Should You Use Wet Or Dry Mortar Mix For Patio Slabs?

  • Wet and dry mortar types can both generally be used for patio installation.
  • Check out the pros and cons of both types here!
man laying patio tiles

The average mortar will be available as either a wet or dry form. Both have their benefits and can be used for a multitude of applications around the home and in more industrial settings. For laying patio slabs, you will want to choose the right mortar mix for the job.

What is wet mortar mix?

Wet mortar mix can be found in large pails. They are usually white, quite heavy, and the product inside is ready to be used immediately. You will not need to mix this particular mortar mix in any way, though it is recommended that you occasionally give it a stir, especially before use.

The reason that you should stir your wet mortar mix before use is because this kind of mortar can gain a small layer of liquid over time when it isn’t being used. This is due to the product settling in its container. A quick stir of the mortar will fix that, and it doesn’t cause any issues with the mix.

The pros and cons of wet mortar mix

Pros:

  • Ready-to-use mixture.
  • No mixing needed to combine the mix.
  • Should set evenly.

Cons:

  • Due to the make-up of wet mortar mix, you cannot change its consistency much. You could make it thinner if desired, but it’s much harder to thicken the mixture.
  • Wet mortar has a limited shelf life that lasts up to 6 months.
  • The mixture has to be stored properly to optimise its shelf life.
  • Wet mortar can stiffen when left for long periods of time.

What is dry mortar mix?

A dry mortar mix is essentially a wet mortar mix without the liquid. This kind of mortar is made with various powders and then stored in sacks made of paper.

To create a usable mixture from dry mortar mixes, you need to add water to the powder until you have the consistency that you want. If you are working at a construction site, this can be done with the right machinery. At home, it can be more difficult to hand mix the mortar.

a raised garden area prepared for the laying of patio slabs
Laying slabs outdoors on a pre-prepared flat area.

The benefits of using dry mortar mix

Pros:

  • Easier to transport than wet mortar mix.
  • Lightweight.
  • Can be shipped overseas.
  • Long shelf life.
  • Consistency can be changed.

Cons:

  • Difficult to mix at home.
  • Might set incorrectly if it isn’t mixed right.

The major differences between wet and dry mortar

Your task is to lay patio slabs, and you have the choice between wet mortar mix and dry mortar mix. Although you’ve seen the pros and cons that we’ve listed, you might not be convinced that one mortar mix is better than the other.

When it comes down to the application of a mortar mix – in this case, using it to lay patio slabs – it’s down to tools, space, and personal preference.

Provided that you have a paddle mixer or a mortar mixer at home, you should have no problem mixing the dry mortar mix. However, if you don’t have a tool or a piece of equipment like this, you might be better off just buying the wet mortar mix.

The next issue is space. Dry mortar mix takes up less space over time than wet mortar mix. This is because wet mortar comes in large pails that are study, while dry mortar is purchased in paper sacks. Wet mortar will take up more space depending on the amount you need.

Finally, personal preference. If you haven’t used dry mortar mix before, you might feel more comfortable using wet mortar mix, which doesn’t require any additional mixing or tools and can be used straight away.

Both mortar mixes are suitable for laying patio slabs, though it could be argued that it’s more straight forward and faster to use wet mortar mix to lay your slabs, let it dry, and be done with your task. Dry mortar mix is certainly a more involved process.

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That said, if you find yourself attempting a more complex slab-laying job, you may find that dry mortar mix becomes your friend. You can control dry mortar mixes a lot more than wet mixes, which are always, well, wet.

Laying a patio with dry mortar mix

If you were just going to add water to your dry mortar mix and lay a patio as normal, then it would be easier to just use wet mortar mix. Dry mortar can be used for more intricate laying jobs, taking away the possibility of messing up a sensitive project.

By adding just enough water, you can start the curing process that is set off when mortar is applied and starts to set. Dry mortar doesn’t need much water to cement a patio project in its place.

Many homeowners use dry mortar mixes in more complex projects because it gives them more time to lay patio slabs in the right place without things starting to set. There is a technique where dabs or circles of water are used to fix the slabs in place – don’t do this. It causes more harm than good.

You do need to be careful using dry mortar, though. It does need some water to set or water can rise from the ground beneath the slabs and ruin the mortar. Even a small amount of water in your dry mortar mix is better than none at all.

Alternatively, if you are combining your dry mortar mix with a base of sand to lay your patio slabs, the water content in the sand should be able to set your mortar without the addition of anymore water.

For wet mortar mix, you can simply follow the directions that come with the mix. Wet mortar mix is very forgiving and needs little to no effort when being used to lay slabs down in a patio area. Enjoy your new project and try not to fret about the type of mortar mix you have.

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