19 Mar 2020

Choose carefully for porcelain patio perfection

Aesthetically pleasing, hard-wearing and stylish – porcelain has long been a preferred material for tiles in the home. However, technological advances mean that modern incarnations of the product are now also ideal for patios and gardens, explains Mark MacIntosh-Watson, Engineering and Technical Development Manager at Brett Landscaping.

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Porcelain tiles are made by selecting suitable raw materials, such as fine clays, grinding these materials to make them incredibly fine, and finally fire at extremely high controlled temperatures. These different steps, plus many others, ensure we produce a porcelain material with very low porosity.

Having a very low porosity will enhance both the frost resistance and stain resistance, providing longevity to the installation. The tiles should have been tested for water absorbency, which is something to check when buying porcelain.

Porcelain tiles have gained popularity among homeowners as they are almost waterproof and benefit from low water absorption achieved during manufacturing. They are less likely to stain and retain moisture, so they are ideal for both indoor and outdoor use.

Porcelain more than 60mm-thick can also be used on driveways.

The advantage of the lack of water absorbency also helps with stain resistance which means that porcelain tiles are easier to clean and maintain.

Brett would advise customers to ask to see technical datasheets. All credible manufacturers will be able to provide one for suppliers and their customers.

The key details to look out for are:

‘Compliant with standard BS EN 14411:2016, Section 4 “Classification of ceramic tiles” and as defined in Table 1 – Ceramic tiles with low water absorption, in both Groups AIa (Eb less than 0.5%) and BIa (Eb less than 0.5%)’

Also ask for the country of origin (usually found on the back of the product itself). While this isn’t fool-proof, the risk is reduced significantly with manufacturers from Europe.

While you will pay more for porcelain tiles than ceramic, they are extremely durable, which makes them ideal for walkways, patios and gardens plus they are easier to clean. This will, in turn, save you time and money in replacement cost.

As with so many paving products, the edges of the units can be brittle. Ensuring safe handling by a competent installer (see, for example, Brett’s Approved Installers) and the inherent strength of the porcelain will help prevent any issues.

Once installed properly, they can last for many years. In high-traffic homes, porcelain tiles are the perfect option as they tend to retain their new appearance.

It’s vitally important, however, to ensure that your product is real porcelain – as not everything in the UK market being described as such is actually porcelain.

While there are a number of excellent manufacturers and suppliers of porcelain products, you should take steps to make sure you invest in the genuine version of this material.

If the price is too good to be true, then it isn’t porcelain – or it’s a product that will give you a problem upon installation due to a fundamental technical issue, which more than likely won’t be apparent by simply looking at it.

If you do your homework before sourcing the paving, you should be able to enjoy a beautiful, easy-to-maintain patio for many years to come.

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