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Enhancing both your property and your lifestyle, a patio is a special addition to your outside space. It's important to make the right choices when planning your patio and selecting the most appropriate paving is certainly key.

Beautiful, durable and versatile, porcelain paving creates stunning outside spaces. Elegant porcelain could transform your garden and give you a stylish yet functional patio that complements your home. There's no doubt that porcelain is growing in popularity and for good reason.

But we know that it can be hard to settle upon the best paving for your patio, so here's everything you need to know about porcelain:

What is porcelain paving?

A ceramic material, porcelain was first evolved in China between 1200 and 2000 years ago. Its manufacture and use eventually began to spread across the world. The English term porcelain is derived from the old Italian word porcellana meaning "cowrie shell", as the material resembles the surface of this shell.

Porcelain is a manmade material. It features a mixture of refined clay, sand and minerals which is fired at high temperature in a kiln. This process is known as vitrification. The resulting pavers are strong, hard-wearing and non-porous. The tiles are generally dense, fine-grained and uniform.

What are the benefits of porcelain pavers?

There are several good reasons to consider using porcelain pavers for your patio:

  • Frost resistance - porcelain is a dense material that doesn't absorb water and so won't crack in cold temperatures.
  • Stain resistance - courtesy of its low porosity, porcelain isn't susceptible to staining caused by leaves, berries, lichen or liquid spills.
  • Slip resistance - porcelain pavers boast a textured, slip resistant surface ideal for outdoor use.
  • Scratch resistance - unlike softer ceramic materials or wood (decking), porcelain slabs are resistant to scratching and so will remain pristine for many years.
  • Mold resistance - thanks to the density of porcelain, microspores cannot penetrate the material, ensuring that moss and mould will not develop.
  • Chemical resistance - this ceramic material boasts a high resistance to corrosive chemicals.
  • Low maintenance - porcelain pavers require no aftercare such as sealing. If laid correctly, they simply require washing occasionally to maintain their look.
  • Uniformity - being manmade, porcelain pavers boast a uniform look and thickness. They are perfectly flat and so produce a smooth, flat and uniform patio.
  • Diverse looks - thanks to advanced inkjet printing technology, porcelain paving is available with a variety of aesthetics. You can source stone-effect, cement-effect or wood effect pavers. The variety of styles and colours enables you to create incredible design-led looks.

Are there downsides to porcelain patios?

As with any material, there are a few downsides to using porcelain pavers:

  • Brittleness - the pavers are durable and resistant to wear but are brittle which means they are susceptible to damage if knocked.
  • Realism - porcelain pavers can look almost identical to natural stones but are not good choices if you favour a totally natural feel.
  • Modernity - porcelain tiles can deliver a more contemporary look than natural stone which may not suit period properties.
  • Hardness - the density of porcelain makes it hard to cut and to drill without damaging the pavers.

Porcelain patio ideas

As porcelain pavers are available in so many different shapes, sizes and finishes, you can create almost any look for your patio that your imagination can conjure. Whether you favour the simplicity and modernity of concrete, the aesthetics of stone or the texture of wood, you can design a patio that that you love and that complements your home.

Giving you diverse shapes and sizes to work with, there are porcelain pavers to suit patios both large and small. Better still you can use a variety of patterns when laying the pavers:

  • Running bond - a pattern like brickwork in which the joints of alternate courses (rows) are aligned. You can also create a three-course running bond using slabs of differing sizes in which the joints in every third course are aligned. This provides a less formal feel.
  • Stack bond - in this pattern, the joints of each course are aligned like squares on a chess board. This classic look is perfect for smaller spaces.
  • Random patterns - bring your creativity to the fore by evolving a random pattern that delivers an informal feel.

It is worth considering that porcelain pavers tend to deliver a clean, crisp and contemporary patio and so may not suit older and informal properties such as country cottages.

You can utilise colour to evolve your desired look. Lighter tiles are ideal for contemporary gardens and for around pools where a crisp and refined finished is beneficial. Darker tiles could work well if you have pets, or a high footfall area, and you don't want to be constantly washing away footprints and pawprints. The various shades can also be used to create contrast and to define areas of larger patios.

Porcelain paving presents the opportunity to form a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. By choosing indoor/outdoor tiles, you can ensure that your patio becomes an extension of your interior. This look is a great choice if your kitchen, dining room or open plan space features sliding or bifold doors.

Kota Blue Limestone

How to lay a porcelain patio

Working with porcelain can be tricky and so it is best to engage the services of experienced professionals to install your patio. However, if you feel up to the task, here's how to lay your slabs:

  1. If you are creating a random or complex pattern, arrange the stones on your drive or lawn before attempting to lay them to establish and refine your pattern.
  2. Ensure that the site where the patio is to be laid is level, firm and well-drained.
  3. Mark the area with spray paint.
  4. Dig out the area to a depth of at least 125mm plus the depth of the paving.
  5. Remove all vegetation from the site to a depth of 200mm.
  6. Check that the surface of the finished patio will be at least 150mm below the damp course of the house, in cases where the patio will be located adjacent to the building.
  7. Use strings to check that the area is level and rake anywhere that requires levelling.
  8. Compact the area with a roller.
  9. Fill the area with at least 50mm of sub-base (aggregate) and then compact the material.
  10. Add a second layer of sub-base (at least 50mm) and compact it.
  11. Ensure that the area falls slightly away from the house to allow for rainwater run-off.
  12. Wash the slabs to remove dust and debris.
  13. Prime the backs of the stone with a proprietary primer or fine mortar slurry.
  14. Create a mortar mix of four parts sand to one part cement and water.
  15. Small area by small area, lay a mortar bed of at least 50mm, preferably 100mm.
  16. Lay the stones in the mortar bed 5 -8mm apart (use spacers) and tap lightly with a rubber mallet.
  17. Wait 24 hours for the bed to set.
  18. Fill the joints with grouting. This could be epoxy grout, brush-in mortar or slurry grout.
  19. Leave the patio to set for at least 24 hours before walking on it.

How to cut porcelain slabs

When laying a patio, it will usually be necessary to cut at least a few of the slabs. Cutting porcelain is different to cutting other materials. You should use a diamond blade to cut the pavers accurately as precision will be paramount. Water should ideally be utilised during cutting if the machinery allows for this. The required precision is easier to achieve with a bench saw. Sawn edges should be sanded down using a diamond polishing pad to ensure a superior finish.

Limestone Patio

What are the most common mistakes when laying porcelain pavers?

Laying any patio is hard work and fraught with difficulties. It certainly pays to understand the materials you are working with. Corner-cutting should be avoided at all costs, and it is worth taking your time during the project rather than rushing.

The most common errors that occur when laying porcelain patios are as follows:

  • Inadequate drainage - it is vital that any patio is well-drained and particularly a porcelain patio as the material is non-porous.
  • Choosing the wrong size of paver - your contractor or designer should be able to advise you as to the best size of slabs for your space. Small slabs can make small patios feel even smaller while large slabs may not allow you to evolve a suitable layout or pattern.
  • Poor choice of colour or texture - consider colour choices carefully and invest in samples to test the look. 
  • Not laying a full mortar bed - It is essential to use a full mortar bed rather than spotting when laying slabs.
  • Colour differences - it is vital to order all slabs at once and from the same batch as the colour of slabs can vary slightly between batches.
  • Uneven cuts and breakage - as mentioned above, porcelain is more difficult to cut than other materials.

How do you maintain a porcelain patio?

Happily, porcelain is a low maintenance choice and so gives you a hassle-free outside space. You will probably find that the occasional wash using a broom or a jet wash on a low setting will keep your patio looking at its beautiful best.

Should you choose a porcelain patio?

If you favour crisp, contemporary looks, porcelain pavers will definitely deliver the right patio for you. This elegant material is also an excellent choice if you are seeking low-maintenance paving. But if you would prefer a less formal patio or wish to complement a period property, you could find that natural stone offers more appropriate aesthetics.

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