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Beginners guide to choosing outdoor tile, design ideas and installation

Natural stones are the favorite luxury home décor material for homeowners. For many years people have associated natural stones with royalty and excellence. Natural stones can be used for both indoor and outdoor decoration, construction and renovation. They can easily enhance their surrounding space with effortless beauty and grace. Their earthy colors, amazing textures and one of a kind pattern allow them to be part of the any space without any design or color scheme conflicts.

Natural stones come in different forms of products like tiles, pavers and slabs. The tiles are multipurpose and can be used for both internal and external projects. Outdoor tiles need to be power packed with extra strength. This requirement is necessary so that the tiles are able to endure weather extremities whether it is the summer of scorching heat, winter of a snowstorm or an occasional heavy rainstorm.   

Tips for finding the right stone tile for beginners

Whatever natural stone tile you will use will depend upon a couple of things like the nature of your project, whether you want functionality or just decorative material that looks attractive, budget and preference in terms of color, shine and pattern. Usually tiles of natural stones such as travertine, marble and limestone are favored above all by homeowners. Each of these natural stone tiles has a list of their pros and cons when used in the external spaces of your home. But before we discuss the stone tiles, you need to consider some important aspects of your outdoor tile project which help you in figuring out your accurate requirements for the space that needs renovation.

  1. Location of the space that requires renovation and foot traffic: This is an extremely important question as it helps in selecting the right material for your project. If the project is a space that experiences heavy foot traffic and is prone to heavy level of abuse then it is better to go with tiles that are heavy duty. Similarly some stone tiles are better off on the walls rather than on the floor. Knowing the location where you want the tiles to be placed helps you in deciding the perfect material for your project.
  2. Grip factor – slip or non-slip surface that is the question: Slippery tiles for pool decks is a recipe for disaster. Similarly, places which get lots of snow or rain are dangerous whether it is the porch flooring or patio or the outside stairs. Non-slip tiles are ideal for outdoors. You can have healthy grip factor with the right finish and amount of polish as well. Areas near water bodies such as pools, ponds and even garden fountains can get wet which add to the slippery-ness of the stone tile such as marble. A fall on these hard tiles can lead to painful bruises and even fractures. So, it is extremely important that you consider the grip factor of your tile.
  3. Light Intensity for the space getting renovated: A dark colored tile looks dazzling under the bright sunlight but it can look mundane and old if the space has poor lighting. Avoid the gloomy aura of such poor combination by following the rule of thumb for outdoor tile color selection that states: always pick dark colored outdoor tiles for places with good lighting and light colored tiles for those with low light.
  4. Style of the space getting a makeover: Your natural stone tile choice is heavily influenced by the style of the space getting renovated, home or even your garden. Choosing the tile that is according to your taste and in sync with your style is easy provided you know what you are looking for. If the home style is countryside then go for tiles that bring the rustic feeling to your garden. If it is the modern style then go for sleek and chic kind. The tile you choose will keep your design style intact without making anything look out of place.
  5. Color Scheme – Match it or Contrast It: Color scheme can be simple or fun it all depends on your taste. If you like matching the pavement tiles with your house paint then go for a matching scheme. You can also go for neutral colors like whites, browns, greys and blacks if going for a subdued look. But if you want a contrasting color then the options are unlimited as natural stones come in a variety of beautiful colors.

Natural stone tiles

Natural stones are a wondrous artwork of nature. All these stone have different properties due to which their tiles have different set of strengths and weaknesses. A comprehensive comparison of these stone tiles is given below along with their advantages and disadvantages:

Travertine: Travertine has become a popular choice of homeowners looking for luxury within a budget over the past decade. This stone is quite famous for its distinctive features. During the formation of travertine, the escaping gases leave behind pits or holes that create amazingly unique surface. You can have these pits filled or unfilled depending on your preference for a smooth or elegant feel. It is an attractive stone with a huge variety of colors and shades which range from creamy whites and coral reds to walnut browns. The hues are all earthy which allows it to blend effortlessly all the while transforming the space, where it is installed, dramatically. Depending on the direction of the cut you can choose between two types of travertine patterns i.e. vein cut and cross cut. It comes in four different types of finishes as well i.e. tumbled, honed, brushed and polished. Travertine tiles are available with chiseled edges as well.

These tiles are not only gorgeous looking but also quite durable. The ancient buildings of Rome standing today are the examples of this stone’s strength. The durability of travertine tiles is commendable from the fact that it can bear up to 8000 pounds which makes it heavy duty and super resilient. Travertine tiles can also tolerate extreme weather conditions whether it is the freezing winter or scorching summer. This means you do not have to worry about the tiles cracking because of the freeze and thaw cycle.  Travertine tiles are the solution for slippage problems as well. Be it the pool deck or the patio after a rain, travertine tiles with tumbled finish provide non-slippery surface which is crucial to avoid accidents.

Price wise travertine tiles are the economical alternative for high end natural stone tiles like marble. As no tile is similar to another so it is easier to find replacement tiles. Travertine tiles can easily be cut into any shape and size which makes them ideal for odd shaped and small areas. But travertine tiles require regular maintenance which can be a bit hectic. Regular mopping is necessary to avoid accumulation of dust and period resealing is a must to retain the stone’s beauty.

Limestone: Limestone is a sedimentary rock which made up of calcium carbonate, coral and shells and is formed in shallow waters. It is a calciferous stone but not as porous as travertine. Limestone has been the part of construction since the ancient times. Builders used to prefer this stone as it was a hard stone and was easy to work with.

Limestone has less amount of random veining in its structure as compared to travertine and marble. This makes limestone tiles in brown shades look similar to wooden floors. This wood like appearance makes it an ideal alternative for expensive wooden flooring which is also long lasting. Limestone comes in a large variety of colors which combined with its fossilized pattern looks great when used outdoors. The light colors of limestone tile reflect the sunlight and the surface stays cool making it perfect for outdoor areas where you can walk bare foot without burning your feet on a sunny day. But if you live in a region where the temperature can drop to a freezing level then it is better to avoid limestone as it cannot tolerate freeze and thaw cycle leading to chipping and cracking.

Limestone tiles do not require as much maintenance as travertine tiles but it should be sealed to avoid damage to the surface.

Marble: Marble has been the favorite stone of nobility throughout the ages. This stone has always been a symbol of luxury and is quite expensive as compared to other natural stones. It is the metamorphic form of limestone formed under extreme heat and pressure. Pure limestone based marble is in white color and quite rare but marble that has impurities like iron oxides, clay or other minerals can range from pink, green to brown and black colors.

It is an elegant stone whose tiles look divine in any areas where they are laid. Marble was used extensively for palaces, religious shrines and monuments in the past. Even today homeowners who like luxury opt for this brilliant stone. Marble not only has a bedazzling variety of colors, it also comes with a variety of vein patterns like defined, diffused, streaks, crackle or even a combination of all of them. Polished marble should never be used for outdoors as the tiles get damaged and the slippery surface can prove to be hazardous. The slightly textured marble in natural shades is suitable for outdoor spaces. Marble based walkways, garden boundaries and outside stairs add a glamorous feel to the whole area.  You can make a small area look spacious as well by choosing a large size in marble tile. The big tiles with their translucent properties create an illusion of a wide area.  

Design Ideas

Tiles can be used in multiple ways in outdoor spaces.  You can use travertine, limestone or marble tile outside in the places mentioned below:

  • Alternative for pavers: Tiles are great alternative for pavers as you can easily buy tiles with thickness more than ½ inch. These types of tiles can be used for garden paths, patios, walkways and driveways. The advantage of using tiles instead of pavers is that you can create different patterns on the floor with tiles. You can use different colors and sizes in tiles for distinctive looks.

A grey honed marble walkway looks elegant and classy. It is beautiful choice that can make every step glamorous.

Here we have a beautiful walnut colored travertine tile driveway laid in the famous French pattern.

Here we have a white colored limestone garden pathway that looks simply perfect.

  • Pool deck with tiles: There are various reasons why travertine and limestone tiles are deemed as the perfect choice when it comes to pool deck renovation. The foremost reason being that, unlike most other stones i.e. bricks, travertine and limestone tiles have the ability to deflect heat which in turn allows the pool deck to remain cool even in the blazing hot summer. Another perk of having these stone tiles fitted on your pool deck is that they do not tarnish or stain easily, thus making them a suitable option for the pool deck area. Travertine and limestone’s natural texture isn’t slippery or glossy so you can easily walk around the pool deck barefoot without having to worry about slipping on the tiles or burning your feet. To make sure that the tile installation makes your pool deck look modish and unified with the rest of the house, it is recommended to cover your entire deck, as well as the pathway to your house with the tiles that you choose in accordance with your aesthetic sense.

  • Reface the Retaining Wall: In the case that your brick wall has been damaged or cracked, you can easily reface it with travertine  tiles. This will not only allow you to save a load of money on construction costs but will also look extremely artistic depending on the texture and color of travertine tile you choose. The thing about travertine tiles is that even though it has naturally varying hues from tile to tile, it doesn’t deviate far from a particular color tone. Such palettes can be a great source of attraction for interior designers or homeowner’s who plan on refurbishing the place to give it an understated look. The type of walls created and the finish of the travertine tiles depends on both the type of tiles chosen and the personal taste of the designer or homeowner. Weathered walls, contemporary walls, sleek walls and rustic walls are just a few wall design that you can choose from. As for the finishes, one can go for the honed or polish look which give off a very classic marble vibe with their glossy surfaces and sheen. However, if you prefer something more creative then you can always choose from the more textured finishes i.e. tumbled, chiseled or brushed etc.

  • Refacing Stair Treads: Refacing the stair treads of your garden, patio or pool deck can instantly reform the outdoor area of your house without costing you a fortune. Travertine and marble are heat and cold resistant which automatically makes them top contenders when it comes to choosing tiles for installing on your outdoor stairs. Travertine tiles are available in a variety of colors and designs which makes it easier for every homeowner to find something that greatly appeals to them. Engraved, chiseled and mosaic tiles are just a few examples of designs to choose from. Their presence will undoubtedly make the outdoor area look more refined without a lot of effort. Travertine and marble tiles of any color and type can be selected, nevertheless it is strongly advised to consider a more textured finish over a polished or honed one as that will help in providing more friction to the feet and ultimately reduce the chances of slipping. 

Installation

  • Installing stone tiles outdoors – Foundation matters: Travertine tile installation can either be done by a professional contractor or as a DIY project. However, in some rare circumstances professional help is mandatory especially when it comes to setting up tiles in the outdoor areas. But most of the time, a pro isn’t needed and the entire installation process can be done with the basic knowledge and understanding of creating the foundation level. Online videos and tutorials can be extremely helpful when it comes to educating one’s self on the topic and can help you carry out your do-it-yourself project without any help.
  • Do It Yourself –  patio tile installation and words of caution: In some cases, contacting a professional contractor will be necessary for getting a permit. Other restrictions and complications might also be of concern in the scenario your house is located near a commercial area or sidewalk. It is also advised to be mindful when it comes to digging in your backyards or gardens because accidentally hitting one of the many buried power, cable or gas lines can cause nonredeemable damage.
  • Professional help for stone tile installation: In cases where homeowners or interior decorators are leaning towards a specific construction plan, it is advised to contact a professional contractor. They will not only help you realize your dream but will also take necessary precautions whilst doing the project thus guarantying both safety and desired results.

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