What is your recommendation for bonding small ceramic tiles vertically to a fireplace surround?
Dr. Dave discusses the relative merits of various adhesives for tile fireplace surrounds, plus the effect chlorinated water may have on epoxies.
The most desirable type of adhesive is one that sets quickly and has some heat resistance. Mortar-based adhesives have traditionally been used for this application, but the problem is that they don’t set quickly enough to support the weight of the tiles and may require some kind of support during drying.
Cyanoacrylate superglues will often work but will be quite expensive for a large area of adhesives. I have personally used fast-curing epoxy adhesives (the so-called “5-minute” epoxies) to do this job. These adhesives set fast enough that you can hold the tiles in place by hand for a few minutes. Such tiles have been on my fireplace (initially a wood burner and later gas) for over 20 years with zero failures.
Can I use epoxy adhesives and sealants in contact with chlorinated water?
Yes. Epoxy grouts and coatings are routinely used for swimming pools. Epoxies are also used for internal coatings in pipes and tanks, which contain potable water. The water is treated with chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or chloramines, and epoxies will last for many years (apart from possible bleaching to lose their initial color).
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