Outdoor and patio tiling options

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08 Mar 2013

A well appointed outdoor area is a must-have in any South African home and tiles offer the ideal flooring for these areas.

The ideal patio tile should be non-porous, slip- and stain-resistant to ensure that it keeps looking as good as the day you bought it.

Tiles are incredibly popular as a floor finish the world over, and it is easy to understand why.

Saville Jacobson from Bathroom Bizarre says that tiles are functional, easy to maintain, durable, and they are flexible with regards to design applications. They are available in various colours, textures, styles and designs, as well as a wide range of prices, ensuring that there is something to suit any style preference and budget.

The indoor-outdoor trend

Jacobson says that tiles are suitable for indoor and outdoor applications, making them the ideal flooring choice for a patio as they can run seamlessly from the indoors out. “The indoor-outdoor trend has never been more popular," he says. Carrying the same tiles throughout the interior and exterior living spaces offers a way of seamlessly integrating the areas and making the spaces seem larger than they are.

What kinds of tiles to choose

Since there is such a wide variety of tiles to choose from, it is often difficult to make a decision. Jacobson advises homeowners that it is essential to take design cues from the architectural style of your home as it will affect your choice. Keep the interiors of your home in mind and if you aren't using the same tiles as you used indoors for your outdoor patio, then choose a tile that complements the indoor flooring and décor of your home.

Jacobson advises homeowners that it is essential to take design cues from the architectural style of your home as it will affect your choice when buying tiles.

When it comes to colour selection, Jacobson says neutral tones are best, especially for outdoor areas. Neutral colours don’t tend to show dirt too much, they blend with any style of décor and landscaping, and since they are not dark, they don’t absorb too much heat when exposed to the sun.

He says you also need to consider shape and texture and the size of tile you choose should be in proportion to the size of the area being covered. Another trend is to include small decorative motifs every so often throughout the flooring, such as mosaic detailing, as this adds colour and interest to the overall composition.

Jacobson says texture is an essential consideration for outdoor areas, because these areas need to be slip-resistant when wet due to exposure to water from rain, garden irrigation or the pool. For reasons of safety, he suggests tiles with a rough texture to provide added grip underfoot.

Some practical considerations

The ideal patio tile should be non-porous, slip- and stain-resistant to ensure that it keeps looking as good as the day you bought it. However, Jacobson notes that tiles for outdoor areas also need to be able to withstand exposure to the elements, such as extreme temperature fluctuations.  He says outdoor tiles need to be able to endure repeated freezing and thawing, which requires dense tiles with low absorption rates. To endure this, the tiles need to be securely bonded to the concrete slab below so that they don’t crack and separate.

For large outdoor areas, he says expansion joints are a must. Since the tiles will be exposed to the elements, it will affect the tiles and make them expand or contract. Jacobson says not including the correct expansion joints in your tile layout, could lead to tile failures, such as cracking.

He advises that when choosing a tile, you need to ask the supplier whether the tile of choice is fade-resistant if exposed to the sun, and if it will be able to combat food, beverage and oil spills – especially if it will be used to tile around the braai area. Bear in mind that some tiles need to be sealed if they are to be used for outdoor applications.

Grouting for outdoor areas

Jacobson says that for outdoor areas, it is best to choose a dark grout, as it won’t show dirt as much as lighter grouts will. He also advises using an epoxy grout for outdoor applications as it is made up of resin and hardener. It is good for outdoor applications because it is resistant to most chemicals, water and stains. Alternatively, seal your outdoor grouting with a good sealant, as this will act as a protective shield against any spills and water. However, remember the grouting can stain porous tiles, so be sure to seal your tiles before you grout, if they don’t come pre-sealed.

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