How to choose tiles for an outdoor space

If you’re creating a dining or seating area in the garden, tiles make a stylish and functional base. Discover all you need to know to pick the best outdoor tiles

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Giving your garden a makeover? Planning a new plot from scratch? Whether it’s a revamp or a full-on transformation, hard landscaping materials are an important element of the design, and the tiles you choose for a patio are crucial to the finished effect. Outdoor tiles need to stand up to extremes of weather, and not be a slip hazard, so what to look for when you’re buying? Read on and get clued up.

Medici Nonni Cobbles in porcelain, £120 per square metre, SACW Paving

Medici Nonni Cobbles in porcelain, £120 per square metre, SACW Paving

(Image: © SACW Paving)

How to choose the material of outdoor tiles

Just as inside your home, you can opt for manmade tiles or real stone versions for the exterior. Natural stone is generally the more expensive option, but if you want its inherent pattern and colour variations and the knowledge that each tile is unique, it’s the option to invest in. Manmade tiles – think porcelain – can have the appearance of a real stone, look like wood, or create a pleasing neutral surface, plus there are patterned versions that can dress up a patio or path. 

Want to make a strong link between outdoors and the interior of your home? There are floor tiles appropriate for both areas so you can create a continuous surface, for example from a kitchen extension with bifold doors or sliding versions to the garden.

Milan tumbled outdoor limestone, from £70.80 per square metre, Mandarin Stone

Milan tumbled outdoor limestone, from £70.80 per square metre, Mandarin Stone

(Image: © Mandarin Stone)

Natural stone outdoor tiles

Tiles made from limestone, slate, sandstone, granite and marble are all possibilities for an outside area if natural stone is a must-have. Natural stone is porous, so will need sealing.

Slate comes in attractive finishes from black and deep grey to livelier tiles featuring tones like green or rust. It can complement older homes, or create a contemporary look, so it’s very versatile. It’s highly durable, too. Slate’s uneven surface is a benefit outdoors because of its anti-slip properties, and a textured riven finish maximises this quality.

Limestone offers the choice of beiges, creamier tones and greys underfoot. An outdoor limestone tile should have a textured surface so it’s not slippery in the wet. Look out for tumbled or riven versions. Always verify that a limestone you like is an outdoor grade stone; some can’t cope with frost.

Sandstone – including the native version called Yorkstone –  is a popular choice for outdoor areas. Colours include creams and greys. The latter are easier to keep clean, while cream can be harder work. It has good slip resistance in any case, so a smooth honed finish is possible, as well as more textural finishes that make it look rustic. 

Granite needs a textured surface to prevent issues with slipperiness when it’s wet. In grey or black tones, it can provide a timeless backdrop to a dining or seating area in the garden.

Marble is sometimes used for outdoor tiles. Be careful to choose a tile specifically offered for outdoor use, and a textured finish to help prevent slips.

Manmade outdoor tiles

Luna Copper outdoor matt porcelain slab tiles, £29.99 per square metre, Tile Mountain

Luna Copper outdoor matt porcelain slab tiles, £29.99 per square metre, Tile Mountain

(Image: © Tile Mountain)

Manmade outdoor tiles can prove a budget-friendly and good-looking option. Porcelain and terracotta may be used to create the patio or garden path look you’re after.

Porcelain tiles offer a host of benefits. They aren’t porous, so cracking caused by frost isn’t an issue. Being non-porous also makes them easy to keep clean. They are resistant to scratching and fading in the sun, too. Choose a finish that offers slip-resistance outside and if kids or those who are infirm are part of the household, a textured finish is best. 

Berkeley Essence Sky porcelain tile, £69.99 per square metre, Topps Tiles

Berkeley Essence Sky porcelain tile, £69.99 per square metre, Topps Tiles

(Image: © Topps Tiles)

Porcelain tiles can look like wood or natural stone, or they can be patterned. Use them to create a Mediterranean-style vibe on the patio, or give a front path back its period credentials with Victorian-style pattern.

Terracotta and quarry tiles offer the warmth of brick reds, brown or greyer tones. They’re best for period homes or to complement a cottage-style garden. As with other tiles, check the version you like the look of is appropriate for outdoor use.

Cava Unglazed Victorian porcelain tiles, £34.95 per square metre, Walls and Floors

Cava Unglazed Victorian porcelain tiles, £34.95 per square metre, Walls and Floors

(Image: © Walls and Floors)

Using the same tiles inside and outdoors

Laying the same tiles at the same level inside the house and out, and combining with bi-folding or sliding doors, can create a seamless link between the two and the illusion that a room is much larger than it really is. Many companies offer tiles that will achieve this effect in both natural stone and porcelain.

As an alternative to using exactly the same tile in the same finish, consider as an alternative the same tile but in two different finishes with a more textural finish outside to maximise the tile’s anti-slip aspect.

Some tiles are sold in specific indoor-outdoor ranges that make selecting easy, but if not, always check that the tile you want indoors is suitable for outdoors before getting out the plastic.

Who can fit outdoor tiles?

Fitting outdoor tiles is something a competent DIYer can take on. The approach you take will depend on whether you are laying natural stone or porcelain tiles, or the tile is from a special easy-to-fit range. If you don’t have the appropriate equipment or are uncertain about laying tiles outside, call on a professional.

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