When you’re looking at exterior flooring for outdoor areas, you’ve got several choices. If you don’t want to go down the elevated wooden decking route, then your main choice is between porcelain tiles and paving slabs.
When it comes to outdoor porcelain tiles vs paving slabs, what are the pros and cons of each?
Stone Paving Slabs
Stone paving slabs are made from natural materials and give an instant feel of authenticity to an outdoor space.
The main types of stone these paving slabs are made from are:
As well as using natural stone sourced from quarries, you can also get manufactured stone paving slabs made from concrete.
However, while concrete flagstones are hard-wearing, versatile and widely available, they’re limited in their aesthetic appeal. Unless you want your patio to look like street paving.
Outdoor Porcelain Tiles
Outdoor porcelain tiles replicate the look of natural stone but are manufactured from a ceramic material. This is a mixture of sand, clay and other minerals, baked at a high temperature in a kiln.
If you immediately associate porcelain with decorative figurines and craft pieces, think again.Outdoor porcelain tiles are made to be hard-wearing and long-lasting.
Natural stone offers different variations in colour, shade and tone. No two slabs are alike. Stone is formed in layers, and these may not be the same colour. Top layers are exposed to the elements and therefore experience weathering, which affects how they look. How the stone is prepared will affect how it ultimately appears as a paving slab, whether with its seam faces or split faces exposed. Then, of course, different types of natural stone will have different colours, some bolder and more intense than others.
Paving slabs have natural variations in style, but the styles of outdoor porcelain tiles are manmade. On the one hand, this means they lack the natural spontaneity of stone paving. But on the other, it gives you far more control over the final design and overall look of your outdoor flooring. Porcelain tiles come in natural outdoor shades, such as sandstone or slate, but you can also get dynamic patterns and combinations which would be hard to find in natural stone. Advances in inkjet technology have meant that porcelain paving comes in more options and can achieve an amazingly vivid similarity to natural materials.
The New Outdoor Rug
An outdoor tile rug takes full advantage of the technological advancements that allow for a range of innovative patterns and designs to be printed on porcelain tiles. The aim is to transform your outdoor space, by adding visual interest and to draw attention, the same way you would use an indoor rug.
This popular design choice can be adapted to suit any outdoor space, big or small. As the design is printed onto porcelain tiles, the tiles are durable and impervious to the weather, unlike a material rug!
A top tip when creating your own outdoor rug, is to select tiles that match in colour scheme. For example, our Nordic Décor tile was created to match with the Nordic tile, to help you achieve a seamless look.
Outdoor tile rugs are a fun way to get creative and make something completely unique to you.
Here’s where there’s a noticeable difference between porcelain tiles and stone paving slabs. Natural stone is extremely hard-wearing but it’s porous. The porosity of a material is the ratio of how many tiny open spaces, or pores, it has to its overall solid volume. Sandstone, granite and limescale all absorb water.
Consequently, despite being hard and heavy, natural stone paving slabs are also quite vulnerable to staining from water. Given that one of the chief benefits of choosing natural stone is its aesthetic quality, this can cause problems.
For example, granite can last a lifetime, but if you want it to keep on looking good, you must keep sealing it regularly. This is particularly true of granite tiles that are outside and exposed to water for prolonged periods.
Porcelain tiles are non-porous. You don't need to apply a sealant to them, even in exposed outdoor areas. They are already resistant to stains and mildew.
If you spill oil or liquids on stone tiles, you risk staining them. This isn’t the case with outdoor porcelain tiles.
But how tough are they apart from this? The manufacturing process and chemical makeup of porcelain tiles contribute to their hardwearing properties. They're also scratch-resistant.
Another feature you can create with porcelain tiles, that you can't easily do with stone, is having a seamless transition between your indoor and outdoor areas. You do this by matching your indoor tiles with your outdoor tiles.
This is great for when you want a patio extending from an interior room with French doors. Throw them open in the summer and extend your entire room space outdoors, across the same-looking tiled surface outside as well as in.
Stone surfaces require regular re-sealing to protect them from water and keep them looking clean. Sealant wears and weathers over time. This can leave the natural stone unprotected, if you don't keep on top of it.
You don’t need to seal porcelain tiles when you fit them outdoors, and because they’re moisture-resistant, they’re easy to keep clean. Just wipe them over with warm, soapy water, then rinse them.
You can also use a pressure washer on outdoor porcelain tiles without worrying about it damaging them.
Porcelain tiles are not the cheapest option for outdoor surfaces. You may well end up paying more for them than you would any other paving material. However, this cost is all upfront. Once you’ve installed your porcelain tiles, regular upkeep is straightforward and not at all costly.
You won't need to keep re-sealing them or to apply expensive treatments to keep them clean or remove stains.
Outdoor Porcelain Tiles or Paving Slabs?
This is a question of taste mainly. If you've got your heart set on a totally natural stone finish to your outdoor space, then you may be better off with paving slabs.
But you’ll need to clean and maintain them regularly and diligently if you want them to always look their best.
Porcelain tiles offer a practical and durable alternative. And you can still get that natural stone look with them.