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STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS Conscious uncoupling


David Wilson of BAL takes a look at why specifying an uncoupling system is a sensible option for making a floor tiling installation as efficient as possible


W


ith today’s requirements for faster installation of tiling and the use of more demanding


substrates, ‘uncoupling’ matting and membrane are being used more frequently and in some cases are a necessity. Uncoupling principles have actually existed for centuries, with the Romans being the first documented users of the building process, which incorporated an “uncoupling” method.


These early practices used a mud bed to separate the substrate (then a two-inch thick layer of packed and flattened sand and cement) and the tiles. Both systems use the separating layer to provide an uncoupling buffer between the tile and the substrate, enabling the substrate to move independently to the tiles.


Modern uncoupling system methods have improved dramatically, but the same basic principles still apply for today’s uncoupling mat systems, which are now in common use on floor tiling installations onto a variety of different substrates. Coming in many forms, from thin, lightweight matting, to traditional cavity mat and floating systems, they give architects and contractors peace of mind when designing floor tiling installations. Designed to provide a buffer layer when tiling onto floors, they protect against a variety of problems that can cause tiles to crack or de-bond.


One common problem is the potential for the substrate to contract or expand. In particular, newly laid sand: cement screeds or concrete may contain large amount of moisture, which as evaporates, causes the screed to shrink. However, all substrates will expand and contract naturally due to humidity and/or temperature fluctuation, and this is especially true where under floor or under-tile heating has been installed. What’s more, certain water-sensitive substrates, such as anhydrite screeds (or calcium


sulphate) will lose their cohesive strength if they get wet. Wood is a hygroscopic material, and this, therefore, increases the potential risk of dimensional changes occurring within boards due to moisture expansion and drying shrinkage movement, resulting in lateral movement stress being generated between the board background and the rigid ceramic tile finish. Any movement, whether shrinkage or expansion, can cause stress cracks that can transfer through to the tiled surface, causing the tile to either fracture, or de-bond from the background. Uncoupling matting helps to prevent these lateral stresses from transferring through to the tiled layer, by absorbing these stresses and transferring them evenly over the floor. Matting also has the ability to bridge static cracks i.e. shrinkage cracks up to 2 mm wide and joints between sheet & board backgrounds.


Another of benefit of modern matting systems is their suitability for


Coming in many forms, from thin, lightweight matting to traditional cavity mat and floating systems, they give architects and contractors peace of mind when designing floor tiling installations


49


ADF JUNE 2019


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