By a mile, porcelain tiles have become the most desirable outdoor paving choice this year says Martin Neenan, General Manager, at Boningale Garden Creations. Here, he discusses what you need to know about this emerging trend.

Porcelain tiles are increasingly being specified over alternative natural stones because of their inherent versatility and contemporary finish. Increased supply and advancements in the manufacture of porcelain tiles have also fuelled this demand, however, as with all flooring options there are pros and cons to their use as we identify here.

The Benefits

For outdoor spaces, porcelain has grown in popularity because manufacturers are now able to produce the tiles in a greater thickness for use as structural paving slabs (the industry standard set is 20mm thick). This is enabling customers to take advantage of the benefits of porcelain – a type of ceramic that is stronger, harder and more water resistant than most durable materials.

  • Durability: Porcelain is one of the toughest flooring options available and can therefore withstand heavy loads that might over time cause cracking or breakage on other less strong surfaces.
  • Water: The density of porcelain makes it more resistant to water penetration as compared to other more porous types of ceramic – this makes porcelain less likely to go green due to algae/moss. Manufacturers claim this makes them frost resistant too, as well as slip resistant.
  • Low Maintenance: The natural stain and water resistance of porcelain means tiles require little maintenance – just a soapy wash down once or twice a year.
  • Long-life: If installed and maintained correctly, porcelain tiles can last for many years, even decades.
  • Aesthetics: Porcelain tiles are available in a wide choice of attractive and sleek modern finishes; they can be smooth or textured, and can even replicate natural stone or a wood finish. Being suitable for indoor and outdoor spaces, they also make a seamless transition from one area to another.

The Downsides

  • Weight: Like most hard tile flooring solutions, porcelain is very heavy which can make the installation process difficult and labour-intensive.
  • Limited Sizes: Porcelain tiles generally only come in one or two sizes, which adds to the weight and labour cost.
  • Installation: As above, installing porcelain is time-consuming because it is heavy and hard to cut – its limited sizing and weight also make it difficult to shape and achieve curves.
  • Finishes: While the tiles themselves benefit from inherent stain and water resistant properties, the gaps between the tiles don’t and therefore require grouting – cement based or two-part resin is recommended. An additional bonding agent is also needed to adhere to the mortar – due to the tile’s low moisture absorption. All factors that add to the overall material and labour installation cost – and if the tiles are not finished professionally the prime long-term benefits of choosing porcelain could be negated.
  • Price: As compared to other paving materials, porcelain can be very expensive – upwards of £50 per square metre.  Customers also need to factor in the increased cost of installation as explained here.

Porcelain tiles are of the moment; aside from their material benefits, they are beautiful and give a luxurious and contemporary feel to any size of garden. To offset the initial costs you need to consider porcelain as a long-term investment; so our advice would be to consider your budget, seek expert advice and make sure you get the tiles professionally installed.