Can You Use Thinset As A Finish? (Solved)

Over the years’ construction materials have been hacked in several ways. Some of these hacks have been successful, while others haven’t.

If you have some thinset in your store and an ongoing project on one of your walls, you may consider using the thinset as a finish for the wall.

After all, thinset has some slight resemblance to plaster. But is thinset suitable for use as a finish? Keep on reading to find out.

Tile thinset mud (also called cement) for a major tiling renovation project during a house renovation.

What is Thinset?

To help you understand whether thinset can be used as a finish or not, we must define what this product is and some of its uses.

There is a lot of confusion around mix-and-spread construction materials like mortar, cement, and thinset. Some of these products even look similar. However, what you have to understand is that they are not interchangeable.

Thinset is a product that is used to promote tile adhesion. Even though it contains cement, it’s not strong enough to be used as a flooring product or even in building walls. The only job assigned to the thinset is to hold tiles.

The above properties apply to both modified and unmodified thinset. Unmodified is a type of thinset that contains water-retaining agents, Portland cement, and water. On the other hand, modified thinset contains latex polymers that facilitate stronger tile bonds.

The bottom line is that the uses of thinset all revolve around tile installation. That is its only job.

Can I Use Thinset as a Finish?

As mentioned earlier, most people confuse the uses of mix-and-spread materials such as thinset. The main use of thinset is to promote tile adhesion. Thinset can’t be used as a finish, and here are the reasons why.

Why Can’t Thinset Be Used as a Finish?

Finishes serve two primary purposes. Protect the interior building materials such as insulation, wires, plumbing, and structures.

It is also used to add some decorative elements to the surface. There is a wide range of finishes. Unfortunately, thinset is not one of them. Here is why;

• It’s thinner than most mortars – When applying thinset, you will realize it’s thinner than other mortars. The reason why the thinset was designed that way is to ensure it’s easier to spread on a surface.

This thinness makes it too fragile to act as a stand-alone finish. Constant exposure to traffic will cause it to wear pretty much sooner than most finishes.

• Takes Longer to Set – For tile applications, thinset longer setting time is an advantage since it gives you more working time before it hardens. When used as a finish, this feature offers no benefit. On the contrary, it creates more room for error in the final finish.

• Thinset Looks Unsightly – We saved the worst reason you can’t use thinset as a finish for last. The main purpose of a finish is to have something that looks good on your walls.

Thinset looks all gray and dull. Nothing is fascinating about it. That begs the question- why would you even consider using thinset as a finish in the first place?

Is It Okay to Use Thinset as a Skim Coat?

Joint compound popularly known as mud is the number one go-to product for skim-coating walls. This product makes your walls smoother and can also repair some slight damages.

Thinset should not be used to skim coat walls unless you are going to tile over the walls after applying the thinset.

What are the Recommended Finishes?

Suppose you want a dull industrial finish on a wall. It’s advisable to use the right products. And by that, we are referring to cement plaster.

This type of finish has been used for years, and it will withstand the usual traffic without crumbling o cracking. Unlike thinset, the cement-plastered finish looks much better, and you can choose a textured or smooth finish.

The other type of finish I would recommend is the lime plaster finish. This option started being used centuries ago. It creates depth on the walls and holds up well.

It’s important to mention that plaster isn’t the only type of finish you can use on walls. We have good old-fashioned paint, and you can also use wallpaper. Even tiles are a suitable finish for walls.

With this option, you can use a thinset for adhesion. However, using thinset alone as a finish is not advised.

Can Thinset Be Used to Cover Cracks and Chips?

Before answering this, you need to understand the difference between using thinset as a resurfacing agent and as a finish.

If you have a concrete wall that has chipped or cracked, you can use thinset to resurface the wall and make it look better.

Thinset will fill cracks and any dents on your wall. In the process, you can also tile over the concrete with the help of a thinset.

You can use thinset to cover cracks, but you can’t use it to finish a surface. The other thing about thinset is that it can also be used to level an uneven wall when installing tiles.

It’s not uncommon for you to come across an uneven wall when installing tiles. Extra thinset will do a commendable job of leveling the wall ensuring the tiles are installed on a straight surface.

Leveling and resurfacing cracked walls are the only additional benefits you can get from thinset besides acting as a tile adhesive.

Can Modified Thinset Be Used as a Finish?

Because it contains additives such as latex polymers, can’t I use a modified thinset as a finish? Modified thinset indeed contains additives. However, these additives aren’t formulated to make this product a wall finish.

The additives aim to promote the adhesive strength of the mortar and make it able to hold on to tiles much stronger and for longer. Therefore, whether the thinset is modified or unmodified, it will not work as a thinset finish.

Tile setter laying down thinset for a tiling project during a major house renovation.

Reasons People May Consider Using Thinset as a Finish

If you are relatively new to the DIY construction industry, you may lack basic knowledge of some construction product uses. The above is an excellent example.

Here are some reasons why people may consider using thinset as a finish;

The first and most obvious reason is that it has similar properties to plaster. Both contain cement and should be mixed with water. With both options, you will get a gray and dull finish.

Yes, there may be several similarities between thinset and cement plaster, but these are two different products that serve varying purposes. As tempting as it may be to use them interchangeably, kindly refrain from doing so.

The other reason you may consider using thinset as a finish is if it’s in adequate amounts in your storage. Considering how tough the economy is, no one wants to waste construction materials.

If you have some thinset in excess, do not use it as a wall finish. Save it for future use whenever you want to install tiles. It’s better to spend more money on the right product than waste resources on a product that will eventually fail.

What Will Happen When I Use Thinset as a Finish?

If you go ahead and use thinset as a finish, a couple of things may happen. First, it will look hideous. Unless you don’t care about aesthetics, this is something that will bother you every day.

Secondly, because it’s thinner than most mortars, it will crack or crumble when exposed to excess traffic. Therefore, it won’t serve you for very long.

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