Mira JabbourBusiness Development Manager – Tiles
Porcelain tiles are the ultimate option for outdoor use. But before you can understand why porcelain tiles are the right choice for your next outdoor renovation project, you need to know what a porcelain tile really is and the benefits.
Mira outlines why porcelain tiles are some of the longest-lasting flooring products on the market today.
What is the typical composition of a porcelain tile and how is it fabricated?
Porcelain tiles are made from a specific combination of materials. The predominant material is clay; the addition of sand, kaolin & feldspar increases the density and thus the strength of the tile – coloured pigments are then added. These organic materials make porcelain an eco-friendly and sustainable material – an important factor in our eco-conscious world. After being finely ground the materials are pressed with a power of over 400 kg/cm2 and then fired at very high temperatures. Both the pressing and firing are both a vitally important parts of the manufacturing in creating a strong tile resistant to both extreme heat and frost. This also results in vitrification which makes the material impenetrable to water.
As well as being a dense and durable material, porcelain is easier to maintain than other natural materials. Whereas natural materials such as wood, cement or natural stone require sealant and regular maintenance; porcelain is a low maintenance alternative as it is non-porous, therefore will not absorb liquid as natural materials would.
What are the advantages and main characteristics of porcelain tiles?
Porcelain stoneware is a ceramic material characterised by its high degree of compactness, which makes it particularly suitable for cladding facades and as flooring in high-traffic areas. Porcelain stoneware, additionally, is characterised by its very low porosity, which is almost nil. Therefore, it is impermeable to water, acids, and dirt, making it suitable for busy areas as it is easy to clean.
- They do not support mould or mildew
- Easy to maintain and clean
- Will not stain and won’t fade under UV
- Highly durable, water resistant and frost resistant
- Can create looks of natural materials such as stone, marble and timber
- Available in collections with matching indoor finishes for indoor-outdoor flow
- Efficiently resistant to many acids from rainwater, salts from the earth and other corrosive chemicals
- 2cm tiles can take loads up to 1000kg
What is the main difference between interior and exterior?
Exterior tiles are those which are have a surface texture that helps make them slip resistant, as opposed to polished or glossy tiles often used in luxurious hotel lobbies. The invisible grit on outdoor tiles provides superb traction when tiles become wet making them perfect for poolside tiling. With typical absorption rates of 0.5% of less, this is why porcelain is a first choice for landscapes with sprinklers and private pools.
There is also recently a shift in focus to 2cm thickness tiles. Formerly, the 1cm tile was the tile of choice for both indoor and exterior use. Now, 2cm tiles are becoming more popular for a wide variety of reasons. Firstly, they’re super-tough and work extremely well in both hotter and colder environments.
Whilst there are several technical differences, aesthetically many ranges offer both indoor and outdoor finishes to ensure flow from indoor to outdoor life.
How does a tile’s thickness increase durability?
All characteristics are doubled. A 2cm outdoor porcelain is twice as strong with double the impact and abrasion resistance – for instances such as driveways – and can tolerate temperatures up to 60 °c and as low as -50 °c. Thicker tiles are also evidently heavier which allows for numerous installation methods.
It is the best choice for durable outdoors with a range of accessories available from L-elements to corner steps.
What requirements do designers need to meet?
For designers specifying tiles there are numerous factors to consider, I would advise the top three technical to be:
- Slip Ratings
- SRI – solar reflex index values
- Abrasion Resistance
Governments and operators often set slip rating requirements between R9, the minimum outdoor rating, and R12, typically specified around hotel pools for example.
Solar Reflectivity Indexes advise how well a tile will deflect solar heat. These values are important for hospitality and driveways for both the aesthetic durability and also comfort of guests walking poolside. Whilst these values are not typically found in a standard technical data sheet, our landscape architects find it an important consideration – especially in climates with heat up to 50°C.
Abrasion resistance is a scale of 0-5, also known as the PEI scale. Indoor bathroom wall tiles will be lower on the scale with an outdoor loading bay requiring the highest rating of 5. In high traffic areas such as lobbies and walkways it is important to ensure the tiles look as good in 20 years as when they are first laid – specifying a tile with the correct abrasion rating is one way of ensuring this.
Where landscaping is the most important part of the project, such as pools and promenades, SRI can be a prevalent factor alongside water absorption; whereas at the back of the house the values may realign to the thickness of tiles for impact resistance in areas that offload goods.
Business Development Manager – Tiles
Are the options for outdoor tiles varied?
Outdoor tiles come in many creative styles and colours ranging from classic to contemporary, bright and loud to minimalist, natural to modern. The variety of shapes, colours and sizes as well as the take on the natural look allow for design without limitation.
Sizes from 20x20cm to 120x120cm are all popular, dependent of the area. 1cm used to be the ‘go-to’ thickness whereas 2cm thickness is now gaining more traction in the market for high-traffic areas.
In regards to aesthetics, as digital print technology advances, manufacturers are producing tiles with unique patterns and less repeats. For example, the faces of marble should be randomised to look organic. Equally terrazzo, concrete and wood effects are increasingly detailed thanks to modern printing abilities. This results in a tile that is well thought out, has a more accurate design and is an excellent replica of the natural material. These natural tiles are perfect for both indoors and outdoors to create a homogenous look, with just a change in finish.
What are the print trends for tiles?
Terrazzo is a current trend that is an equally stylish and timeless choice for homes and hospitality alike. Terrazzo’s original origins saw it as an incredibly durable and sustainable material: Venetian workers in the 16th century recycling fragments of marble, granite, quartz and glass by tossing marble chips into the cement floor, which was then ground and polished. Today, it is an admired aesthetic.
Concrete and wood are also both favoured materials thanks to the Industrial trend and the demand to bring the outdoors in. Thanks to their versatility, they can be continued from the living room to the patio and pool. These organic effects also compliment all materials and colours of both indoor and outdoor furniture. I love building moodboards of both furniture and tiles with my clients in the Sanipex Gallery so we can find the best materials for their desired style.
What is your process when working with designers?
Firstly, I like to base my meetings either on-site or in the Architecture Area in the Sanipex Gallery’s tiles library. It is important for designers to come in and brainstorm with their drawings and laptops, they can bring and take samples as well a viewing full size slabs. Our Library is fully equipped with 10x10cm samples to help build their project moodboards as well as having fabric and material samples of our furniture on site to build a full overview.
After specification, we work parallel to our clients providing technical support & samples to help them complete their specification smoothly. Our Lunch & Learn training sessions are also popular to keep designers up to date with the latest trends & newly launched materials.