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Cold weather and laying tile outside: Do they go together?

When autumn arrives, a climate change takes place and colder temperatures set in. With temperatures that can touch the freezing point or even drop below it, many contractors and property owners wonder about the feasibility of setting tiles outdoors. In fact, it is possible to carry out this kind of installation. However, several elements need to be considered.

I. Evaluation of needs and examination of the substrate
This step is paramount if a tile-laying project is to start off right. It is, therefore, essential to make a complete evaluation of your needs, including these topics:
• Is this a residential or a commercial project?
• How can you provide for slopes to ensure adequate drainage?
• For wall installations, does a vented drain cavity need to be provided for better drainage?
In addition, an examination of the base will be needed to make sure it is structurally sound, solid, stable, plumb and true. If this is not the case, then additional preparation will probably be needed.

DO provide a surface that is free of any substance or any debris that can prevent or reduce adhesion or performance. If a concrete slab is involved, it must be fully cured, dry, and free of excess hydrostatic pressure and moisture.
DON’T install on a base where oil, grease, paint, tar, curing agents, release agents or any other substance is present that can reduce or prevent adhesion.

II. Selection of products and installation method
Where repair products, waterproofing membranes, mortars and grouts are concerned, it is very important to choose products according to the specific requirements of the project, and especially to ensure that those products are used correctly.
For example, use of a cold cement powder and a cold latex additive will increase the setting time of the product, which could cause a delay in turning over the job. That’s why it is recommended that products be kept in a dry, heated location for at least 24 hours before starting work.

DO use polymer-modified products, because they adjust better to movement caused by freeze/thaw cycles.

DON’T use a re-emulsifiable adhesive.

DO use recommended installation guidelines from the industry (Tile Council of North America [TCNA] in the United States, and Terrazzo Tile & Marble Association of Canada [TTMAC] in Canada), which can increase the quality and the durability of your work. Also, provide for control and expansion joints at appropriate places.

DON’T think that the color of the tiles has no impact. Dark-colored tiles are more affected by temperature variations and are thus more susceptible to thermal movement. Such a condition is likely to increase the risk of grout cracking or affect life service (long term).

III. Temporary shelter
Before starting work, it is essential to build a shelter in order to protect the base and the installation from atmospheric conditions (wind, rain, cold and snow). It is also important to heat the shelter before, during and after the work in order to ensure that the substrate and the ambient air are held within a suitable range of temperatures. A controlled temperature will allow the products to perform best.

DO ensure that emissions coming from indirect heat sources are exhausted to the outside.

DON’T use a heat source that produces carbon monoxide or other noxious gas emissions that can harm the health of workers and contaminate the surface to be tiled.

IV. During and after the work
Take care to protect the work area from traffic during the installation. Moreover, heating must be maintained within the recommended temperature range during both day and night; in addition, each of the products used must be applied according to its specific installation directions.
DO install the tiles with a back-buttering application and ensure at least a 95% transfer of mortar to the back of the tiles.
DON’T direct the heating system toward the work area to accelerate the drying of the product.
The temporary shelter can be removed when the installation is completely finished and the recommended drying time of the grout or mortar has been met (always following the longer of the two times).
If the installation is implemented according to the rules of the trade and installed using quality products, the customer will get the full benefit of an exterior tile project.

Source: RM Realtà Mapei Americas 17/2013