If you’ve been on the hunt for new paving recently you have probably come across one or two products made from porcelain. This versatile material is taking over most areas of our home, but you might be wondering why it’s become so popular externally. Porcelain has a range of benefits when used outdoors but as it’s a relatively new product we have answered some of the most important questions about porcelain paving if you have any others please feel free to comment below or get in touch.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are made in basically the same way. Clay is turned into a fine powder which is then shaped, pressed and fired in a kiln, however, porcelain is pressed and fired at higher temperatures to remove almost all the moisture from the material. This process is called vitrification; it gives the tiles very low porosity so they do not absorb water (and therefore stains) and also makes the porcelain extremely strong. Bear in mind that if the surface has been polished it does open up the ‘pores’ of the tile which can leave it susceptible to staining, in this case, the tile will need to be sealed. Polished porcelain is not recommended for outdoor use as it can become slippery. Many porcelain tiles are also rectified which means that the edges are ground down to make them straight and even in size, this allows you to install them with narrow grout joints for a modern, almost seamless look.
There are three main types of porcelain tile;
It can often be difficult to tell the difference between a glazed and unglazed tile but your supplier should be able to tell you which type of tile it is. Most porcelain paving tends to be unglazed. To create designs such as wood effect they first take photographs of real wood to give the tiles a realistic look, then digitally print the design onto the surface of the tile before it is fired. The printed design actually melts into the body of the tile so that when it is fired it becomes one piece. The texture, for example, wood grain or riven effect, is created during pressing and additional material is sometimes added to the surface for added grip – great for external use in the UK.
One of the best things about porcelain paving is the range of styles available. Being a man-made product the tiles can be produced in almost any size, and the latest printing technologies mean an almost endless list of designs are available. The main body of the tile is generally a single colour, with the design added to the top only. Pigments are added to the clay so that the body of the tile closely matches the colour of the design so, in the unlikely event that your paving does get worn or chipped, it will not be noticeable. Not all porcelain paving has a matching body and surface colour so it is important to check a sample before you buy your tiles, particularly if you are cutting or having exposed edges.
The surface can resemble almost any other paving material – our most popular products have wood, cement and stone effect finishes, but there are many other styles available and we are always on the lookout for new and exciting designs. Each range will have a different number of faces; this is the amount of different designs available so if it has 10 faces there will be 10 different patterned tiles, normally packed randomly into boxes.
Traditional paving materials like natural stone or concrete slabs are still a great choice for some projects, but if you are looking for something that looks great and is also low maintenance then porcelain is for you. Because it is non-porous porcelain has an extremely low absorption rate which makes it resistant to staining, frost proof and helps stop moss and mould growth. Most marks can be removed from the surface easily with a mop or pressure washer, and there’s no need to apply specialist sealing products every year.
Here are just some of the benefits of porcelain paving:
Porcelain paving can be used on patios, terraces, balconies, driveways, pathways, steps and around swimming pools. Make sure you are using the right fixing method to ensure the installation is safe and will last for many years.
For many people the need for a new patio has come from the installation of an extension to their home, which often includes open plan living spaces and large bi-fold or sliding doors. We stock a range of matching internal porcelain tiles and paving which can be used to create flow between these spaces and make them feel like one big space. Find out more about creating indoor outdoor flow in our blog post.
While any thickness porcelain tile does possess many of these benefits, we only recommend tiles of 18mm and above be used externally. Paving is under more stress than standard tiles due to heavy garden furniture and changing weather conditions, so a thicker tile is needed for outdoor use.
Most porcelain paving has a high anti-slip rating, making it suitable for not only general external use but also in wet areas such as surrounding swimming pools. The tiles are strong so it is unlikely they will crack or chip, and unlike wood, there are no loose boards or splinters. Find out more about slip resistance ratings here.
Price varies depending on size, design and manufacturer. Our ranges start from around £32.95 per m2 so it is definitely an affordable option. Installation costs vary depending on the method, so make sure you speak to your installer before purchasing your paving.
Since most porcelain paving is installed by paving contractors and landscapers it is often treated in exactly the same way as other paving materials. Unfortunately, as the tiles are non-porous they do not bond correctly to a sand and cement bed like natural stone or cement paving does. This means that either something needs to be added to the mix or a primer has to be painted onto the underneath of the tile, adding to the cost and time of the installation. The primer can also be very messy and must be removed from the surface of the paving slab immediately otherwise it becomes almost impossible to get off.
We recommend one of the below three methods for installing porcelain paving:
Ready to start choosing your new porcelain paving? We have been passionate about porcelain paving for the last five years so we have an excellent range for you to choose from. Order up to 4 free 10x10cm cut samples online, or order a full-size sample of any tile and we will deliver it for free. See our full range of porcelain paving online here.5
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