Home-How » Mastic vs Thinset For Shower Walls (Which Is Better?)

Mastic vs Thinset For Shower Walls (Which Is Better?)

Bathrooms and showers are the areas in your home with excessive water exposure. Accordingly, these sections need to be assessed in detail, especially during the installation phase. And if you are en route to adding shower walls, then there are things that you need to consider. 

With the help of our article, you will get an idea of the two popular adhesive materials. So, let’s have a comprehensive discussion of mastic vs thinset for shower walls and uncover their unique characteristics one by one.

Why are adhesives essential in tile installation?

For years, tiles are considered one of the most popular wall and flooring options. When installing these materials, it’s important to apply adhesives to ensure their functionality and stability. The adhesives provide an excellent, bonding strength between the walls or the floors and the tiles.

Often than not, tile adhesives are a premixed blend of cement, polymers, and key aggregate particles. Because of these properties, there would be prevention of issues like broken tiles, slippage, or even water seeping.

However, you need to know that there are different types of tile adhesives that vary in usage. Some only work on the concrete finish while others on wooden substrates. It’s crucial that you understand the type of surface application that works best for the adhesives to ensure the best output.

What’s the main difference between tile mastic and tile thinset?

So, in this guide, we will focus on tile mastic and thinset, expounding on their core features. Through our detailed comparison, you will have a better way to determine the best choice for your shower wall needs.

1. Getting to know what a tile mastic is

A tile mastic is an adhesive material that seamlessly sticks tiles to floor surfaces and walls. Featuring an anti-sag feature and strong binding properties, this is used in dry areas like living rooms and bedrooms. Likewise, it is also referred to as fast-grab glue tiles that are very easy to apply.

Long before its popularity, mastic was solely made from organic resin. This is the reason why mastic has always been associated with any adhesive that does not contain cement or a latex mixture. A mastic is a natural resin acquired from the mastic tree, specifically the Pistacia lentiscus shrub.

And a distinct texture of the mastic resin is its very sticky and gummy consistency, which ensures a strong hold on walls and floors. Its adaptability to several substrata also adds up to its functionality. Plus, if you’ve got extra mastic while working, you can save and use them again in the future.

On top of that, you can utilize mastic on different types of surfaces such as natural stone, porcelain tile, and ceramic tile. It can also work on mosaics and even quarry tiles. However, there are certain areas that pull down the performance of a mastic tile.


This particular adhesive is not the best choice for areas with high exposure to moisture. To round up all the key information about a mastic tile, here’s a list of the advantages and disadvantages for your reference:


  • Suitable for dry sections of your home
  • Mostly made from organic resin, so less harmful
  • Easy application and removal
  • Quick setting
  • Works on various surfaces
  • Excess material can be reused


  • Not meant for places that are prone to water 
  • Exudes a natural yet strong odor 
  • Diminishing popularity because of better tile adhesive options

2. Getting to know tile thinset

On the other hand, a tile thinset is designed to effectively set a tile unto the floor and walls. Unlike mastic which is made from natural resin, thinset is inorganic. It contains resources that are chemically mined and modified to create a tile mortar.

Some of the common surface applications of a thinset include cement, waterproof membrane, or fiberboard. Additionally, it’s also applicable to a variety of tiles like porcelain and ceramic. Not only that but it’s also a commendable choice for glass and wood tile installations.

There are two major types of tile thinset―modified and unmodified thinset. The former is mainly made of Portland cement, sand, and other relevant retention elements. It also comes with liquid latex polymers. Meanwhile, the latter only encompasses the above-mentioned resources, except the liquid latex.

Because of its key ingredients, a tile thinset works well on different surfaces. In fact, it can be applied to a dry or wet area with no problem. With the excellent water-resistant properties of thinset, it is popularly applied on bathroom walls, kitchen walls, shower floors, and pool floors as well. 

Accordingly, this is the most common type of adhesive for tile showers, bathrooms, and saunas. It’s also a great choice for kitchen backsplashes and even countertops. 

To ensure the stability of the application of the adhesive, thinset requires a longer drying period. Compared to mastic which is quick setting, this would generally take at least a day or two to complete the drying phases and grouting of the tile. 

The lengthy setting process is particularly related to another downside of using thinset, and that is extensive labor during home renovations. In removing this adhesive, you need to prepare yourself physically because it would be very challenging. 


And if there is an extra thinset during the application, unfortunately, this would already be deemed irrelevant. It means you can no longer reuse it. So, you need to throw them away to avoid the accumulation of chemical elements.

Likewise, the chemical composition of thinset may not produce a strong odor as that of mastic, but it can still be unhealthy. So, it’s advisable to wear the proper gear and use the appropriate tools when applying these. Also, avoid long exposures to these chemicals to avoid health problems in the long run.


  • Highly recommended for areas constantly exposed to water
  • Not organic
  • Better stability and durability
  • Easy application
  • Works on various surfaces
  • Readily available at a cheaper cost


  • Not organic
  • Takes a long time to set
  • Excess thinset is no longer useful 
  • Laborious removal process

So, which is better―tile mastic or tile thinset?

Although both are great tile adhesives, there’s something that truly excels in terms of functionality and price. And that is tile thinset, which is widely used in almost all types of surfaces, either dry or wet. More so, it is inexpensive and easily available in most hardware stores.

The setting time may be a lengthy one, but it’s for the added firmness between the tiles and the surface. So, if you’d pick only one, a tile thinset definitely wins the competition by a mile.  

How to apply tile adhesives?

Whether you opt for mastic or thinset mortar, there is a general guideline for applying tile adhesives. So, take a look at the steps below for guidance:

Step1. Prepare your tools beforehand.

Make sure that you have the appropriate tools within your reach. These include gloves, measuring tape, trowel, mallet, and your preferred adhesive.

Step2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. 

Before you start, it’s crucial to browse the adhesive manual provided by the manufacturers. This way, you have an idea of how to deal with the adhesive, from the proper application to the setting time.


Step3. Apply adhesive using the trowel.

Add adhesive to the margin trowel. Don’t forget to use gloves to avoid direct contact with the substances. Also, don’t put too much adhesive on the trowel so you won’t have a hard time applying it to the wall or to the floor. This is particularly important when working with large format tiles.

Step4. Spread the adhesive evenly. 

Following a 45-degree angle, spread the adhesive to the surface and then comb it following a parallel motion. This is important to allow the adhesive to fill in the valleys and ensure that the tiles are well-supported. More so, combing the material creates continuous and more sturdy coverage.

Step5. Start laying the tiles.

Using a mallet or a hammer, lay the tiles. Don’t hit the tiles too hard to avoid breaking the surface. And to create a seamless, consistent joint, you may capitalize on spacers. And if there are instances where you cannot apply the adhesive first, like wall tiles, you may just add them directly to the tiles.

Step6. Set the tiles for hours or days, depending on the instructions. 

Drying or curing the tiles is a must to ensure the stability of the tiles before grouting. Adding a grout sealer should not be dismissed as it fills in gaps between tiles to make them more durable. 


Considering the tiles will be installed in the bathroom or shower, then you shouldn’t forget about the shower pans. These are very important to provide a waterproof layer, protecting the floor from water leaks. 

Meanwhile, if you’re not interested in doing the physical work, don’t worry! You can hire a contractor to handle the job. These expert installers and tile contractors are knowledgeable of the ins and outs of tile installation. Just prepare your budget for the labor.


While choosing the best tile adhesive is subjective, you need to consider a lot of factors. Plus, you should keep in mind the suggestions from the experts. This way, you’d save not just money but also effort and time. 

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