Forum Title: Back Buttering Vs Back Troweling
You'll find I'm pretty annoying sometimes bringing up the absolute basics like this, so sorry if I'm boring anyone. Anyways, you see the term back butter all the time, but often times it gets confused with back troweling. Here is how I define the two methods: Back buttering: a scratch coat of thinset on the back of the tile to adhere to the combed thinset on the substrate. Back troweling: combing the back of each tile, and setting it either on a scratch coated substrate, or directly onto the substrate. From what I've seen working with other people, it seems like many installers adopt different methods. Personally, I trowel the backs of every tile, usually with a margin trowel for controllability if I have the right size, but don't butter my substrate as it's always clean and seems to get great adhesion on contact after I seat the tile. This is how I was trained to do it, and I prefer this method because I can see my layout lines more clearly, the thinset doesn't get a chance to skin over and the thinset adheres well to the tile. I suppose it takes a little more time, as getting coverage in the corners can take an extra few seconds per tile. That said, I rarely tile much more than 80 sq ft at a time as I'm typically in small areas like bathrooms, or kitchen backsplashes. What is your preferred method and why?
Category: Tile Post By: DONNA S (Denver, CO), 03/07/2019

Burn/key into substrate, trowel to proper depth. Back butter tile, set. The difference from how I understand what you're description is, when you back butter, you are keying in both the substrate and tile. If you just comb the tile, you're missing the point of keying it in. I doubt you can get 93% with porcelain or stone if you only comb onto one of the 2 surfaces with a standard thinset.

- Nick L (Washington, DC), 04/06/2019

That's an interesting point. I'm not to stubborn to admit that perhaps I should butter the tile and comb the floor. Fortunately I haven't had any issues with loose or cracked tile thus far, but it can't hurt I suppose.

- CARRIE LAWSON (New Haven, CT), 04/20/2019

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