Landscaping in new housebuilding today is embracing a material that is transforming the look and feel of modern homes: porcelain.
With the growing trend for building homes with more open and shared space – such as combined living and dining rooms which lead out onto a patio – the space that joins the inside and outside of houses is often seamless.
And, with this growing “inside-outside” idea, porcelain is well-placed to complement interiors and exteriors.
Previously popular man-made and natural stone used for paving, while suitable for outside was less useful for home interiors. Similarly, ceramic tiling – up to now – has featured inside houses only. Now, porcelain is providing a new harmony and consistency between the indoor and outdoor spaces. It also brings a new dimension in creative design and colour that lends a much more contemporary feel to homes.
The benefits of porcelain paving
The new departure in porcelain paving started about five years ago in the Netherlands, where people were turning away from natural stone and concrete. This European trend started to filter through to the UK although consumers remained sceptical about ceramics: weren’t they too fragile to be used outside?
The benefits of porcelain paving begin with its properties: the materials used and the way it’s manufactured. This combination makes an incredibly strong product, being pressed in a raw state to become solid and then fired at very high temperatures (1200 degrees). This creates a highly dense and consistent product that outperforms natural stone in relation to long-term appearance and durability.
While landscaping products are all produced to certain tolerances, porcelain is produced to tolerances that are almost exact. This makes the process of installation much easier, with the ability to create joints that are precise across the paved area. Also, porcelain paving doesn’t require sealing.
Once installed and in use, porcelain paving is virtually maintenance free: it doesn’t stain and nothing sticks to it. For example, a spilt glass of red wine would stain most paving; with porcelain, the liquid remains on the surface to be wiped clean. It is highly resistant to scratches, UV and is frost-proof.
Installing porcelain paving
From a trade installation point of view, you don’t have to be a specialist to install porcelain paving. The techniques are similar to those for traditional paving products. The main difference is the needs to use a slurry paste/primer before laying the paving, which avoids the product pulling away from a concrete bed when drying.
The paving can also be installed in a way to deal with different levels within a garden. This means it can be installed on supporting pedestals that, historically, have been used only in commercial applications, such as rooftop gardens in hotels.
And when it comes to the customer’s budget, the pricing of porcelain is not adding any significant extra cost which would be a disincentive to using it. If there is one issue for consumers, that is the significant array of choice and the ultra-contemporary nature of porcelain paving.
That’s where the landscape suppliers such as Buildbase are well-placed to advise and guide the customer on making the right choice for them and their lifestyle.
Larger porcelain paving
Previously, the most popular sizes of paving in the UK were no larger than 600mm x 600mm; now, the trend is moving to 900mm x 450mm in porcelain and 1200mm x 600mm – not far from double the size. Having larger paving sizes means the homeowner gets to see more paving and fewer joints, which makes the space they’ve got appear larger. It also means there are fewer separate pieces of paving to lay, which makes it cheaper to do.
Larger-sized paving across all materials means that the product is heavier to handle than before. Again, porcelain benefits in this area by being a lighter material – about half the weight – to lift than either concrete or stone. Conversely, larger natural stone products need a vacuum lifter to take the weight and assist a two-man lift.
Porcelain – adding value to properties
While the move to using porcelain both inside and outside is still relatively new to the UK, it’s possible to look ahead and see the impact that will have in the future.
Using porcelain paving to cover a patio reflects an investment a homeowner has made to personalise their home; this personalisation should help to command more value from their property when they eventually come to sell.
Some consumers reading this might feel the hyper-contemporary look of porcelain is not really for them, therefore more traditional paving products will always have a place.
However, with the almost endless choice in design, colours and sizes in porcelain – and using the latest technology and printing techniques to create something unique – porcelain paving is a product almost too good to be true.
Buildbase landscaping expert, Doug Norfolk, said: “We’ve been selling porcelain paving for about three years and everyone loves it. It’s real, high-end quality with a great finish.
“Contractors say it’s a quality slab, easy to cut and easy to lay as it’s all one thickness and there should be no difference in the levels when it’s laid.
“We’ve seen a lot of people are using it for outdoors and indoors, joining up interior and exterior separated by bi-fold doors. And it’s easy to look after. We’ve had no issues with maintenance at all.”
Andrew Singleton, Bradstone Sales Director, the supplier of porcelain paving to Buildbase, added: “The Bradstone range is of the highest quality and as it isn’t a glazed ceramic, it will not show a different backing colour when chipped or sawn. In a market with so much choice for consumers and builders it’s important to note that not all porcelain products have the same quality or performance criteria, though they may look similar.