Great swathes of DIYers have jumped on the large format Outdoor Slab Tiles bandwagon of late and are now opting for these hardwearing 20mm thick porcelain tiles ahead of traditional paving and decking thanks to the wealth of styles and designs now available and the longevity and low maintenance these products offer. However, whilst there’s been a huge uptake of this type of tile this summer, there are still some people out there who are put off by the perceived hassle involved to install them. If that sounds like you then firstly take a look at our comprehensive Outdoor Slab Tiles Installation Guide, and once you’ve seen how straightforward it is, read on as we bring you a rundown of five simple tiling tools you’ll need to complete such an installation…
Electric Tile Cutter
Porcelain slab tiles are generally around 18mm – 20mm thick, meaning that they can’t be cut to size and shape using the ‘score & snap’ method that manual tile cutters employ. As such, you’re going to have to source an electric tile cutter in order to make precision cuts for edging and pieces that butt up against exterior walls etc. There are two types of electric cutters on the market; wet wheel cutters and mobile head cutters. The former uses a spinning diamond sintered rotating blade that is subjected to a constant jet of water to prevent the blade from overheating whereas the latter devices is more like a table-top circular saw. Unfortunately, Wet Wheel Cutters, don’t quite cut it when it comes to slicing through thick porcelain so we’d recommend investing in a mobile head cutter such as the Rubi DU-200 230v Electric Tile Cutter (available in-store only) for tackling outdoor slab tile cuts – they’re more powerful and even though they feature the same water jet system to prevent blades from heat damage, they offer more longevity of performance.
Unless you’ve decided to install your outdoor slab tiles using Adjustable Support Pedestals then at some point throughout the project you’re going to have to get your hands mucky and mix up some suitable for exterior use adhesive such as Mapei Adesilex P4 or Norcros Thickbed Porcelain & Stone Adhesive, as well as some grout like Mapei Ultracolor Flexible Grout or Norcros 4-into-1 Wall & Floor Tile Grout. You can do this by had of course but you can save yourself a lot of hassle by purchasing a mixing paddle for this task. These useful bits of metal can be connected to virtually any power drill and then lowered into your mixing bucket to get your mixture swirling and churning. As messy and as arduous as manual mixing can be, having to expend a bit of elbow grease is not the main reason we’d recommend purchasing a mixing paddle for this task – using a mixing paddle allows greater control and ensures a smoother consistency, meaning there’s less chance of you ending up with a lumpy mix (which can cause coverage problems when applying the grout/adhesive mix).
All types of tiling installations require a decent amount of coverage of the adhesive beneath the tile in order for the installation to be effective. Most dry area installations should aim for around 85% coverage whereas areas subjected to direct water should have 95% coverage minimum. Outdoor slab tiles will often be subjected to pooled rainwater (see our Outdoor Slab Tiles Installation Guide for info on creating suitable falls to prevent this) and will benefit from a 95% and above coverage using a suitable weatherproof adhesive such as those mentioned earlier or that which comes part of the Norcros Rock-Tite™ Exterior Porcelain & Stone System. To ensure the correct coverage levels you’ll need to invest in a notched trowel – we recommend a 20mm ‘U-Notch’ trowel such as the one pictured. Square-notched trowels can be used but as the notch shapes determine how easily the tile becomes embedded in the bed of thinset, it is easier to wiggle a tile into position on a bed of adhesive put down with a u-notched trowel than with a square-notched variant.
Once you’ve back-buttered your slab tiles, laid the bed of adhesive, and deftly positioned your tile atop of it, it’s time to make sure the surface of each tile is level. To do this you’re going to need a spirit level. After you’ve placed the slab tiles down, you need to carefully manoeuvre them into place and make sure the surfaces are level from tile to tile by pressing them into the adhesive, checking that the level is consistent throughout using the spirit level and only pressing the tile into its final position once that little bubble is in the middle of those two lines! To make things easier, you can prevent lippage (where one corner of a tile is slightly higher than the adjacent tile) by using a Levelling System during the installation process and using spacers where required to maintain consistent grout joints throughout.
As we’ve established, outdoor slab tiles are quite hefty things and they’re heavy too, meaning that manoeuvring them into position is not the comparative walk in the park that positioning regular porcelain floor tiles is. When levelling things up as described above, you are likely to need a bit of a helping hand and that’s where the trusty rubber mallet comes into play. Once the tiles are laid onto the bed of adhesive they are likely to need pressing further down so that they line up with their neighbours – simply tap each corner with the mallet until the slabs have sunken into the adhesive to the desired level. Remember though – you can always apply more pressure to push them down further but you don’t want to have to rip them up again if you push them too low, so start light and increase the force incrementally!
If you’d like to find out more about installing outdoor slab tiles then head over to our the Garden & Outdoor section of our Help Centre – it’s packed full of useful hints and tips covering all aspects of exterior tiling. You might also want to check out our guide on Which Adhesive & Grout To Use With Outdoor Tiles should you be planning an outdoor tiling project in the near future – it tells you all you need to know about choosing the right products for the job! And don’t forget – if you have completed an outdoor project using Tile Mountain tiles, send in your photos and if we use them on our website you could receive an Amazon voucher up to the value of £20! For further information on how to submit your photos, click here.