Using tiles for exterior floors has rocketed in popularity of late and, thanks to advancements in tile production technology in recent years, the range of designs and types available to homeowners is now vast. Whilst this increased level of choice is undoubtedly a good thing, it does mean that it can be a bit of a minefield for the uninitiated when it comes to deciding which sort of tiles to opt for in an exterior project.
Technically, any porcelain tile can be used outdoors (providing you consider a couple of small but important factors), but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should just stick any old porcelain tile down and hope for the best. Here we bring you what we think are the three most important things to consider when choosing outdoor tiles…
How and Where Will The Tiles Be Used?
How and where the tiles you choose will be used will dictate the type of tiles you purchase. Get it wrong and you could be left with a bunch of unsuitable products (although here at Tile Mountain, we give you 30 days to return the tiles if you’re not happy with your purchase, because we’re nice like that), so do take the time to consider where the tiles you’re buying will be installed. Most porcelain tiles are suitable for exterior use providing that they’re frost-proof and have a high enough slip rating (sometimes called an R-Rating), so you could opt for all manner of floor tiles from our range for use in smaller installations such as garden paths, porches or front door steps.
However, if the location in which you’re installing the tiles is subject to heavy use, inclement weather, and organic matter – driveways or patio areas for example – then you should perhaps consider something more durable such as 18-20mm thick outdoor porcelain slab tiles. These are basically porcelain versions of paving slabs that are available in all kinds of designs replicating everything from wooden planks and marble to granite and limestone (and all that’s in between!). More durable than the natural stone and timber they replicate, outdoor porcelain slab tiles do not require post-installation sealing, have in-built UV protection that will prevent them from fading in direct sunlight, and will not absorb water or be susceptible to staining from organic matter such as leaves/moss.
What Method of Installation Will You Use?
The golden rule for any kind of floor tiling project, interior or exterior, is ‘make sure the surface you’re tiling onto is level, not porous and free of dents and holes’. When installing exterior tiles this is perhaps doubly important as any uneven substrates can result in a poor finish, tiles lifting, and adhesives not adhering effectively. Most people will opt to create a solid concrete screed on which to install tiles, even going as far as using a levelling compound such as Norcros Pro 50 to absolutely make sure the surface is flat. Whilst this is perhaps the most reliable and durable exterior floor preparation and is suitable for all types of porcelain tiles – you can find out exactly how to install a concrete screed in our handy Outdoor Tile Installation Guide – a lot of people don’t want to wait the six weeks curing time required before installing their tiles atop of it.
There are some alternative options however – a new product called Rock-Tite™ Exterior Porcelain & Stone System from leading adhesives and grout manufacturer Norcros allows you to install outdoor slab tiles directly onto a crushed hardcore base without the need to create a concrete screed. This system saves a lot of time but can only be used with porcelain slab tiles or natural stone that is between 10-20mm thick, so would be of no use to those wanting to install say Quarry Tiles or frost-proof porcelain floor tiles such as those from our Hanoi range. Similarly, outdoor slab tiles can be installed without the need for a screed or indeed the use of any adhesive at all by using Adjustable Support Pedestals. These handy devices form what is known as a ‘suspended system’, meaning that no mechanical fixings are involved and the weight of the tiles or slabs hold everything in place. As with the Rock-Tite™ system though, Adjustable Support Pedestals can only be used with 10-20mm thick slab tiles or natural stone pavers. Read our Installing Tiles Using Adjustable Support Pedestals Guide for more information.
Are The Tiles You’ve Chosen Right For Your Design Scheme?
Indoor:Outdoor is a huge trend right now and many DIYers are now looking to extend an interior aesthetic to exterior areas to maintain visual continuity. Tile manufacturers are wise to this, which is why many large format interior tiles also come with an accompanying 20mm thick porcelain outdoor slab tile variant – the depth of choice of which is not restrictive, regardless of your design style. Concrete and natural stone effect in particular are very popular and prevalent within this trend – check out our Dunsen and Basilea ranges as both come with accompanying standard thickness indoor variants.
Patterned tiles are also enjoying quite the resurgence at present and you’ll be pleased to know that vintage-style feature floors are not limited to interiors as many patterned porcelain floor tiles have frost proof qualities that allow them to be deployed in exterior settings too, our mildly psychedelic Andalucia Hexagon and Moliere ranges being just two examples. Outdoor slab tiles are also increasingly getting in on the patterned action too with a slew of styles now available to compliment any design scheme – check out our Hardblue and Concretia ranges. It’s also worth remembering that longer, plank-like tiles can give smaller spaces illusion of expansiveness, so consider wood effect outdoor tiles or those with rectangular form-factors. Similarly, larger tiles with rectified edges will minimise the intrusiveness of grout joints – the bigger the tiles, the fewer you’ll use and the fewer grout joints you’ll have.
Hopefully that has given you food for thought when it comes to choosing outdoor tiles for your next exterior renovation project. If you’re still stuck for inspiration then head over to the Garden & Outdoor section of our Help Centre – it’s packed full of useful help and advice on choosing and installing exterior tiles.
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