How to Install Dry Pack Tile

Installing decorative tile flooring is challenging. Even for the experienced contractor, installing tile with the use of dry pack is not for the "faint of heart," says the owner of McGriff Tile. Dry pack is a system of tile underlayment using a dry mortar bed of about an inch. This method was brought over from Europe and is not commonly used these days. However, for those experienced weekend warriors looking for a challenge, installing tile with dry pack could be satisfying. Modern contractors, when installing tile, now use "tile glue" called thin set over concrete or tile backer board over wood.

Dry pack tile

Mixing and Applying Dry Pack

Step 1

Using the wheelbarrow, shovel and hulled hoe, mix dry pack with with one part Portland cement and three parts masonry sand. Once mixed, dry pack is used as the mortar between bricks. The texture of the dry pack is not as wet as mortar, however, hence the name, dry pack. It can be formed and manipulated manually as it is not runny or watery. If installing tile over wood, most contractors lay a 15-lb. felt roofing paper to the floor. Staple it down. Then staple the wire lath before installing thin set and dry pack. Your layout or project area (e.g. wood, concrete, stone) will determine how thick to make the dry pack mixture.

Step 2

Spread thin set or what is commonly referred to as tile glue to the floor before applying the dry pack mixture. You will then apply the dry pack to the floor over the thin set.

Step 3

Apply a skim coat of thin set over the top layer of dry pack. Height considerations are always important. The contractor will want to measure distance between dry pack and the tile to the bottom of: doors, appliances, or anything that must travel over the top of the tile. This consideration is due to the fact that after applying dry pack, using the notch trowels, the floor is generally 1 ½ to 2 inches higher than before installing tile with the use of a dry pack method.

Step 4

Confirm the thin set is the same thickness as the dry pack. Use the white rubber mallet to tamp the tile down into the mixture of dry pack and thin set. If you mix up 1 inch of dry pack, then use 1 inch of thin set. If the floor is wavy or has deep crevices, the dry pack will even out the floor. You will compensate for dips and unevenness with dry pack.

Step 5

Allow to dry overnight. Do not permit any weight over 200 lbs. for 72 hours on the floor. The mixture cures with time so the dry pack only gets drier as time passes.