This year has seen many changes in how we live and use the space around us, but one of the biggest shifts has, of course, been the amount of time we have spent at home. And the garden, in particular, has been a sanctuary for many in these tumultuous times. Rather unsurprisingly, the time spent doing DIY or gardening rose by 147% in March and April, according to the Office for National Statistics. And the trend for spending time outdoors could be here to stay, even in the winter months – John Lewis has seen an 82% increase in demand for outdoor heaters compared to 2019, and a surge in demand for fire pits has resulted in some brands selling out.
So, what of the patio, the perfect space for outdoor entertaining and the focal point of many a garden?
We’ve seen a substantial shift in customers turning to porcelain for their patio projects. Indeed, the versatility of porcelain means that it mimics the best natural flooring products yet offers the additional benefits of easy maintenance and durability.
Let’s look at some of the benefits it can bring:
The smooth and uniform appearance of porcelain paving offers a clean and modern finish. This makes it ideal for a huge range of contemporary designs. In addition, it’s suitable for indoor use too, enabling homeowners to create a seamless flow from the kitchen or conservatory, for example, right through to the outdoor space.
When a high-quality grout is used, simply using a hose to clean the paving will keep it looking great throughout the year. Maintenance will depend on the grout used. For example, if it’s a cement-based grout, it will need a sealant applied to it or adding at the time of mixing. However, if the grout used is an epoxy- or resin-type material, it should not need any further remedial work.
The endurance of porcelain slabs makes them ideal in high footfall areas such as garden paths. Not only are they scratch-resistant but thanks to porcelain’s high density, it can withstand wear and tear.
After heavy rainfall, some ceramics will absorb water which will lead to cracking. In comparison with other types of paving, porcelain slabs are much less porous, making them resistant to the unpredictable British elements.
Laying a patio
When laying porcelain paving, the process is slightly different than with natural stone. Once you have measured and marked out the area, you should start by digging out the site to around 150 to 200mm deep, while maintaining a slight slope for drainage.
A sub-base, such as ‘Type 1’, should be used to fill the prepared site and then sufficiently compacted to ensure a firm base. A high-quality cement, such as Blue Circle Mastercrete, should be mixed into a mortar – approximately six-parts sharp sand to one-part cement or stronger and added on top of the sub-base at a depth of approximately 40mm. As porcelain paving is low-porous, a layer of priming slurry is essential at this point to help ensure adhesion of the pavers. A priming slurry can be made by mixing cement and a styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) liquid additive. This is the main difference between most stone paving and porcelain.
Before placing the paving, first coat the underside with a layer of the priming slurry to ensure adhesion. We’d advise starting from the corner and using a rubber mallet to fix the pavers in place. Use spacers to ensure a uniform joint width between each slab. The width of the joint will depend on the jointing material used – for cementitious materials approximately 6mm and for non-cement-based materials as low as 3mm. Ensure you clean any mortar or slurry from the pavers before it has a chance to stick. Finally, finish with a jointing compound for a professional finish.
The trend for living and entertaining outdoors is only set to continue. Taking the steps to get the garden ready and the patio space transformed into a true living area can really help enhance the look and feel of your garden.
Top tips from George Jones, Owner and Operator of Matipo Landscaping + Design:
“At Matipo, we are noticing a growing trend of porcelain paving being utilised in outdoor living spaces. Porcelain has been on the market for quite a number of years; however, the technology and installation methods have had huge improvements over the past two years.
When choosing the correct porcelain, there are a few variables to look out for. You want to make sure you have the correct thickness of porcelain for your installation method, whether that’s the full wet bed method preferred by landscapers, or the pre-installed concrete pad and adhesive method preferred by tilers. Both methods are structurally sound, as long as you understand the different properties of each method.”