An uncoupling membrane is a useful material for any tile installation job. It creates an ideal surface for laying tiles.
And provided it’s installed correctly, an uncoupling membrane does an excellent job of reducing lateral stress, which can be transferred to the tiles.
There are several uncoupling membranes on the market. They aren’t all built equally. Some perform better than others.
For any tile installation job, you must use the best decoupling membranes. Laticrete Strata Mat and DITRA are two of the most popular decoupling membranes.
If you are finding it hard to choose between the two, here is a detailed comparison that will help you make an informed choice.
What is a Laticrete Strata Mat?
The Strata Mat is an uncoupling membrane made by Laticrete. It is designed for tile installation projects on both commercial and residential properties.
The Strata Mat is an ideal alternative to the heavy and difficult-to-install tile backer boards. It is a thin decoupling mat that offers a strong mechanical bond with adhesive mortar.
The Strata facilitates quick drying of the mortar beneath, and one of the unique properties of this uncoupling membrane is that it can be used with either unmodified or modified mortars. This enables installers to choose the best option for the tile installation project.
This mat is pretty easy to install. You can use it on cement or wood substrates. The patented design reduces the downtime required before grouting. And this is a feature many tile installers appreciate. This isn’t the only benefit of using the Strata Mat.
It’s also designed to enable the installer to check the thinset coverage without lifting the mat. When using Strata Mat, there will be no risk of compromising the bond when checking for thinset coverage.
The above is made possible by the fabric mesh and translucent plastic build. The surface of the mat will turn dark when pressed against the thinset.
You can, therefore, easily confirm if there is enough thinset at the bottom of the mat. The Strata Mat also provides vapor management, whereby the mat evacuates any moisture originating from the concrete slab.
The lightweight aspect of these mats also makes them a much better choice than the typical backer boards. A roll of Strata Mat measuring 323 sq ft weighs less than 45 pounds.
This means you won’t need extra help to install this mat on your surface. Besides being lightweight, you can easily cut this mat using a utility knife.
And, they don’t produce a lot of dust, as is the case with backer boards when being cut. Also, there is no need to use nails or screws to fit the mat on a surface.
As we wrap up on Laticrete Strata Mat, we must touch on the crack isolation feature. Tiles are vulnerable to any movements along the substrate.
This mat will absorb all these movements, ensuring none reaches the tile surface and causes them to crack. With such a membrane beneath, your tiles will last for a very long.
What is DITRA?
You have probably heard of Schluter. They are a popular manufacturer of construction materials, and one of their best inventions is the DITRA uncoupling membrane.
It’s a polythene membrane with a laminated fleece at the bottom. DITRA resembles a huge waffle which entails a grid structure on the top.
Similar to the Strata Mat, DITRA is one of the best uncoupling membranes on the market. Here are the reasons why.
First off, DITRA offers unrivaled decoupling. When laid between a flooring substrate and tiles, it absorbs the movement of the substrate, thus preventing cracking.
Secondly, DITRA waterproofs the substrate. Tiles don’t just look good; they are an ideal application in high moisture areas such as showers. However, tiles don’t have a waterproof surface.
Moisture can easily seep through, damage the substrate, or lead to mold growth. Unlike most uncoupling membranes, DITRA waterproofs the substrate. Making it the best solution for tiles installed in high-moisture areas such as showers and kitchens.
DITRA mats have a unique design. There are air channels beneath the mat which facilitate the neutralization of vapor. These channels are always open and enable moisture from the substrate to dissipate effectively.
As if that’s not enough, a DITRA mat transfers the load applied on the tiles directly to the substrate. This means tiles installed over a DITRA mat can withstand a higher load pressure. This mat boasts strong adhesion. Therefore, it can be used on floors and walls.
Because of its remarkable properties, DITRA is an excellent uncoupling membrane for underfloor heating, gypsum, and concrete substrates.
If you settle on a DITRA decoupling membrane, it’s important to ensure the surface it’s installed on is even. The substrate must be dry before DITRA can be laid over.
During installation, ensure you use a strong adhesive, preferably made by Schluter, for compatibility purposes. Once DITRA has been installed, tiling can be done almost immediately.
How Are They Different?
• Strata Mat’s Mechanical Bond is Much Stronger than DITRA’s
If you want a stronger bond between the tiles and the substrate, you should go for Strata Mat. This uncoupling membrane is designed to create a mechanical bond.
Not that the tiles won’t stick to DITRA. It’s just that Strata Mat will bond more firmly to your tiles. If you have been a victim of poor adhesion in previous tiling jobs, you should try Strata Mat.
• DITRA Waterproofs the Substrate
For tiles that are about to be installed in a high moisture area, such as a kitchen or bathroom, the best uncoupling membrane to use would be DITRA. Strata Mat may bond much stronger to tiles than DITRA.
But it’s not a waterproofing membrane. Therefore, there are limitations on where you can or can’t use Strata Mat. With DITRA, you can use it anywhere because it boasts waterproofing capabilities.
• DITRA Can Withstand Heavier Loads
When you install DITRA on a surface, mortar structures are formed on the cutback cavities. These structures facilitate load transfer from the tiles to the substrate.
Therefore, when a heavy load is placed on the tiles, it is evenly distributed to the substrate. This design ensures that DITRA can withstand heavier loads than Strata Mat.
• Strata Mat is More Translucent than DITRA
Comparing these two options, Strata Mat is more translucent. This feature comes in handy in checking the coverage of the thinset below the mat.
With a translucent mat such as Strata, you don’t have to pull up the mat every time to check the amount of thinset.
How Are They Similar?
• Boast of Excellent Uncoupling Capabilities
Regarding decoupling the tiles from the substrate, DITRA and Strata are very effective. With either, as long as you install them correctly, you don’t have to worry about the movements of the substrate. Also, you are assured that the tiles will not crack.
• Offer Vapor Management
In both mats, there are air channels that facilitate the removal of moisture coming from the substrate. Without this feature, the trapped moisture can lead to mold growth. Laticrete and Schluter did a great job by integrating vapor management features.
• Easy to Handle and Install
Whether you go with Strata or DITRA, both mats are lightweight and easy to cut through. That makes installation pretty straightforward. With these two, you don’t need extra help during installation.
• Are Better than Tile Backer Boards
Unlike backer boards that are heavy and difficult to work with, these two uncoupling membranes are light and very easy to install. Many prefer uncoupling membranes such as DITRA and Strata to tile backer boards.
What’s Better about Laticrete Strata Mat?
The Strata mat by Laticrete is a favorite amongst many DIYourselfers because of its many benefits. It’s pretty lightweight and easy to cut.
However, the strong mechanical bond it creates with tiles is the key feature that makes the Strata stand out from the competition.
Also, Strata is less opaque than DITRA. That makes it easier for you to confirm the amount of the thinset without lifting the mat.
What’s Better about DITRA?
Laticrete Strata Mat has its perks, and so does DITRA. First, DITRA features waterproofing capabilities. It’s crucial to differentiate between waterproof and vapor management.
The latter entails how an uncoupling membrane allows moisture to escape. However, with a waterproof mat such as DITRA, when the tiles are exposed to water, it will prevent them from passing through.
Also, a DITRA mat can handle more load capacity than a Strata Mat. This makes it a suitable option for installing tiles in high-traffic areas.
Who Should Get Strata Mat and Why?
Strata mat is an ideal uncoupling membrane for indoor applications, especially in areas that will rarely get wet. DIY enthusiasts should use Strata mats because they form a strong bond with the tiles, and they are less opaque, which helps in installation.
Who Should Get DITRA and Why?
DITRA, on the other hand, is suitable for outdoor applications because it’s waterproof and capable of withstanding high load capacities. It can be used by both expert constructors and DIYourselfers.