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The Great Outdoors - Tile for Outdoors Applications

13 min read

The Great Outdoors - Tile for Outdoors Applications - Architessa

Outdoor tile is not a new concept, but you might consider it relatively new in terms of product and finish choices. Gone are the days when the outdoor living aisle, otherwise known as the “seasonal area”, in your local retailer only had a few (generic) outdoor seating options and decorative accessory items to choose from, some of which had long lead times to order. Today, you can find outdoor furniture and accessories at almost every large cash-and-carry retailer, including home stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods. In similar fashion, most tile stores carry a healthy amount of outdoor tile pavers, tile and stone cladding, as well as special sundries and accessories specific to outdoor tile use.

Architessa has recently expanded our outdoor living collections, launching a dedicated section on the website for Landscape Architecture, where you can explore all the below collections & more.


Popular Landscape Architecture Collections by Architessa
2CM Pavers Covered Patio Tile Pebble Tile
Stone Cladding Tile Porcelain Cladding Discover Surface Shop

 Outdoor tile is one of the most important decisions to make in the grand scheme of outdoor living design, as it establishes the permanent design aesthetics for the entire project. Today’s variety in size, pattern, and color of porcelain pavers provides a wealth of choices for any style in a landscape architecture project.

Considerations related to product performance are a top priority when buying outdoor tile (or specifying it), just as it is for putting tile indoors in wet applications or high traffic areas. Outdoor tile viability depends solely on the manufacturer deeming it safe for outdoor use, and they do differentiate vertical from horizontal surfaces. Distributors then translate this information to market it and ensure the outdoor tile you select is acceptable for your project. Typical and unique outdoor tile installations include:


  Typical Outdoor Tile Projects:

  • Patios, porches and verandas
  • Footpath and entryways
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Fireplaces and firepits
  • Pools

  Unique Outdoor Tile Projects

  • Outdoor spa or shower
  • Dog shower/grooming Area
  • Garden art, seating, or potting station
  • Garden or landscape pony walls
  • Decorative stair risers

Image Source: Architessa Shattered Mirror Mosaic



PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF OUTDOOR TILE


There was once a time when Clinker tile, brick pavers, and flagstone consumed nearly the entire outdoor paving market. This is due to their performance benefits and ability to weather the terrain. Thankfully, we can branch out of these older style pavers, although I will always hold a special place in my heart for orangey-red Clinker tile entryways and their wrap-around porches.  


Key Benefits of Outdoor Tile

Durability - Outdoor tiled spaces are open to the elements, and suitable products can withstand weather and debris. Porcelain pavers are twice as thick as standard porcelain tiles. Natural stone is another great option that can stand the test of time and will patina with age. Just think of any famous public building and all the stone that comprises its exterior walls, floors, and steps.

Mold & Mildew Resistant- this is a benefit exclusive to porcelain pavers & cladding due to their composition & performance benefits.

Frost Proof and Freeze/Thaw Resistant - If you live in a region where the temperature can drop below freezing, it's definitely something that should factor into your outdoor tile selection. For the most part, freeze ratings depend on porosity or the level of absorption a tile has. More holes means water gets absorbed and can freeze causing cracks. If you are tiling in a warm climate, you may be able to branch out to tile options like cement or terracotta, but you should still keep up with routine maintenance for these more fragile tiles. Learn more about tile porosity and different ceramic classifications in this  Architessa blog.

Stain Proof -This feature is reserved for porcelain pavers, and is not to be discounted, especially during seasonal changes when trees shed their leaves and beloved pecans rain down their beautiful fruits to leave stains long after the last piece of pie is consumed.  

Paver Patio

 

Slip Resistant  - When you are out on your pool deck enjoying the sun on your toes, you shouldn't have to worry about slipping. The slip resistance of outdoor tiles is one of the top things you should consider when going through outside tile options.Selecting a tile with rough surface texture is the most obvious way to add some grip to your outdoor tiles. Rougher surfaces mean more friction when walking. It’s important to note that there is no such product classified as slip-proof tile, so look for slip-resistance.  

Manufacturers formulate porcelain pavers specifically for use outdoors, so their slip resistance is superior to their indoor counterparts. This is helpful in projects that desire the same product inside that leads outside, so the proper finish can be installed.

For a more technical definition, most tiles have a Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCoF) rating that explains how slippery the surface can be. Ideally, outdoor tiles should be rated with a DCoF of >0.42 for areas that get moderate use. Wet areas such as poolside retreats often have a DCoF of >0.60, but there is no set requirement. Learn more about DCoF and slip resistance in  Tile 101 in the  Architessa Tile Learning Center.  

Atlas Granite

 

Water and Submerged Areas - Wet areas such as pools and fountains need extra consideration to ensure that they do not experience erosion or cracking. Much like a waterfall in nature, running water can wear down porous materials like stone. Aim to use completely non-absorbent tiles like glass or porcelain. If you must use stone or concrete, prepare for more maintenance. Tile sealers and regular cleaning can help keep submerged tiles looking their best.

Areas around pools can also get wet, so select outdoor tile that has a good slip resistance. Usually you want wet areas to have even better non-slip properties than a typical walkway or porch.

Frontier20 Barge Gold


Lesser Known Benefits of Outdoor Tile

UV Proof- Porcelain pavers are UV proof.  This means you can start planning what you want to do with all that extra time you don’t have to spend staining your wood deck or rearranging your furniture to prevent awkward sun fading. 

Moveable - This is a really neat benefit of porcelain pavers, where you can install them with a pedestal system to create a temporary space. This is often done in Europe when cafe seating needs to expand during high traffic seasons and temperate weather. The temporary space is taken down in the winter, so the restaurant doesn’t look empty. This benefit is great for special events, and in cases when inspections need to occur, on conduits and other mechanical things that lay beneath.

No Paint Decisions -You can’t change the color of the sky, which means one less decision to consider. Of course the color of your house and exterior finishes plays a role, but these typically neutral finishes provide a toned down backdrop, helping make coordinating finishes easier.  After all - nature is already full of color.

Indoor to Outdoor Flow - Many 2cm pavers are also manufactured with a matching interior porcelain tile, creating a seamless flow from interior to exterior areas. When a transitional tile match is not available, the large assortment of porcelain pavers available still facilitate a stylistic continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Marker Antique Cream 2cm Porcelain Pavers by Architessa.  Also available in regular thickness


OUTDOOR TILE 101


Only the manufacturer or distributor can deem a tile safe or appropriate for outdoor use. Here are some popular product categories and some helpful information.


Typical Material Types of Outdoor Tile

Porcelain - material classified as porcelain which has a slip resistance that is appropriate for outdoor use can be used outside, as specified by the manufacturer. Standard porcelains are 6-10mm thick, and most recently are seen cladding buildings sitting in clip systems or in covered patios.  Porcelain Pavers or 2CM Porcelain Pavers are twice as thick (typically 20mm or 2cm) and are specifically formulated for outdoor floor use. They have superior performance & durability, and are only available in tones and colors acceptable for outdoor use. This helps keep your bare feet happy & healthy.  If you want to put a regular porcelain tile outside, and it’s not technically approved for that use, installer and material warranties go out the door, even if the tile is technically sound enough for that application. The plethora of colors, textures, finishes, and sizes that are available in porcelain pavers allow for any design aesthetic.

Frontier20 Marble Look Collection, 12x48 size


Natural Stone - the same notion applies to natural stone, in that outdoor use is specified by the supplier. The reason being is that some stones don’t behave when they get wet. They may have a high rust content that moisture aggravates, or they may simply just curl up - as shown in this  case study. 2cm stone pavers are available in a  small selection of marbles and limestones, and make beautiful spaces that will never age in design. Reach out to an Architessa sales rep if you are interested in seeing more selection of natural stone pavers, as our website does not show the majority of our stone pavers.

Lauren Liess Veranda

10x10 Lauren Liess Veranda Collection by Architessa.  Available in white and black



Porcelain Cladding - this product category has come a long way in the past 10 years. Porcelain cladding is no longer blurry images of computer generated stones in oddly shaped puzzle pieces. Today they adorn pictures of actual stone and have organic texture, along with an installation providing ease, especially when special corner and trim pieces are offered. No sealing is required, giving an extra benefit to porcelain-clad walls. Porcelain cladding does not fade in color, and is nearly waterproof, allowing it to be installed inside and outside, in both residential and commercial applications.  

Quarry Ledgestone Cladding


Natural Stone Cladding - if you want the most options in tile cladding, natural stone is your product category of choice. Nothing beats mother nature when it comes to organic design. Natural stone cladding is the obvious choice for exterior applications, and also bringing the outdoors inside, where texture is the main feature of the design. Stone can be cut and shaped for many applications, and many corner and specialty pieces are available to help with installation and smooth transitions. One big advantage natural stone cladding has over porcelain cladding is the broad range of options in color, texture, and finishes. This means it can easily slide into any design aesthetic, whether modern, traditional, and anything in between.

Cladded Residential Entrance


Pool Tile - pool tile is a much trickier material. It’s almost never clear what tiles are deemed acceptable for pool use. Spoil alert - it’s not as many as you think. Cast glass or poured glass are the most widely used types of glass used in pools, as they can be used in a freeze-thaw climate. Paper-faced mosaics are preferred as they provide the most thin-set coverage. Recycled glass, stained glass, and other types of glass may be used in pools, but always check with the manufacturer on this.  


Porcelain Slabs - this material is a perfect match for an outdoor kitchen countertop, or any vertical surface that is design-forward. If you're looking for an outdoor kitchen countertop that matches your regular kitchen countertop, won’t fade over time, and is low maintenance - porcelain is your best bet. Porcelain slabs also make great pool house bathroom showers, and dog spas, which are becoming more popular for pampered pooches.  You can get real creative, and design a fabulous garden potting station, or an outdoor shower with a privacy slab wall to make any neighbor jealous.  

 

Blue Porcelain Slab Backsplash Poorselin

 

 

Grey Porcelain Slab Porcelin

Elevated Slate Grey Porcelain Slab by Architessa. Contact us for information.

 


GEOGRAPHY, CLIMATE, & TILE 

Location, location, location is not only a real estate mantra, it’s also a tile material consideration. Certain material types like glazed ceramic, terracotta, and cement tile are not appropriate for exterior use in freeze-thaw environments (meaning areas where winter temperatures drop below freezing). Fortunately, decorative porcelains are now plentiful as trend-savvy customers have demanded their presence. Ceramic in general can have a wide percentage of water absorption depending on the glaze, and manufacturing consideration, so some with low water absorption may be specified ok for outdoor use. See the Ceramic Family section on Ceramic Classification Related to Porosity & Density, pictured below.  See the fullCeramic Family Tree in this blog.


Ceramic Family Tree - Part A: Ceramic Classification Related to Porosity & Density

Difference between Ceramic and Porcelain

2CM PORCELAIN PAVERS

2CM porcelain pavers are designed specifically for outdoor areas. They are waterproof, resistant to stains, salt, frost and temperature changes. Porcelain pavers are also mold- and chemical-resistant and have a high tensile strength. Porcelain pavers are impervious to the effects of weathering, and will never fade, staying the same throughout the test of time. Porcelain pavers offer all the aesthetic benefits of interior porcelain flooring whilst being highly anti-slip and easy to install, clean and enjoy.

Unlike traditional paving products (Concrete and natural stone) porcelain pavers do not require sealing & are easier to clean.


No other porcelain tile product on the market is as versatile as 2cm porcelain pavers. Dry lay over grass, gravel and sand.  Mortar based installations are installed over concrete, on patios, pools, sidewalks, and public spaces.  Last, but not least, are installations on wood decks or porches, or on raised pedestal systems. See below, all of the different ways in which porcelain pavers can be installed. 


Dry lay applications are ideal for:

- Private Gardens - Outdoor Commercial Areas
- Patios  - Public Parks & Gardens
- Walkways - Beach Resorts

 

 
Pavers on Grass Pavers on Gravel
Dry Lay Porcelain Pavers on Grass Dry Lay Porcelain Pavers over Gravel 


Porcelain Pavers over Sand (joints are open or filled with gravel)



Reinforced Concrete Applications are Ideal for:

- Patios, Pools, and Decks - Ramps & Parking Areas
- Porches - Garages & Driveways
- Terraces - Cycle Tracks

 

Porcelain Pavers on Driveway Porcelain Paver Pool Deck
Porcelain Pavers on a Concrete Driveway Porcelain Pavers on Pool Deck


Existing Wood Deck + Grate System Applications are Ideal for:

- Deck Patios - Outdoor elevated walkways
- Deck Gazebos - Private Gardens

 

Pavers on Stairs


Frontier20 Porcelain Pavers & Porcelain Stair Treads



Raised Floor or Pedestal Systems Applications are Ideal for:

- Patios - Facility Areas of Commercial Venues
- Gazebos - Temporary Commercial Spaces
- Rooftop Decks or Pools - Areas in need of Heavy Drainage

 

Note: There are many different pedestal products on the market. Architessa carries Dynamex Rise-It 

Pedestal System Example showing  Atlas Granitestone 2cm Porcelain Pavers by Architessa


LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE DESIGN TRENDS

Health and Wellness has been one of the largest influencers of design this century. Outdoor spaces now have been given purpose, from public gardens designed to heal patients to your backyard living room. Nature & organic design has long crossed the threshold to indoors, so it’s only natural to extend your living outwards. Three popular outdoor living trends are floors that match & transition from inside to outside, tile cladding, and modern aesthetics.  

Inside to Outside -Many porcelain paver products have matching standard thickness products to offerhigh-level design flexibility and customization, allowing designers and architects to easily transition inside design into outdoor beauty, functionality and performance.  Bring your inside living outdoors with these tile selections that provide a seamless transition from inside to out, found on  Architessa’s Landscape Architecture Page.  Architessa offers over 20 collections that provide a seamless design transition from Inside to Outside.

   A Small Selection of Architessa Inside to Outside Collections. See them all here


Tile Cladding- Commercial and residential buildings clad with porcelain or stone cladding has increased in popularity with the prairie modern style becoming more popular in regions around the United States. The most interesting trend in cladding is actually the inside-to-outside design. Take for example this inspiration gallery post, which shows off the transitional design flowing from indoors to outdoors seamlessly.

 

Modern Aesthetics - With more Design choices & improved technology & logistics, a large selection is now widely available in modern and contemporary furnishings, fixtures, and accessories. Both residential and commercial design have neutral and interesting patterns, as well as large format sizes.  


Frontier20 Terrazzo
 2cm Paver Floor &  Elite Terrazzo Design Wall from Architessa

 

Cobblestones, Shrunken Pavers & Old World Appeal - It’s no surprise that this timeworn material revival is trending. Mesh-back pebble tile can easily create this aesthetic but there are varying degrees of quality, so make sure you purchase or specify a reputable material. If you choose a low-cost option, these are lower quality and will show the outline of the sheet when installed. Your installer may be able to hand set each individual piece in this case, which will off-set the cost, and could make the less expensive material even more costly in the end.  

Other material that fits the cobblestone trend is shrunken down sized 2cm porcelain pavers which mimic cobblestones. These are typically available in 9x9, 9x18, and 8x12 sizes.  

Top:  Random Pebble Astoria, Left:  8”x12” Trace Paver, Right:  9x18 Frontier20 Bluestone Paver


COMMERCIAL PROJECTS

Commercial projects use stone, porcelain and glass in outdoor design in both the public and private sector. The most innovation spaces can be seen in commercial projects, as these are always the leaders in trends & design innovation.  

Typical commercial projects include:

  • Swimming Pool, Cabanas & Grottos 
  • Outdoor Restaurants & Bars
  • Urban Design & Public Spaces
  • Public Parks, Pocket Parks, and Outdoor Pavement
  • Amenity Spaces / Inside to Outside
  • Exterior Cladding
  • Safety Passages
  • Stages

 

Frontier20 Silver Cross-cut Travertine

INSTALLATION

There are a handful of helpful things to know before embarking on an outdoor tile project. Large projects may require landscape architecture specialists, and/or design/build firms to complete. Projects that don’t require landscaping are traditionally done by tile setters or stonemasons. You can ask your material supplier for a recommendation, as they have relationships established already.  Qualified installers can also be found through the  CTEF Website, and the  TCNA has some great resources and tips as well.   

Thankfully, porcelain pavers & many other exterior projects typically have their own installation manuals to reference, in addition to following the TCNA standards. You can also find videos from reputable manufacturers that are helpful. It’s important to know you must hire a qualified installer, as they will produce the most successful project to enjoy for a lifetime, or at least until you decide to change it. 


Who Installs tile oustide?

  • Tile Setter
  • Stonemason
  • DIY

Installation Resources 

TCNA Standards -TheTile Council of North America (TCNA) has revised  ANSI A137.3 American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs2022 publication. This standard is available now from TCNA and includes new specifications for 2cm  gauged porcelain tile pavers.  

Landmark Videos - Landmark has a handful of installation specific videos where you can learn how to install porcelain pavers in different ways. View them on the  Landmark Youtube channel.

Individual Collection Brochures - You can find our Pavers Installation Brochure, along with all our other specialty installation brochures on our  Architessa Installation Brochure page, or access it directly  here.  


GALLERY OF INSPIRATION

Last, but certainly not least, you can find inspiration all around, but Architessa can make it easier for you. Our team has put together Landscape Architecture and Outdoor Living Pinterest boards to share what inspires us. 

 

Also don’t forget to check out our  Gallery of Landscape Architecture Inspiration below on www.architessa.com!


 Landscape Architecture Page


Thanks for reading our blog. Join our Newsletter  here to be the first to read our blogs, and discover new products & content on the  Tile Learning Center.  


An Architessa Representative can advise if your tile selections are rated for outdoor use.  Check directly on Architessa.com or contact us at sales@architessa.com

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Julie Taury
Julie Taury has thrived in the tile industry for two decades and held various positions ranging from retail sales to product development. Her unique background in distribution, manufacturing, strategic sales, and the A&D industry has built an unparalleled skill set to navigate the unpredictable surprises of the tile industry. Currently, she is the Chief Innovation Officer at Architessa, and is a remote trailblazer  residing in Auckland, New Zealand.