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Why Use Schluter Ditra For Tile Floors

Updated on November 9, 2014

Schluter DITRA and Uncoupling Tile Floors

Created by JPat1616

Schluter DITRA will help you create a beautiful tile floor that will last a lifetime. When I first heard this I thought it was a pretty bold statement. After all what makes this product so much better than any other option?

So I decided to research DITRA and other options in depth because I was planning to spend a lot of money on a new tile floor and I wanted to make sure it was done right the first time.

What I learned in the process changed my views on a system I thought I already knew pretty well. You see I've been designing new homes and additions for the last 34 years and helping people build them. So I'm always trying to stay on top of the best practice ideas to make these projects last.

It doesn't matter if you are planning to install your own tile project or if you plan to pay someone else to do the work, understanding how to get the best tile floor installation for your project is worth reading this entire article.

What you will read here is a condensed but comprehensive review of:

How the Schluter DITRA system was created

What a Schluter DITRA installation will do for your floor and peace of mind

Some of the common tile failure problems Schluter DITRA will help avoid

You will also learn how you can successfully use the Schluter DITRA installation system over just about every possible level subfloor surface. I will cover proper tile installation using Schluter DITRA over different types of wood subfloors, concrete or gypsum, different types of heated floors, and even over old vinyl floors.

Photo credit: Flickr

Tile History and What Changed

Tile has been around for centuries. It's no secret that it's a very durable, easy to maintain surface that has been used on floors and walls going back to ancient times. Now while it is true that some of the tile and stone products have changed over the centuries the real change has occurred in the substrates or surfaces that the tile gets applied to and this is where problems begin to appear.

In our modern world we are building with lighter and more adaptable products like plywood, OSB, and gypsum concrete. This is good for modern construction but not so good for tile installation that requires a stable substrate (a mounting surface that expands and contracts or flexes at the same rate as the tile) If we were to apply our tile directly to most of these surfaces we would see cracking in the grout and possibly the tile when the subfloor expand at a different rate than the tile. Expansion or contraction occurs when any material is subjected to a change in temperature, humidity, or both. It is a very small movement but when you attach a solid tile with a cement base to something there is no room for even the smallest movement difference.

How Schluter DITRA Was Created

Schluter Systems as a company was created by master tile setter Werner Schluter in 1975 as he began to create products to provide a more durable and finished look to tile surfaces. Up until that time there had been no significant changes to the products or methods used for centuries. Mr. Schluter realized that the surfaces his tile was being installed to were changing and the installation system had to change to avoid problems. This is where Schluter DITRA and Schluter Kerdi for waterproof tile installation were born.

The uncoupling process of Schluter DITRA
The uncoupling process of Schluter DITRA

What is Schluter DITRA

I see Schluter DITRA as a substrate stabilizer but there are 4 significant benefits to using Schluter DITRA on your tiled floor.

First- DITRA acts to uncouple the tile surface from its substrate. What this means is that Schluter DITRA allows the tile and subfloor surface to move independent of each other to avoid mortar cracking or tile separation.

Second- DITRA acts as a moisture barrier, this is especially valuable over a wood substrate since wood is prone to damage by constant moisture contact. DITRA provides a simple permanent solution to moisture protection for your wood subfloor.

Third- Since wood is constantly absorbing and releasing moisture as mentioned above the DITRA membrane allows the wood substrate to breath and gives it a route for excess moisture to escape.

Forth- By design the DITRA membrane is virtually uncompressible. What this means is that even though it acts to uncouple the tile from its substrate, it will maintain the same secure bonding surface even if heavy loads are placed in small areas.

DITRA and DITRA-XL Profiles
DITRA and DITRA-XL Profiles

Two DITRA Products

There are now two DITRA products available and it's important to understand which is best for your project. Schluter DITRA was the first product created to uncouple the tile from its subfloor. DITRA is 1/8 inch thick and works well over any substrate where a thin set installation is desired as in bringing a tile floor up to a thin carpet floor or other fairly thin flooring surface.

However with popular trends like installing tile up to a ¾ inch hardwood floor installers where having to use 2 layers of DITRA to get the surfaces to match up. This is where Schluter DITRA-XL was created. Measuring in at 3/16 inch thickness DITRA-XL resolves the problem of matching floor finish heights. They also found that DITRA-XL gives a better work rating when installing your tile over a subfloor with a single layer of ¾ inch OSB or Plywood over joists spaced 24 inch on center.

What Type of Floor Are You Planning To Tile Over

Schluter DITRA is the best way to uncouple your new floor from any surface so what type floor system will you be tiling over?

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Why is DITRA Better than Cement Board

Many people have begun the practice of installing tile over a substrate of cement board installed over their base substrate. While this practice is approved in all areas the fact is this system lacks all of the valuable benefits described above. The cement board will give you a more solid substrate than OSB or Plywood alone but it does not give you the uncoupled effect of letting both surfaces move independent of each other or any of the moisture control value. Contrary to popular belief tile even with sealed grout has ZERO moisture control value. It is porous and will allow moisture to permeate through it.

Video on How-To Install Schluter DITRA With Tile Flooring

Installing DITRA over Different Substrates

I have found that the basic practices while similar will vary slightly from one substrate to the next so I want to cover some of the common details here as well as give you a list of different substrate options you might encounter and then I will give you a link to a comprehensive installation guide from Schluter Systems so you can read exact installation details for your particular project.

In each installation you will learn the specific requirements for substrate preparation, movement joints, setting and grouting materials, minimum recommended tile sizes, and what applications are most common for this type of substrate. You will also find extra recommendations or other considerations that might pertain to your installation.

Here is a list of the most common interior application installations:

Tile or stone installation over single layer ¾ inch OSB or plywood over 16 inch o.c. joists

Tile or stone installation over single layer ¾ inch OSB or plywood over 19.2 inch o.c. joists

Tile or stone installation over single layer ¾ inch OSB or plywood over 24 inch o.c. joists

Tile or stone installation over double layer OSB or plywood subfloors

Tile or stone installation over existing vinyl flooring

Tile or stone installation over older plank flooring

Tile or stone installation over concrete floor

Tile or stone installation over gypsum floor

Tile or stone installation over heated wood substrate

Tile or stone installation over heated concrete floor

For detailed information on proper installation practices for each of these subfloor options refer to this handy Schluter DITRA Installation Guide as it will provide clear information for your particular project. (Be sure and read the Schluter disclaimer about installing stone over any single layer wood substrate-also located in this installation guide)

Schluter DITRA Warranty

Schluter Systems puts a 5 year warranty on their DITRA and DITRA-XL products when properly installed according to published installation instructions.

It is valuable to note that Schluter will not honor their warranty for purchases of their product made from non-authorized internet sales sites. Read their Online Warranty Restrictions for more on this.

This is why we only recommend using the Amazon site links we are providing here to assure that you not only get the best pricing from a trusted source but that you will buy from a source authorized by Schluter to sell and warranty their products.

Schluter DITRA and DITRA-XL Products

Schluter Ditra 1/8" Underlayment 54sqft
Schluter Ditra 1/8" Underlayment 54sqft

The 54 sq ft roll measures 3'3"x16'5" long

 
SCHLUTER DITRA 1/8" UNDERLAYMENT 150 SQ FT ROLL
SCHLUTER DITRA 1/8" UNDERLAYMENT 150 SQ FT ROLL

The 105 sq ft roll measures 3'3"X45'9" long

 
Schluter Ditra 1/8" Underlayment 323sqft
Schluter Ditra 1/8" Underlayment 323sqft

The 323 sq ft roll measures 3'3" x 98'5" long

 
SCHLUTER KERDI-BAND - 5" X 33'
SCHLUTER KERDI-BAND - 5" X 33'

You need to add Kerdi Band to your order if you plan to create a waterproof membbrane for your project. Follow installation instructions to seal the seams between DITRA sheets with Kerdi Band.

 

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