November 12, 2020 | Updated: May 18, 2022

Ask the Expert

Best outdoor tiles for external spaces

Thinking of renovating your terrace or patio and don’t know which outdoor tiles to use?

Read on to find out which tiles work best for external spaces and what you should consider before installing them. In this guide, we’ll cover all the main options and explore the advantages of outdoor wall and floor tiles on both a technical and aesthetic level.

vancover-sand

▶ Get the look: Vancouver Sand 25X150 (Available in-store)

 

Choosing the best tile material for your outdoor space

The outdoors is a harsh environment that will gradually destroy anything left there over time. There is a constant battle being waged by the elements on our buildings and, in fact, anything else that is man-made and left outside. That’s the reason why the roofs and walls of our homes need constant maintenance, why timber decking requires regular varnishing, and driveways and paved areas need to be resurfaced every decade or so.

However, some materials are more wether-resistant than others, and when it comes to external wall and floor finishes for the garden, patios, and any other outdoor areas it makes sense to choose materials able to withstand more wear and tear. One of the best options is tiling, both for flooring and wall finishes. Tiles are manufactured from organic matter but improved upon for superior performance.

 

The garden tiling checklist

  • Zero water absorption: the material should be resistant to moisture. This is especially important in the British climate where there is heavy rainfall all year round.
  • Resistance to freezing: with winter temperatures regularly dipping below zero, rainwater ingress should be avoided at all costs because when water freezes it can crack paving slabs.
  • Non-slip flooring: from a health and safety point of view this is the most important characteristic. Special non-slip treatment is required, or a textured finish that provides a grip underfoot.
  • Resistance to heavy loads: materials for the outdoors need to be more heavy-duty to withstand the weight of garden equipment and heavy footwear. Hard-wearing materials and durability are crucial for garden flooring, that’s why typically paving for the outdoors has a minimum thickness of 20 mm.
  • Bedding down garden flooring: depending on the type of ground conditions one of the requisites of a long-lasting flooring option is bedding down on the sand, compacted earth or gravel. To do so levelling the substrate is critical to avoid trip hazards on paths and terraces. Tip: make sure the joints between the tiles or slabs are min. 5mm.
  • Variation of slab dimensions: for freedom of design it’s recommended to choose a material that can vary in dimension for floor and wall tiles. This helps achieve the authentic rustic or geometric look favoured by garden landscapers.

tanzania-nut

▶ Get the look

smart-tanzania-nut-22x90
Smart Tanzania Nut 22X90

Material Choices for Outdoor Floor Tiles

For outdoor areas, there is an undeniable logic and beauty in featuring organic materials like stone paviours, slate, and wood. These are the very materials that have been used over centuries in our gardens. Technology nowadays however has made life easier as it has in every other area of life. Tiles offer the best of both worlds, they look the part with a range of finishes that recreate the look and texture of concrete, stone, and timber. And best of all require practically zero maintenance.

 

newport-natural

▶ Get the look: Newport Natural 59.6X59.6 (Available online & in-store)

 

Porcelain Outdoor Tiles

Porcelain tiles are one of the best choices for patio and garden flooring as the material meets many of the desired requirements for outdoor tiling and comes in a range of beautiful design options.

Porcelain is very low maintenance as it can withstand heavy use and has low porosity, which means that it won’t be damaged by water or frost. This is especially important to consider when choosing garden flooring for rainy and cold climates, such as the UK. It also comes in a range of colours from neutral beiges, to whites, and blues, as well as different finishes.

 


The 20mm

Collections

Porcelain stoneware

Inspired by stone, cement and wood, the 20mm collection is ideal for all types of outdoor environments.


 

Ceramic Outdoor Tiles

Porcelain tiles are a gorgeous option as they come in brighter colours and patterns, so you can achieve many different looks and design goals. However, ceramic is not as hard-wearing as some natural stones or porcelain, therefore, it is more recommended to use for outdoor walls instead of outdoor flooring.

Learn more about the differences between porcelain and ceramic to help understand which is best for your design goals.

 

Natural Stone Outdoor Tiles

Natural stone tiles are a very popular option for outdoor floor and walls tiles as they blend in with the garden surroundings and do not introduce a man-made material.

It is also a practical choice as many natural stones are highly resistant to elements and have busier footfall. Metamorphic stones like slate and quartzite are perfect for areas subject to drastic temperature changes, such as outdoor showers, pool areas, and seasonal climates. These stones create a striking wall and floor tile, coming in rich black and earth tones, and many shades include delicate veining that makes every project unique.

If you are looking for a grand appearance, you may be tempted by marble tiling for your patio or terrace. High-quality marble should not have any issues when being used outdoors, however, it is a softer stone and can be prone to staining or cracking when put under constant wear. Also, marble tends to be finished with a high polish, which would make it a very slippery surface and unsuitable for general outdoor use. We would recommend limestone or travertine in its place. Both of these natural stones were favourites of the Roman Empire and can give you the same regal appearance to your external spaces.

Browse our range of natural stone tiles to find out more. If you’re still not sure natural stone is right for you, explore our range of stone effect ceramic tiles, which give you the aesthetic of stone and the benefits of our world-leading ceramic.

 

TIP

EXPERT TIP

Probably the most important consideration regarding the choice of outdoor floor tiles is their non-slip properties. Choose a tile with a proprietary finish rather than one that has been treated.

Outdoor Flooring Design Ideas

#1 Use large tiles to frame a pool

For garden patios set within lawns or terraces surrounding pools, the use of substantial and robust tiles is recommended. Tiles laid on a substrate should be resistant to impact and the wear and tear of the elements.

Some ranges of tiles are available in a thickness of 20mm, which with the right adhesive and grouting should provide a solid and hard-wearing surface. A water poof membrane is recommended and respecting the existing expansion joints in the substrate for the tiling layout ensures optimum results.

 

#2 Patio flooring contiguous with the main house

Porcelain tiles can be installed inside and outside the house, therefore creating an adjoined patio area with the interior. For hard landscaped areas that are adjacent to the house, the flow from the inside to the outside through patio doors allows for a seamless inside/outside connection. Whether it be a balcony or terrace, the great advantage of using floor tiles for the outdoors is that the same finish can be recreated outdoors as indoors.

 

baltimore-beige

Baltimore Beige 59,6X59,6 (Available in-store)

 

#3 Wood effect outdoor tiles

Trends for the garden come and go just as they do for interior design. Some years ago having a timber deck was almost mandatory for householders. The problem with timber decking in the garden however is twofold; on the one hand, the supporting structure is in contact with the ground and therefore susceptible to the damp. And on the other hand, timber is an organic material and is liable to rot. With wood effect tiles, these problems are avoided but the same aesthetic effect can be achieved.

Find our wood effect tiles buying guide to learn everything you need to know about why you should choose wood effect flooring and see some of our favourite tile designs.

 

#4 Outdoor raised flooring

A more innovative fixing method is a system adapted from the contemporary office building. An idea originally conceived for the office: the raised access flooring. This system is based on a grid of pedestals, with the tiles resting on the four corners of each individual pedestal, which can be adjusted in height and leave a void beneath.

This approach guarantees that even on a slope the patio / hard landscaped area can be perfectly level. Drainage, services, and electrical connections can be kept out of sight below the finished surface in the void thus providing a pristine effect. Explore our terrace garden inspiration to see more ideas for how you can turn your outdoor space into an oasis.

 

Outdoor Wall Tiles Ideas

The advantages of tiles for the outdoors are not confined to flooring; their pristine qualities and maintenance-free upkeep also make them suitable as an external wall finish. Unlike paint, render or timber cladding tiles are extremely resistant and immune to the elements. Another significant advantage of tiling as external cladding is its weight, and just like flooring our range of wall tiles options includes natural stone effects, terracotta, timber, concrete, and more.

 

persa-natural

Persa Natural 100X100 (Available in-store)

 

#1 Porcelain tiles for outdoor walls

When it comes to porcelain wall tiles the variety of finishes and the different tiling modules available should stimulate the imagination of your inner architect. As well as the advantages already outlined, porcelain tiles have environmentally sustainable properties such as reflecting solar radiation. The density of the material and the low porosity of porcelain is the key to its suitability for the outdoors, similar to its use in the bathroom environment.

 

#2 Wall tiles used as a rainscreen

Another way of fixing wall tiles to external walls is to treat them as a rainscreen, also known as a ventilated wall, that is to say. The tiles are used as a cladding that is supported on a secondary structure and the gap in between the rain screen and the walls can be insulated to conform to superior insulation specifications. This is particularly useful for those who live in rainier climates like the UK but would still like to create a beautiful and practical outdoor space.

 

#3 Use textures and patterned walls for impact

Try creating a feature wall or boundary from patterned or textured wall tiles. Not only does this add visual interest but it can help soften the transition from outside to inside. Try one of our wood effect wall tiles, which emulate the natural warmth and feel of wood, but are far more durable and easy to maintain.

Explore our outdoor style advice and guides for more inspiration and tips on how to renovate your garden space. If you would like to see our range in person or meet with one of our experts, please contact us for an appointment.

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