Tiling Outdoor Projects

Man Working on Stone Pathway

Ceramic tile is the perfect choice for outdoor projects -- patios, pool surrounds, walkways, or outdoor kitchens. Although the basic techniques for setting tile outdoors are the same as indoors, outdoor projects are studies in their own right. Your choice of tile must be tailored to your climate, for instance. And outdoor substrates are generally different from indoor substrates.

Projects in Outdoor Projects

Your climate and tile
Your tile choices will be affected by the region in which you live. Saltillo and other soft-bodied tiles are fine for warm climates. Freezing climates call for hard-bodied tiles, such as porcelain, whose density repels water and won't crack when temperatures drop. No matter what tile you choose, you'll need nonslip surfaces. Ask your dealer for tiles made expressly for wet installations.

Consider the substrate
Outdoor installations require a solid foundation, and nothing short of a 3- or 4-inch concrete slab will do. Be sure to contact your local building department about the thickness of the slab, other aspects of its construction, and the need for inspections and permits.

If your project will include a roof -- either now or in the future -- the perimeter of the slab will need a footing (a thicker, reinforced section of concrete). It's a lot easier and cheaper to pour the footing when you pour the slab than to go back and add it later.

In most cases it's best to choose the general location of the outdoor feature first and "fine tune" its size to the dimensions of the tile.

Large-scale or smaller?
Typically the scale of an outdoors project means using 9- or 12-inch tiles, but vitreous tile now comes in much larger sizes -- 2-feet square and larger. Large tiles will cover more surface area faster than small ones, but they don't lend themselves to as much design "finesse." They often require more cutting, and their weight makes them harder to line up.

Wish-list Projects

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