple Mat Cons:
- Only comes in one size (at least that I know off)
- It dries out quicker
- Dried out glue doesn’t get much stickier after exposing it to heat.
- Spacers don’t work as well with the Simple Mat as it does with Bondera.
The Winner? Both.
I do like both. You choose. They are both great products with different quirks. Read through our experience and see which one fits you better and which quirks you are comfortable with overcoming. Follow the instructions on the box and read them through before you buy it. To be honest I will probably use traditional tile adhesive in most projects and that would be my #1 recommendation. I do like to have the tile mat tool in my “knowledge tool box” just in case I am needing a quick solution to a small kitchen. If pressured to make a quick decision I will probably go with Simple Mat just because it is cheaper and I can have it in my hands in ten minutes. Bondera, this is my plea for you to come back to stores and lower your price. If I found a great deal online…I would buy Bondera again. There you have it. Have you used a tile mat before? Is there something I do not know that could help my readers? Please…do tell.
Hope this helps! Thanks for reading,