How to Buy, Install, and Maintain Outdoor Tiles

What’s Different Compared to Buying Indoor Tiles?

Installing tile outside of the home is an easy way to add additional living space to your home. Outdoor tiles, like those manufactured for indoor applications, come in a wide variety of sizes, colours, and styles, so they grant you the flexibility to give your outdoor space a unique and personal touch.

But, if you have never shopped for or installed outdoor tile before, then there are some things you need to know because these types of tiles can be different than the indoor tiles you might be familiar with. In this guide, you’ll learn how to buy, install, and maintain outdoor tiles.

Buying Outdoor Tiles

The first thing you will most likely notice when shopping for outdoor tile is that tiles rated for outdoor use tend to be larger than those used indoors on applications like bathroom walls and floors, or kitchen backsplashes and countertops. You will also find that outdoor tiles tend to either be made of natural stone or porcelain, and they aren’t glazed like those made for indoor use because they need to be able to provide stable footing in wet weather.

Since outdoor tile projects tend to be large, most but not all the tiles are of the 600x600mm or larger variety. This enables you to build your installation with fewer tiles while also making the surface of the tiled area look larger than it really is.

What to Look for With Outdoor Tile

When you’re shopping for outdoor tile, there are three important characteristics you want your tile to have. These include:

  1. Durability – Because the tile will be subjected to the elements and a lot of foot traffic, you need to choose tiles that are highly durable. Therefore, certain ceramics and slate tiles should be avoided because these are too soft to use outdoors.

  2. Non-Porous – The more porous the tile is, the more water it will absorb. So, you want to choose a tile that is non-porous or else the tile could absorb water and then crack once the temperature falls below freezing.

  3. Slip-Resistant Surface – As stated earlier, outdoor tile needs to have a slip-resistant surface because unlike a shower floor in which the grout lines give you traction, outdoor tile applications have fewer grout lines.

The types of tiles that best meet these three needs are porcelain and tile made from solid stones like granite, slate, marble, travertine, limestone, and quartzite. Refer to our Exterior Tiles section for a wide range of exterior grade porcelain.

Installing Outdoor Tile

Before you install tile outdoors, the tile needs to have a flat, hard surface as its underlayment if you are building a larger application, like a tiled patio. Tiles that are installed in singular designs, such as in a walkway, do not require as solid an underlayment.

The concrete underlayment needs to be level, free of cracks and chips, and it must be thoroughly cleaned before you start placing the tiles. Use a concrete wash to help ensure the concrete is as clean as it can be. If the concrete is uneven or has any other problems, then you will need to pour a subbase over it to repair the problems.

Since outdoor tile tend to be much thicker than indoor tile, a wet saw will be required to make any necessary cuts. Another thing to keep in mind is if your concrete patio has expansion joints, the tiles should not cover them. In the event you must cover the expansion joints, laying a flexible membrane over the concrete will be required before laying the tile.

Apply mortar to both the concrete and the back of the tile when installing. After laying a tile, use a rubber mallet to tap the tile to ensure a strong bond and to help prevent air gaps in the mortar. The grout you will want to use is one that is latex-fortified and rated for outdoor applications. Once all of the tiles are set and the grout lines filled and cleaned, cover the installation with a plastic sheet for at least a day to allow the grout and mortar to set.

How to Maintain Outdoor Tile

After taking the time to install outdoor tile, you want to keep your patio looking like new. So, this means you will have to maintain the tile throughout the year. Like indoor tile, the most common thing to go wrong with outdoor tile is the grout. So, keeping the grout in good condition will go a long way to keeping your patio looking great.

Here are some tips for maintaining the look and durability of your tiled patio:

  • Keep the surface of the tile free of debris and dirt by sweeping it regularly

  • Use a pressure washer (as long as the grout is in good shape) to clean the surface of the tile when it needs a deeper clean

  • If you don’t have a pressure washer, then use a bucket of water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent and use the broom to clean the tile and grout lines

  • Rinse the soapy residue off the tile immediately using a garden hose (multiple rinses may be required)

  • Let the tile dry completely

  • Seal the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let the sealant dry before using the patio

European Heritage Is Your Complete Outdoor Tile Resource

At European Heritage, we carry one of the UK’s largest inventories of tile and our selection of outdoor tile can’t be beat. We even have experts in-store who can help you through every stage of your project, from choosing the right type of tile to ensuring you have the tools necessary to do the job right. Stop in one of our stores to see what we have to offer and let one of our tile experts help you bring your outdoor tile project to life.

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