Important changes to BS 5385-1 Wall and Floor Tiling

As part of the five-year review of British Standards and reflecting changes within the tiling industry since 2009 – BS 5385 Part 1: 2018 has now been published.

One significant change made was to exclude the use of plywood as a background material for the direct fixing of ceramic wall and natural stone tiles.

Clause Other sheets and boards (see also now states:
“The use of sheets or boards that are subject to movement from changes in moisture content should be avoided. Plywood and other wood-based sheets or boards should not be used for direct tiling”.

A significant uplift in the use of tile backer boards – such as BAL Board – and a wide variation in quality of plywood available on the market has provided a solid case for the removal of plywood from the standards.

David Wilson, UK Head of Technical Services at BAL and member of the TTA Technical Committee said: “Previously it was recognised in BS5385 Part 1: 2009 that tiling direct to plywood was possible, providing this was restricted to small areas and be “installed in such a way that they provide a dimensionally stable and rigid background” the quality of plywood for tiling purposes has decreased significantly with cheaper imports flooding the market.

“While higher quality external grade plywood is still available – it is significantly more expensive.

“It is important to consider though that that wood is a hygroscopic material which means that its moisture content will change dependent upon any changes in the environmental conditions on site. Therefore, dimensionally stability of wood-based boards cannot be assured there is always a risk to installing ceramic or natural stone tiles onto plywood or other wood-based sheets,

Another technical consideration for wall tiling is weight restrictions. Plywood is deemed to have a maximum weight of tiling per m² of 30 kg compared to proprietary tile backing boards which generally are capable of supporting heavier weights per m² of tiling (As per table 3 of BS 5385-1: 2018 and the TTA Internal Ceramic Tiling to Sheets and Board Substrates document 2016).

“A competitive tile backing board market means that prices are more attractive to tile fixers and contractors. This combined with the additional features and benefits of providing background for tiling which are dimensionally stable and resistant to moisture and thermal movement. “

However, while plywood is not recommended as a background for direct wall tiling, it can still be used as a structural board when overlaid with a suitable tile backing board, particularly where installation of mechanical fixings is required e.g. for mesh backed natural stone where it is not possible to remove 75% or of the mesh backing.

 Other changes to BS standards.

Previously in internal dry wall areas it was recommended that tile adhesive should cover a minimum of 50% coverage spread evenly over the back of the tile. However, driven by necessity, with the increase in the size and types of tiles i.e. larger formats and thin ceramic panels, now available of the market, BS 5385-1: 2018 advises: “Tiles with a surface area of less than 0.1 m², but which weigh more per square metre than 70% of the background’s capacity to carry the weight, should be solidly bedded e.g. the maximum weight of tile that can be supported by Gypsum plaster = 20 kg; whereas 9 mm thick porcelain tiles, which weigh approximately 18 kg/m², weigh more than 70% of 20 kg (14 kg) therefore, they should be solidly bedded regardless of their size”

Included within the scope of BS 5385-1: 2018 are large format ceramic tiles, ceramic panels i.e. tiles with a surface area >1m² (any edge length >1200 mm) and thin tiles i.e. ceramic tiles and panels with a panel thickness of ≤ 5.5 mm. To reflect this, additional changes have also been made in the minimum recommended grout joint width, dependent on the tile/panel size, e.g. the minimum grout widths vary by tile facial area – an example as follows:

  • For tiles with a facial area of less than 0.1m² with no side > 600mm long, a minimum joint width of 2mm is required.
  • Tiles with a facial area 0.1m² to 1m² with no side>1200mm long, a minimum joint width of 3 mm is required.


  • Joints between ceramic panels should be increased pro-rata to panel size (e.g. for a 3m long ceramic panels the minimum required joint width between these panels is 5mm.

Not included in the scope of BS 5385-1: 2018 are:

  • Natural Stone Slabs i.e. stone which is more than 12mm thick,
  • Agglomerate stone,
  • Metal, plastic resin, mirror or glass tiles of a similar construction

For these products it is recommended to always refer to the manufacturer of these products for further advice.

For more information please contact BAL Technical Advisory Service on 03330 030160.

Anti-dumping tarrifs renewed

The European Commission has decided to extend the duties levied on Chinese ceramic tile imports for a further five years to November 2022. The tariff will be at the same level as previously since 2011 (ranging between 30.6% and 69.7% depending on whether the Chinese exporters cooperated with the investigations or not.)

The review has taken more than a year and found in favour of the European ceramics industry represented by the European Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Federation CET. There was a focus on the continued practice of dumping by Chinese exporters, as well as the level of China’s overcapacity, equivalent to four times the EU’s entire tile output.

In view of Brexit, the UK will now have an option of whether to follow the EU tariff, or to set its own in individual discussions with China. So the industry needs good transitional arrangements in place during the process of exiting the EU, to ensure that the interests of the few remaining UK manufacturers are protected as far as possible.

TTA Seeks Industry Views on Import Tariff Changes

Possible changes are on the way for import tariffs, currently imposed on Chinese tiles imported into Europe.

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Anti-dumping tariffs have been in place since September 2011, when the current measures were put in place. Their intention has been to protect EU ceramic tile manufacturers from the possibly destabilising effects of large quantities of heavily-subsidised Chinese tiles being imported.

The import duties which have been levied vary between 30.6% and 69.7%, depending on whether the companies involved cooperated with the initial investigations or not. The majority of companies did.

There were no tariffs imposed on the import of natural or agglomerated stone tile products.

Two things happened last year which have changed the situation. Firstly the initial round of tariffs was only due to last five years and therefore expired in September 2016. It is likely that they will be renewed and their level for the coming five years is currently being reviewed. Changes to the methodology of their calculation is under discussion within the EU.

The second factor is of course that the UK is embarking on a process of leaving the EU, and will therefore have an option of whether to follow the EU tariff, when agreed, or to set its own in individual discussions with China. So the industry needs good transitional arrangements in place during the process of exiting the EU.

Much of the recent discussion on this issue in the UK has been focussed on the wider ceramics market, the requirements of which are not necessarily the same as those of the tiling sector, due to the wider prevalence of UK ceramics manufacturers in the sanitaryware and tableware sectors. Currently there are only two significant manufacturers of ceramic wall tiles in the UK and no manufacturers of ceramic floor tiles. Therefore, to agglomerate employment figures in the ceramic tile manufacturing sector with those in the general ceramics sector is to overstate the importance of tile manufacturing for the UK tiling sector.

The TTA is keen to canvass the views of the tiling sector specifically, which is why it is contacting the industry about this issue now.

Please click here to take the survey.

Construction industry reacts to Budget 2016

When George Osborne, delivered his Budget for 2016, he described it as a “budget for small businesses” and promised the government would adhere to its “long term economic plan”.

Whilst Mr Osborne didn’t deliver any real surprises for business and the construction industry, the big measures took the shape of a reduction in business rates that will see 250,000 will see their rates reduced from April next year and 600,000 small companies will pay no rates at all.

The threshold for small business rate relief will be permanently increased from £6,000 to a maximum of £15,000 and higher rate relief will rise from £18,000 to £51,000.

The Chancellor also announced major new commitments to infrastructure projects by giving the go ahead to the HS3 rail scheme between Manchester and Leeds, the widening of the M62 and improved road links in the North Pennines, as he promised to make the Northern Powerhouse a “reality”.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-general, CBI welcomed the news: “After a year of surprises, this was a stable Budget for business facing global stormy waters. The Chancellor has listened to our concerns about the mounting burden on firms and chosen to back business to grow the economy out of the deficit.

“Businesses will welcome the Chancellor’s permanent reforms to business rates – taking more small firms out of the regime and changing the uprating mechanism from RPI to CPI, which the CBI has long been calling for. The reduction in the headline Corporation Tax rate sends out a strong signal that the UK is open for global business investment.”

Mike Cherry, Policy Director at the Federation of Small Businesses, commented: “The chancellor has listened to our calls for the tax system to be made simpler for small businesses and the self-employed and taken important action on business rates.”

Peter Vinden, Managing Director of The Vinden Partnership – a leading multi-disciplinary consultant company to the built environment – said: “The Chancellor has talked of uncertain economic times ahead and it would seem that with this budget he doesn’t intend on rocking the boat too much. We certainly didn’t see the kind of surprises the Chancellor has sprung on us in the past.
“Small businesses will welcome the changes to business rates and the government’s commitment to major investment in infrastructure projects will go some way to easing some of the jitters that the construction industry has been suffering recently.

“Finding people to work on these projects will remain a challenge, however, as the big push on apprenticeships will obviously take time to deliver the key skills needed.”

Patricia Moore, UK Head of Infrastructure for Turner & Townsend, expressed “relief” that the Chancellor was prioritising infrastructure. She said: “Future spending on transport projects such as HS3, a new tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield, and upgrades to the M62 and main A66 and A69 roads, will all help stimulate and reinvigorate the economy in the North providing a much-needed boost to jobs and trade.

“This budget is a clear sign that George Osborne means business for the Northern Powerhouse. For far too long, people living and working in the North have played second fiddle to the South, suffering from unacceptable travel delays particularly on the M62, which costs time and money. This long-term investment in vital infrastructure is clear recognition that we need to catch up with continental Europe and be globally competitive.

Mark Perkins, Managing Director at Ses Engineering Services commented: “We welcome the large scale infrastructure improvements announced by the Chancellor today including a £140m plus investment into Crossrail 2 and High Speed 3 along with proposals for a TransPennine tunnel linking Manchester and Sheffield.

“As a UK-wide business, enhanced regional connectivity is key and this major initiative should be the foundation of real economic growth and development in the north; something our sector will be a key enabler of.”

(SOURCE: UK Construction Online)