Porcelain paving is a great option for homeowners who want to make their outdoor space more beautiful and functional. We are hearing from garden designers and landscapers all across the UK that porcelain tiles are now one of the most sought-after paving materials for gardens and it's not hard to see why. Below we give you the Ultimate Guide to Porcelain Paving - from its history to modern-day benefits along with answering all of your most asked questions regarding porcelain Tiles and how to lay them for patios.

The History of Porcelain Paving

Porcelain Tiles originate from China and can be found as far back as the 15th Century in the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing. Typically, porcelain tiles were found on walls rather than floors and this remained the case for a long time with terracotta and natural stone being the most favoured for flooring. With modern production methods, porcelain floor tiles are now more widely available for households and are fast becoming a very popular patio material for homeowners and garden designers alike.

The benefits of porcelain paving?

This section will explore the benefits of porcelain paving and why people are choosing this material over other paving options out there.

Porcelain Tiles are Durable

Due to the manufacturing process of porcelain tiles, they are extremely strong and hard-wearing. Making them an ideal choice for areas of high footfall in homes and gardens. They can withstand adverse weather - a plus for the wet and windy British climate. Due to their inherent strength, outdoor porcelain tiles will many decades - making them an effective and sustainable option.

Porcelain Paving is Low maintenance

Porcelain Tiles are inorganic and naturally resist the growth of algae, mould and bacteria due to their non-porous qualities that resist moisture build-up. As a result, any dirt on the tiles can be easily swept or wiped away. Porcelain tiles also do not need resealing - contributing to an easy-to-maintain paving choice!

Consistent colour & pattern

Porcelain is a great choice when consistency within each tile is sought. Natural stone can have different colours and patterning within and between each tile due to it being a naturally forming material that may have been quarried from different areas. The printing of porcelain tiles ensures a consistent pattern and colouring throughout for a seamless finish that's perfect for creating an inside-to-outside flow.

Porcelain Tiles are Stain & Fade Resistant

The vitrified surface of the porcelain ensures the colour does not fade in sunlight or over time. It also makes it much more stain resistant as spills cannot permeate the tile so any liquids or materials that get onto the tile can be easily wiped away, adding to the longevity of this particular paving.

Outdoor Porcelain Tiles are Slip-resistant & Frost-proof

Porcelain tiles are made from refined clay that is fired in a kiln, this is called vitrification and ensures a durable product that absorbs very little water. As a result, the tiles are rated at R11 - meaning they are ideal for British gardens and especially wet areas such as swimming pool surrounds. The higher the slip resistance, the less likely it will be for people to slip on wet surfaces. Frost-proof means that it will not crack or break when it freezes during winter time, making porcelain paving a good allrounder for outside areas - whatever the weather!

Porcelain Paving Colours and Finishes

While porcelain is largely considered to be a contemporary paving material, with a huge range of colours and finishes available it can also lend itself well to more traditional properties. Westminster Porcelain Forest Collection features Wood effect porcelain tiles that offer a more homely and natural feel, suited to both modern and traditional properties, it offers a low maintenance option that is more durable than natural wood decking and better suited to the wet British climate with an R11 slip rating. The Porcelain Forest Collections has 5 different colourways featuring the lightest wood effect porcelain tile - Gosford Lime, a white oak effect tile to the darkest wood effect tile- Delamere Maple, with warm honey beige tones.

For those who prefer the look of natural stone, Westminster has four Porcelain Collections featuring stone-effect porcelain that is consistent within and from tile to tile and can be bought in varying colours from deep charcoals and greys to rich beige, sand and buff tones to complement any garden design and colour scheme.

Porcelain Paving vs Natural Stone Paving?

Porcelain paving is made from vitrified clay. It can be manufactured in a range of colours and textures and has a smooth, hard surface that is impervious to water.

Natural stone on the other hand has been used for centuries for the construction of buildings and monuments. Natural stone consists of rock that has been quarried from the earth, processed and cut into blocks or slabs. Depending on the type of Natural Stone it will vary in permeability to water, slip resistance and durability.

Natural Stone can be more limiting in terms of colours, and finishes, It also may have more variation in colour and pattern from tile to tile compared to Porcelain Tiles which are more consistent.

Porcelain Paving Tiles FAQs

It wouldn't be 'The Ultimate Guide to Porcelain Paving' without the most searched-for questions answered by our team of in-house experts.

How is porcelain paving made?

Porcelain tiles are a ceramic material made from a mix of clays, very fine sand and minerals such as feldspar these are then mixed with water to produce a slurry and processed into fine particles, the majority of water is then removed and the mix is stored in silos. The mixture is then blended with the correct colours for the product and pressed into moulds, then dried. Once dried the porcelain tiles are ready to be printed and finally, baked at a high temperature in a kiln. This is called the Vitrification process that gives the tiles their inherent strength and durability.

How much is Porcelain paving?

The cost of Porcelain Paving can vary greatly depending on the quality. At Westminster Stone, porcelain paving ranges from £54-£84 per square metre and lasts for decades, with many reporting over 50 years meaning you won’t have to worry about replacing your outdoor paving for a very long time.

Does porcelain paving chip or crack?

Once the porcelain tiles have been laid, they are not likely to chip or crack, providing the tile is well handled while laying. The inherent strength through the manufacturing process ensures a very strong tile that can withstand large weight loads. However, as with all materials if something was heavy enough it may crack it.

Does porcelain paving get hot?

Porcelain paving can get hot in summer months, like all paving, the darker the colour the more heat it will absorb and therefore will feel hotter than light-coloured porcelain paving which has lower absorption and higher reflectance of light and heat. If you are paving an area in lots of direct sunlight it may be wise to opt for lighter-coloured porcelain.

How to prime porcelain paving and what products are best?

Priming helps to level out uneven surfaces and make tiles ready for installation. The low water absorption properties of the porcelain means it wont absorb anything from the bedding mortar, In order to ensure a strong bond to the bedding mortar a priming slurry such as Ultrascape Pro Prime Slurry Primer. Apply evenly with a wide brush to the underside of the porcelain tile just before placing onto the bedding mortar.

How to lay porcelain paving?

Before laying - check all tiles for cracks and chips, and put any damaged tiles to one side. These can be used as filler tiles. Roughly lay out the tiles as you would like to lay them, this will ensure you have enough tiles and can tackle any issues before starting.

Digging out - Use our paving laying guide to assess how far down to dig out for the necessary subbase and thickness of the tiles. 

Lay a sub-base - a general sub-base aggregate will ensure the stability of the patio. Spread evenly and use a vibrating plate compactor to compress.

Bedding mortar - Mix your bedding mortar using 4 parts sharp sand to 1 part cement to form a firm mortar. Apply the bedding mortar to the aggregate using a trowel or shovel and ripple the surface to aid adhesion, laying enough for one tile at a time.

Prime - use a priming slurry to coat the underside of the tiles before placing on the bedding mortar. 

Layng the Porcelain Tile - use a rubber mallet to gently tamp down the tile on the mortar. Adjust the tile accordingly to ensure it does not have any movement and is fully supported. Take care to immediately wipe of any priming slurry on the surface of the tile before it sets. Use joint spacers to ensure an even joint width.

Ashbourne Beige Porcelain
Ashbourne Beige Porcelain

How to point a porcelain patio?

Grouting joints is an important part of the installation process providing a waterproof seal and adding the finishing touch to the look of your patio.

Tools needed:

  • Squeegee
  • Exterior tile grout such as Ultrascape Flowpoint
  • Large bucket
  • Tile sponge
  • Paddle mixer
  • Brush
  • Garde hose
  • Tile spacers

Method

  1. Make sure the tiles and joints are clean and dry 
  2. Mix the grout - following the instructions on the packet to decipher how much water to use. Then carefully measure fresh clean water and pour it into a clean bucket with the powder. Mix with a paddle mixer, ensuring the mix is smooth and lump-free.
  3. Dampen the surface of the tile using a sponge, being careful not to wet the inside of the joint.
  4. Use a grout float to press the grout into the joints, ensuring it fully fills the joint. Spread excess grout, pushing further down the line of the joint to reduce residual grout on either side.

How to cut porcelain tiles?

Due to the strength of porcelain tiles, it is important to cut porcelain tiles using a strong wet diamond saw to prevent chipping while cutting.

Should you seal porcelain paving?

Porcelain paving does not need to be sealed, but a micro top coat sealer can be used to alter colour or add a sheen.

What gaps should I leave between porcelain paving slabs?

A minimum of 3mm gap should be left between each porcelain tile, use a spacer to ensure a consistent gap. Do not 'butt join' tiles as this can result in damage through contact pressure.

How to clean porcelain paving

Porcelain Tiles are a low-maintenance paving option as they do not need to be sealed. The tiles are also non-porous so they do not absorb stains. Follow these quick and easy steps to get your porcelain paving looking its best:

  1. Remove furniture from the area
  2. Sweep off any dirt and debris 
  3. Use dish soap and water with a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the surface of the porcelain tile
  4. Wash off any residual soap with a hose or buckets of clean water.

Buy Porcelain Paving