Why Anti-Fracture Membrane Might Be Essential For Your Tiles

If you are planning on laying tile in the near future, it is important for you to prevent this material from cracking. Without a doubt, cracking is one of the biggest enemies of any tile project. In particular, if you are adding tile over concrete, this is a significant concern that you need to have a plan to address. That is exactly where an anti-fracture membrane can be helpful.

Even though you might be thinking about using a tile adhesive to protect your work, understand that there are other options available. You need to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each choice before you make a decision.

That way, you can make sure you stay under budget and protect your work. If you are running into this term for the first time, what do you need to know about an anti-fracture membrane, and how might this be useful? Take a look at some important information below.

What Is an Anti-Fracture Membrane?

Various rolls of building material to go under flooring or tiles
Various rolls of building material to go under flooring or tiles

So, when we are talking about an anti-fracture membrane, what does this mean? This is a specific layer of material that is designed to expand and contract her in the face of changing conditions. It is not exactly a secret that concrete expands and contracts depending on humidity, moisture, and temperature.

If it does this underneath your tiles, it could cause them to crack. Now, with an anti-fracture membrane, this is less of a concern. That way, the movement in the concrete is not directly transferred to the tile you put on top of it.

No matter what type of tile you are working with, you need to think about how you will protect your tile against this type of movement. This includes stone tile, porcelain tile, and natural tile. Essentially, you should think about this membrane as a bridge. It will prevent movement from transferring to the tile, helping you prevent damage from taking place. You need to think carefully about whether this is the best option for you and how you can get the most out of this project.

How Does an Anti-Fracture Membrane Work?

There are multiple types of anti-fracture membranes available, but the internal makeup is usually the same. The goal is to prevent movement in the concrete from being transferred to the tile. Essentially, the membrane is going to be bonded to the concrete. Then, the tile is going to be bonded to the membrane. After this, the membrane will stretch when required. That way, the force is not transferred to the tile.

Typically, when you are applying an anti-fracture membrane, you will use a trial or a sheet. In some situations, there could be multiple steps in making sure you apply the membrane properly. Critically, the performance of an anti-fracture membrane can vary depending on the type of material you use. Therefore, it is important to check with the manufacturer to see how the membrane is supposed to be used and the limits of it. That way, you know your work is going to be protected accordingly.

Do the Governing Bodies Recommend the Use of an Anti-Fracture Membrane?

Even though these materials are relatively new, governing bodies have already come out in support of them. For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) states that these types of membranes can be helpful in certain situations. While nothing is perfect, they can mitigate damage.

In particular, it is important to pay attention to expansion joints to make sure the membrane has the support it needs. The expansion joints and anti-fracture membrane are going to work together to protect the work.

Furthermore, the Tile Council also believes in the effectiveness of an anti-fracture membrane. It is important to make sure the product is given time to cure properly before working with it. That way, when an anti-fracture membrane is applied, it has the greatest chance of success. Keep in mind that moisture and alkalinity are going to play a role in the effectiveness of the anti-fracture membrane.

Clearly, governing bodies also believe that these membranes can be effective in certain situations. Again, it is critical to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each option before making a decision. That way, people can use the right membrane for the situation.

Where Might an Anti-Fracture Membrane Be Used?

A contractor laying tile and adhesive directly onto a concrete subfloor
A contractor laying tile and adhesive directly onto a concrete subfloor

There are numerous locations where this type of membrane could be used. Of course, the most common location is on top of a concrete slab. Before applying tiles to the concrete, it is a good idea to make sure the membrane has been applied appropriately. That way, you can rest easy, knowing that your tile is highly unlikely to crack. Of course, this is not the only situation where this type of membrane might be used.

A lot of people are wondering whether it is a good idea to install an anti-fracture membrane on top of control joints. Typically, these control joints are supposed to expand through to the tile. This is a foolproof way of making sure movements in the control joint themselves do not cause a reflective crack in the tile.

Because the idea of an anti-fracture membrane is still relatively new, there is still some debate over how these joints should be treated. In general, the TCNA does not recommend adding an anti-fracture membrane on top of the control joints. While this could be effective when using the right products, it is a good idea to stay away from the control joints when using an anti-fracture membrane.

One common misconception people have is that they think they can use an anti-fracture membrane instead of control joints. This is not the case. Even if you decide to go with this type of membrane, you still need to make sure you have movement joints. There always has to be movement joints present in the tile to allow them to expand and contract without cracking.

If you decide to install your joints on top of the membrane, you need to make sure the membrane is placed near the joints but not necessarily in direct contact with the control joints. If you place them in direct line with the control point, they may not function properly. Even though you may be able to get away with this in some situations, this is usually not advisable.

What About Tiling Over Cracks in the Concrete?

You might be thinking about adding tile on top of cracks in the concrete. It is possible for you to get away with this, but you need to be careful. For example, if you do not install an anti-fracture membrane on top of the cracks, the cracks could continue to propagate further. When they do, they are going to take your tile with them, leading to numerous unsightly cracks in the tile.

There is a way for you to deal with this problem even if there are cracks present in the concrete floor. For example, it is possible for you to install a tile on top of a mortar bed combined with an anti-fracture membrane. This should give your tile enough room if the concrete cracks further. You might also want to explore the possibility of a thinset installation, as this could help you protect your file floors if you install them on top of a concrete floor with cracks in it:

If you decide to go this route, your tile is going to “float” over the concrete. What this means is that the tile is not going to move with the concrete as it cracks. This is one of the most reliable ways for you to protect your tile floor if you install it on top of a concrete surface that has a lot of cracks in it already.

Should I Use a Sheet or a Liquid Anti-Fracture Membrane?

Liquid RedGard crack prevention membrane from Home Depot
Liquid RedGard crack prevention membrane from Home Depot

You might also be wondering if you should go with a sheet or a liquid anti-fracture membrane. Both of these usually have the same purpose. They are designed to separate stresses and movement underneath the tile floor. That way, you don’t have to worry about the stress of these cracks causing your stone and tile to crack.

In essence, you need to view both a sheet and a liquid membrane as a buffer between whatever is underneath your floor and the floor itself. If the substrate develops cracks, the cracks are going to stop there. They are not going to be telegraphed to the floor above. This is one of the best ways for you to protect your work.

An Overview of a Sheet Membrane

First, it is important to take a closer look at a sheet membrane. This is usually a fabric reinforced formulation that has been combined with an adhesive layer made out of rubber. You also need an epoxy or latex primer to help you protect this sheet membrane as you install it. You may want to think about going with a sheet membrane if you have a larger application.

For example, if you are participating in a project that involves a shopping mall or an airport, and you may want to go with a sheet membrane. They are also important if you are looking for additional protection for a large garage with multiple cars.

If you decide to go with a sheet membrane, there are a lot of advantages you will enjoy. For example, there is no drying time required. Therefore, you can cover an expansive area quickly and easily, reducing the installation time. The primer will create a tacky state in as little as 30 minutes. Then, you can apply the sheet membrane on top of it.

As soon as the membrane has been applied, you can start installing the rest of your floor. You don’t have to worry about waiting for the sheet membrane to dry at all.

Finally, one of the most significant advantages of going with a sheet membrane is that all formulations are waterproof. You can also decide to install a vapor barrier for added protection. Therefore, this is one of the most durable options available if you are looking for a way to protect your floor. Consider going with a sheet membrane for larger applications.

An Overview of a Liquid Membrane

The other option you might be considering is a liquid membrane. This is common in office buildings, housing developments, condos, and multi-family housing areas. Furthermore, they are also commonly found in smaller commercial projects. A liquid membrane usually comes with a roller, trowel, or spray to make it easier to apply. In addition, some liquid membranes come with multiple components you can use to customize to meet your needs.

Typically, to access all the benefits of a liquid membrane, you need to apply multiple coats. You may need to wait for a few hours between coats, making it a much longer installation process. There are numerous factors that are going to play a role in how long it takes the prior coat to dry. Examples include air temperature, the temperature of the substrate, the temperature of the liquid, and the humidity in the room.

The biggest reason why a lot of people decide to choose a liquid sheet is that it is less expensive: sometimes $50 for a liquid membrane compared to $200+ for a sheet membrane. If you are on a tight budget, you don’t necessarily have to worry about purchasing a primer. Even though it may take longer for you to complete the installation process, you may be able to save a significant amount of money.

How To Choose the Right Membrane for Your Needs

A confused guy who is shrugging
A confused guy who is shrugging

If you are trying to find the right membrane for your needs, there are a number of factors you need to consider. These include:

  • First, you have to think about your price. How much money are you willing to spend on this project? Even though you are probably going to spend more money on the tile or stone, you cannot neglect the importance of the membrane beneath it. You need to think carefully about how much this is going to cost you and make sure it is not going to ruin your budget.
  • Next, you also need to think about the size of the application. If you are trying to cover a much larger surface area, then you may want to go with a sheet membrane instead. That way, you can still get the project finished in a timely manner. On the other hand, if you have a smaller project, then you may want to go with a liquid membrane. That way, you don’t have to worry about spending so much money.
  • Finally, you also have to think about the conditions of the area. These types of membranes come in many shapes and forms. Some are designed to stand up to extreme cold while others are designed to stand up to extreme humidity levels. You need to make sure you get the right membrane to help you protect your work. Carefully evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each option before you make a decision.

These are just a few of the many factors you need to consider when you are trying to find the right membrane to help you protect your floor. If you have questions about which one is best for you, you might want to reach out to a professional who can help you.