Tile Backerboards: Are Concrete And Cement Board The Same?

Here we have a couple of terms that are thrown around a lot. Cement and concrete board. But what are they? According to the name, they could be boards made of cement, boards that look like cement, and so much more. 

It’s much easier to comprehend than you may think. A lot of people, contractors included, use certain terms interchangeably that don’t technically mean the same thing. But can the same be said for concrete board and cement board?

What Is Cement Board?

 Concrete Board And Cement Board

Let’s start off with cement board. Cement boards are sheets of material that are made of cement. The boards are usually 4 ft by 8 ft or 3 ft by 5 ft and less than an inch thick. They were originally made for a tile backer.

Today, that is still their main purpose because cement is water-resistant, so it’s one of the best and most affordable ways to lay tile. Because it is made of cement, it is quite heavy and usually requires a team lift.

It also cannot be cut very well with a simple utility knife. When it is cut it produces a lot of dust and particles, so it is best to cut it outside. These are a couple of things to consider before getting cement board. 

What Is Drywall? 

We’ve talked about drywall a lot. Primarily pointing out the difference between drywall and plaster. But in case you missed that, drywall is a material made into sheets used in construction. It is made of a material called gypsum.

This gypsum is made into a plaster that is mixed with fibers, covered in paper, and dried to create relatively durable sheets often used to cover walls. In fact, it’s the most popular type of wall covering in America. 

However, it’s not very popular for tile backing, but it can be used. We’ll go into that fact deeper later on when we talk about different types of tile backers you can use for your tiling project. 

Is Concrete Board Different Than Cement Board? 

This is a question we get a lot. What is the difference between concrete board and cement board? But the fact of the matter is that the two are used to refer to the same product. But that doesn’t mean concrete and cement are the same.

Concrete itself is a material that contains cement. But cement is more of an ingredient that usually refers to Portland cement. Learn more about the difference between concrete and cement with this informative article. 

Concrete board isn’t generally a term used at all. But it can be used in place of cement board if the board contains all of the ingredients used in concrete. But the term cement board, on the other hand, always works. 

Fiber Cement Board

This is something that needs to be addressed before we go any further. Fiber cement board is cement board made with extra fibers. When this term is used it usually refers to the type of cement board used on exteriors.

Fiber cement board can be a type of siding or backer board. While regular cement board is often used as a tile backer alone. The ingredients for fiber cement board ranges but generally include 40-60% of cement, 20-30% of fillers, 8-10% of cellulose, 10-15% of mica.

This type of “cement board” is popular for siding. It provides a durable base and an industrial yet modern look. Fiber cement siding is what you will find when looking for cement board with the wrong department.

How To Install Cement Board

How To Install Cement BoardView in gallery

Installing cement board is fairly easy if you know how to use a drill. Backerboard like this should be installed over OSB or plywood when a surface that will be walked on and simply studs or rafters when the surface will not be walked on. 

After you have your backer for your backer board, you can measure the area and begin. You need a carbide blade to cut cement board. Use a jigsaw or similar tool to cut through the cement board. Then make sure the sheets fit well.

Finally, screw the board in with screws about six to eight inches apart. Because you’re laying tile on the board, you will want to sink the screws just a little so they won’t protrude and disrupt the tile. 

It’s best to measure one board at a time because depending on the thickness of the board, you will be staggering the seams. You don’t want space in the corners. You want to keep them solid, so put your first board up before measuring for the second.

Now, when all of the sheets are installed, you can fill the joints with thin-set. This will ensure that the tile lays properly and you have a completely flat surface to work with. It’s important that all of the seams are completely flat. 

How To Install Drywall

Install DrywallView in gallery

Installing drywall is easy. But if you do it wrong, you risk making the next step very difficult. It’s crucial that you measure your walls very precisely because drywall is usually used as a wallcovering that will be visible. 

Unlike cement board, it won’t be covered by tile. So mistakes are obvious. So measure your area and start cutting boards with a utility knife. A good score can do most of the work for you. Then you bend and slice.

After the boards are cut, you can pretty much install them like the drywall. Don’t let the screws sink in this time, you want the surface to be flush. When the drywall is up, you can start mudding the joints.

Mud all joints and screws, remembering to tape all areas with seams. Then, decide what kind of wall texture you want and get to work creating your masterpiece! This is the most difficult yet fun step. 

Types Of Tile Backers

Types Of Tile BackersView in gallery

While cement board is the primary type of tile backer, there are other backers as well. Some are used because of their price, others for their quality. These are the most common types of tile backers used in construction. 

Mortar

Mortar is a classic tile backer that can be applied over a good base and subfloor. This generally includes a metal lath as well. Then, a type of cement is mixed to create a thick paste that is spread over the surface. 

This is much more difficult to use than cement board and is more traditional than modern as backer board has replaced it almost entirely. But if you have uneven floors or sloping floors, it may be necessary to level them. 

Self-Leveling Underlayment

This is another type of mortar that is easier to use than thicker mortar. Plus, it works well with uneven floors too. You use a metal lath and underlayment but you also mix the mortar thin so that it is soupy.

This way, it levels itself out and you don’t need to spread it. Since it is thin, it will harden quite fast so you won’t be able to change anything. So plan it out and pour carefully, starting in one corner.

Foam

There’s nothing wrong with foam board for tile backer. It’s very lightweight but is the same size as cement board. It’s also easy to cut, cheap, and waterproof. The only downside is that it’s not as strong as cement board and requires great care. 

But if you’re tiling a large area alone, then it makes light work of your job. It’s very difficult to use cement board or mortar even alone. So foam is the perfect solution to solo jobs and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it if you have to. 

Plywood

Some people choose to lay their tile directly onto plywood. This isn’t ideal because plywood isn’t waterproof and will mold if exposed to moisture. It also can warp in certain temperatures which will break the tile. 

But for small projects, you may be able to use it if it has a waterproof seal. But this is not recommended for kitchens or bathrooms because plywood is susceptible to mold which can harm you if exposed. 

Green Board

Once upon a time, green board or gypsum board, was used for a tile backer. While it is still used on occasion today, it isn’t the ideal material for a tile backer. But there is another option made of gypsum that is recommended.

It’s called glass mat gypsum and it is great for a tile backer. It is cheap, light, easy to use, and easy to find. Though not as popular as cement board, it’s definitely one to look into for larger projects.

Cement Board

Finally, cement board! This is the number one choice for most contractors. If you have an experienced team on hand there isn’t a much better option when you consider everything. Cement board is the perfect tile backer. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you should get cement board without even thinking about the other options. But it is the first one you should look into. If unsure, you can always hire a professional to do your project in the best way possible!